Isaiah Sharkey solo - "Lovely Day" (Transcription/Analysis)

More and more, the music-loving world is starting to see what the rumblings from YouTube and Chicago have been all about: that Isaiah Sharkey is one of the finest and most exciting musicians to play the six string in a long time.

Though he's young, he plays with a deep respect and knowledge of the greats. What's more, is that though his technique and vocabulary is already so advanced, you get the sense that he's hungry to develop even further. His musical growth has lead him to cross genres, and when you hear him rattle off some names of the diverse (and sometimes unknown) list of players that he's inspired by, you see that not only does Isaiah truly love the guitar, he's in it for the long haul.



In this transcription, Isaiah is taking a chorus over Bill Withers' "Lovely Day". The band follows him brilliantly as he creates an arc to his solo like that of a great story teller. In addition to some show-stopping licks is a smoothness and fluidness between ideas. To me, his ability to flow and musically speak so clearly is the most impressive part of what he does.

I hope you dig the transcription. I was lucky enough to see Isaiah speak at Kevin Wilson's 2014 International Guitar Summit in Durham, NC. When he was asked to give some advice on how to better use YouTube as a learning tool, he said he believes that understanding the concepts within a solo is more important than just grabbing at notes until you get it right. With that in mind, I've broken down a few of my favorite phrases from Isaiah's solo and demonstrated how they can be used in different fingerings and situations.

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Here I'll take a moment to break down a few of my favorite phrases from the transcription.

Lick #1

In this first lick, Isaiah is rooted in the 9th position E major/C# minor pentatonic scale. It begins with a quick lick that can work well over any major I or minor vi chord. 

Lets think of this lick in C# minor (though you can hear that it functions as well in E major). The first four notes can be understood as an enclosure below and above the C# (root), or as the major 3rd and perfect 5th of a G#7 chord (V), which would tonicize C# minor.

If you listen to George Benson's solo on The Borgia Stick, you can hear this exact idea at the end of the first phrase of his solo. 

Another particularly slick part of the lick to digest is the rhythm. Notice how Isaiah emphasizes and hangs on to the dotted eighth feel at the start of the second bar. The result is a 3:2 hemiola where two different time feels occupy the same place in excellent rhythmic harmony. In the shed, I have had fun just playing the rhythm of this phrase over and over while allowing myself to not focus too much on the notes.

Lick #2

This second lick is a descending line in E major. The first bar has a repeated rhythm as Isaiah mixes the sounds of arpeggio and scalar motion over an Emaj7 chord. I've written it out here in two comfortable octaves.

Picking descending lines across strings isn't an easy move. I've included a picking suggestion, but this can certainly be changed (or swept).

Lick #3

In this final lick, Isaiah blasts off with some side stepping that adds some color and energy to the end of his solo. To my ears, this is a tri-tone sub ultimately landing on F#min9, a nice embellishment of the Amaj7 chord of the measure (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Thanks to anyone that checked this out, and to Isaiah himself for keeping us on our toes and inspired. Here's a playlist of more of his work for your listening pleasure. Please feel free to comment below. 

Posted on April 10, 2015 and filed under Transcription.