Chase the Dragon

rock & roll lead guitar
230-page book with 3 companion CDs

a professional and progressive method
of study for the serious student

Musical Examples...

Chapter Exercise Example

Chapter Summary Solo Example



Scales, Diatonic Scales, The Major Scale, I-IV-V Chords, The Natural Minor Scale, Pentatonic Scales, The 6th String Box System, The 5th String Box System, 20 Minute Workout


SECTION ONE - Pentatonic Studies (Compact Disc One)

String Bending Techniques, Slurs, Pentatonic Runs, Combination Licks, Review Solos (2), Concepts Review, Study Guide, 20 Minute Workout

String Bending Techniques, Slurs, Pentatonic Runs, Combination Licks, Review Solos (2), Study Guide, 20 Minute Workout

Double-note Unison Bends, Harmony Double Bends, Section A & B Review Solo, Double-note 6ths, Review Solo, Study Guide, 20 Minute Workout

Advanced String Bending, Advanced Slurs, Anchor Bend HO-PO combos, Advanced Pentatonic Runs, Combination Licks, Review Solos, Study Guide, 20 Minute Workout

Review Solos (2), 20 Minute Workout


SECTION TWO - Diatonic Expansions (Compact Disc Two)

Pentatonic to Diatonic Conversions, Diatonic Chord Theory, Process Diagram

Aeolian/Dorian Modes, Natural Minor and Dorian Chords, 9th and 6th Adds, Cue Chords, 9th Exercises, Dorian 6th Exercises, Pick Glides, Review Solos, Harmonic Minor, Harmonic Minor Review Solo, Study Guide, Progression Quiz, 20 Minute Workout

Ionian/Mixolydian Modes, Major and Mixolydian Chords, 4th and 7th Adds, Cue Chords, 4th Exercises, Major and Minor 7th Exercises, Review Solos, Study Guide, Progression Quiz, 20 Minute Workout

Box Flopping/Cross-Boxing/Neighboring Boxes, Rhythm & Blues Chords, R & B Color Note Adds, R & B Dorian Licks, Minor Box Mixolydian Licks, Major Box Mixolydian Licks, Review Solos, Neighboring Box/Cross-Boxing Solo, 50s Double-Note Solo, 12-Bar Blues Progressions, Study Guide, 20 Minute Workout

Section Two Key Analysis Worksheets
Progression Tables

AUXILIARY ONE: Double-note and Triadic Figures
AUXILIARY TWO: Horizontal Scales
AUXILIARY FOUR: Analyzing Non-chordal Rhythm Figures
Power Dyads, Power Pedals, Rock Rhythm Lines, Distortion Comps


SECTION THREE - Advanced Studies (Compact Disc Three)

Basic Cell Licks, Full Scale Licks, Alternative Scale Fingerings, Combination Licks, Review Solo, Supplement: 16th Note Study, 20 Minute Workout

A. Arpeggios, A. 20 Minute Workout, B. Composite Scales, Standards, Spreads, Composite Scale Applications, Double-Dominant Licks, B. 20 Minute Workout, C. Sonic Shapes, Advanced Diatonic Slurs, C. 20 Minute Workout, Review Solo

Right Hand Tap Techniques, Harmonics, 20 Minute Workout

Assimilating Prescribed Fills, Syncopation Drills, Improvising Fills, Soloing - Philosophy and Design, Analysis Charts, Composing and Improvising Solos, 20 Minute Workout


Chase the Dragon © 1989, 1993, 1999 by Mike Coates. All rights reserved

230 pages, 3 companion CDs

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The idea of offering systematic instruction to students of rock and roll lead guitar is a concept that has met with skepticism in the academic world and from professionals active in the field alike. To purists in the latter group, rock and roll exists within the domain of ethnic music--i.e., it is essentially an oral, cultural tradition that naturally defies formal instruction--while, on the other hand, music institutions typically view rock and roll as a dubious pop genre at best. The fact of the matter is, rock and roll has survived for several decades now as a new American folk music art form with a burgeoning tradition and history of its own, like its progenitors, blues, jazz, and country music. And while there is a certain validity to the argument that professes analytic investigation of rock music for didactic purposes risks stripping the idiom of its elemental essence and vitality, ignoring the legitimate educational needs of aspiring young artists with career aspirations is simply not an acceptable position. The challenge to educators, then, is to support, preserve, and invigorate this genre in our music schools--right alongside classic Western art music--where universal music values can be examined and inculcated.

Instruction of rock and roll guitar styles quite naturally divides itself into two areas of study: rhythm and lead guitar. However, while rhythm guitar playing is an important and worthy topic of instruction, student needs here are easier met and have been addressed, at least to a certain extent, by other published instruction materials. Lead guitar, the goal of most serious students of the instrument seeking broader, more individual artistic expression, is far more difficult to teach beyond the rudimentary level.In the past, certain teaching methods have offered collections of licks and fills by the great players with some authors maintaining that a player must know at least 400 such licks to be considered a professional. Instruction in how to apply these figures--harmonically and rhythmically rigid--was, of course, not included. Still others published amazing lexicons of fretboard scales, both conventional and exotic, to occupy the attention of the student with the illusion of serious study--apparently ignoring the basic point that much of great rock and roll is profoundly simple by nature. And, in more recent times, an avalanche of transcriptions has glutted the market with the intention of capitalizing on students' voracious appetites for learning songs. Here the problem is more insidious because, whereas performing music should certainly be the goal of any instruction manual, utilizing pieces solely as a curriculum--especially if the transcriptions are not graded--is an inherently inefficient system and can actually inhibit a student's technical and intellectual growth. The approach of this instruction method differs in three specific and vital aspects:

1) It progressively teaches mobile, motivic/cellular phrase construction--the technique unconsciously applied by nearly all masters of the genre. These elements have been assimilated and organized from the author's transcriptions of hundreds of pieces in a wide variety of rock styles.

2) It teaches a unique system of theory, "Functional Modality," a practice unconsciously understood and practiced by many players throughout the history of rock--which is not yet acknowledged by classical music theorists because it exists outside the performance practices ("Functional Tonality") developed during the "Tonal Period" (a.k.a. "The Period of Common Practice"), roughly the years 1600-1900 A.D.

3) It utilizes time-honored classical guitar pedagogic exercise formulae for the development of technique.

The format of this book is clear, concise, and lends itself well to private and classroom instruction. Musicians without extensive traditional music training--which is often the case with rock guitarists--are not at a decided disadvantage because all musical examples are fixed in tablature notation, a 6-line staff system that is a pictorial representation of the guitar neck. The use of tablature has proven to be particularly efficacious in teaching rock guitar--especially when used in conjunction with recorded CDs of the materials. Learning to read standard notation is encouraged, as well, but is recommended at a later stage in the student's development when technical fundamentals are well in hand. All other notation symbols used in this text are described and explained in the legend on pages 18-22, and a glossary of terms found at the back of the book serves as a handy reference tool. Use of the three companion CDs is also highly recommended for the student's private study. The text of this instruction manual has been progressively organized and graded into an introductory chapter and twelve numbered chapters which, in turn, have been sub-grouped into three broader topical areas of study. The Introductory Chapter focuses on diatonic and pentatonic scale systems, fundamental theory concepts, and terminology necessary to good rock musicianship and literacy. A thorough and comprehensive understanding of these materials is essential to the student's success with all subsequent chapters as each chapter builds on the previous chapter's principles. Experience has proven time and again that even advanced players wishing to use this text sbould not omit the study of the basic materials because their particular understanding of rock fundamentals might not yield the same progressive conclusions that are systematically arrived at in each chapter.

SECTION ONE materials focus on basic pentatonic studies that function as the technical fundamentals or rudiments for virtually all rock lead styles. More specifically, Chapters I­V examine string bending techniques, slurs, scale runs, and common motivic figures located within the pentatonic skeletal finger pattern structures. Exercises in each chapter introduce typical cell configurations as well as fundamental techniques and are then organized and coupled into "Combination Licks" and "Solos" found at the end of each chapter. The summary "Solos," in turn, creatively introduce and assimilate that chapter's lesson material into the cumulative body of resources established in previous chapters. Study Guide Notes--typical teacher classroom and seminar comments--are found at the end of each chapter (out of the way of repeated readings and study of the musical examples). In addition, 20-minute technique building workouts (so called because this is the recommended time allocation for pure technique study in the student's daily practice regimen) are found at the end of every chapter and may be used as supplemental material to develop the fingers and prepare them for the technical demands of advanced chapters.

SECTION TWO deals primarily with applied modal theory (i.e., "Functional Modality") and its typical application in a broad range of rock styles. To properly explain this concept it is necessary to distinguish between "tonality," "modality" in its traditional sense, and the use of the term "modality" in this text (i.e., the modality of rock in common practice). "Tonality" refers to certain melodic and harmonic conventions formalized and instituted in classical art music roughly between 1600 and 1900 A.D. Specifically, tonality refers to the use of the major scale (the Ionian mode) as a pitch source for melodic materials and harmonic under-pinnings --chords-- derived from that same pitch collection. In addition, it recognizes three minor scales for melodic source materials (i.e., the Natural Minor scale or Aeolian mode, the Melodic Minor scale, and the Harmonic Minor scale) with harmonic underpinnings derived primarily from the Harmonic Minor scale. The use of these scales and chords--also known as the "major-minor system"--along with certain conventions considered proper procedure, became the common language of composers for the 300 year period that embraced the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music eras. "Modality," as it is commonly understood by traditional classical theorists, refers to the use of seven Greek/Church modes (i.e., Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian, and Ionian), which, like the aforementioned scales of the tonal system, were seven note pitch collections that provided the melodic materials for a composition. Historically these modes were used extensively in medieval "plainchant" (frequently in liturgical applications), in the music of early 20th century Impressionistic composers (centered on France), more recently, in later 20th century western "New Music" that was influenced by Greek, African, and Eastern traditions, and in American jazz. However, harmonic (chord) implications are virtually non-existent in medieval plainchant. Chords derived from the modes are found in Impressionistic music (e.g., in the music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel), but their specific use is governed largely by tonal music conventions. Jazz, on the other hand, prefers to implement certain modes over particular, individual chords, while "New Music" is typically free of traditional harmonic conventions.

Rock "Functional Modality," then, refers to the use of a particular mode as a type of key--in other words, as a pitch collection source for melodic materials and harmonic underpinnings, or chords. Four modes and the scale referred to as the Rhythm and Blues scale function in this fashion in rock music and are developed as such in SECTION TWO. The system may be properly identified as functional modality because not only can any one of the common rock modes (i.e., Dorian, Aeolian, Mixolydian, Ionian, and the R&B scale) be used to generate chords, but it may be established, again through common practice, that certain chords occur at certain times in systematic fashion. Hence, functional modality has pre-tonic and pre-dominant (more properly, pre-pre-tonic) chords. What is more, the various modes often pool their collective chord resources creating bimodal and trimodal conditions in many pieces. Tonal progressions occur, as well, so the theoretical implications in rock music can be very broad (and, therefore, difficult to teach!), although actual conditions are generally not particularly complex in practice. This, then, is the ambitious scope of SECTION TWO, the full extent of which is seldom, if ever, fully understood by the practicing rock musician because specific styles and idioms are more narrow in their focus.

SECTION THREE investigates contemporary practices which are eclectic in origin and more limited in application, yet which involve a certain sophistication that logically requires them to follow SECTIONS ONE and TWO. Extended technique practices that have become performance norms in the modern era are examples. Unfortunately, many teachers and students in the field initiate their studies at this level, essentially circumventing the technical rudiments of SECTION ONE and the theoretical concepts of SECTION TWO. The result of this trend, perpetrated by market demands rather than musical and academic standards, has been a surfeit of players with extraordinary technical prowess in one isolated aspect of performance, and a lamentable softening of the bonds of contemporary rock with its roots. Short term gains must not be made at the expense of fundamentals if the student wishes to pursue a life-long career with the guitar and, more importantly, if the music is to survive. Superficial values and myopic vision eventually manifest in the music and are evident to nearly all music lovers. Change, however, is essential to a vital and relevant art form, and this section seeks to document the most important pioneering aspects of modern styles. Chapter XII, in particular, deals with the more creative aspects of soloing, and also includes an exhaustive book review and technique maintenance system to complement the conceptual parametric investigation of solo construction and composition. In addition, this unit lends itself well to periodic updates.

As a final note, the instructor must augment these materials at regular intervals with carefully chosen pieces to stimulate the student and fulfill the actual goal of the instruction, but care must be taken to use materials that are appropriate to the student's level of ability--pieces must be challenging at many levels but should not generate undue frustration or self-doubt.

Welcome, then, to "Chase the Dragon," the first true college level rock lead guitar method to provide the scope of instruction previously limited to students of traditional classical music instruments.

Chase the Dragon © 1989, 1993, 1999 by Mike Coates. All rights reserved

230 pages, 3 companion CDs

Order form