Boston's Randy Roos-A Local Legend Sustains Infinitely
RR: Yes. Now if you take harmony that way, and stop thinking of chords and just think of using the harmonic zone of say, an altered dominant scale, and you work on interesting combinations of intervals applied to each other from that scale- all aspects of that scale- and all harmonic aspects of all the modes of that scale 'you end up with a ton of possibilities. First, you go through and generate possibilities, and then you use your aesthetic to decide which stuff you like and which you don't. As soon as you mathematically permute something-well, you might like a sound somebody else doesn't. You end up with a bunch of possibilities that intrigue you and sound good to you. You work on them and start applying them. Eventually you start to get so that you can mix and match with these things and start to see the fingerboard, not so much in terms of chord forms, but more in terms of say, parallelisms happening on individual strings relating to combinations of notes coming from these scales. It's a different mindset. It's not like I'm playing a chord, now a different one, like out of a chord book- you remove that kind of thinking from the way you deal with the instrument. You deal with it the way a keyboard player does-it's linear. Guitar is very linear-it just happens to be six parallel lines. But if you can see the scales on those six parallel lines simultaneously, you can play whatever voicings you want to play. If you tie these into things you've worked with, that you know you like, being generated by these various ways of permutating harmony- basically, just by taking structured notes and running up and down a scale diatonically and then trying all that against all the modes- you end up with a much more open view of harmony than if you are playing out of a chord book. It's really simple, but it's not easy.
AAJ: Holdsworth has explained it ultra-simply in interviews before..something like, 'Just take all the notes of any scale, and play them as the chords.'
RR: That's it, but there are lots of ways of finding ways of doing that. You can take a fourth structure, a triad over a bass note, or just a triad. That's what I always start students with-triads up and down the scales. Get so that you can see that. Learning to do that against all the scales and especially all the modal implications of those scales. So a major scale is not used for a major tonality, but a Dorian tonality, a Mixolydian tonality, a Lydian tonality, a minor 7th flat 5, which is a Locrian tonality. If you get so that you're equally comfortable with all those different viewpoints...
AAJ: That's easy enough on a major scale, but carrying that to melodic minor, harmonic minor and'
RR: You don't need that many and the thing is, if you really explore a lot of cool possibilities from really important simple elements -major scales, melodic minor scales, to some degree harmonic minor scales, to some degree George Russell's Lydian minor - he calls it Lydian diminished but it's a Lydian with a minor third. With diminished scales you get some really neat stuff. You get some really neat triads over bass notes. There are a lot of major and minor triads in the diminished scales. It's just like math-it generates a whole ton of possibilities-then, you use your tastes and your particular genius to figure out which of those really rock your world, and you learn to make really good use of those. Of course, sometimes it's good to go back-sometimes the one that didn't rock your world suddenly do. But Mick-very early on I got into his way of looking at it. It made total sense to me right away. It was like, 'OH! Why didn't I think of that?!' A piece of cake in terms of understanding it and where it could go. Then you spend the years and try to get enough stuff together so that it's useful to you.
AAJ: The average cat can barely get past the first cut of that stuff.
RR: Well, it takes time. For a number of years I was blessed with a real nice cheap living situation. I had a cool little apartment in an old farmhouse. I could have a few students over, and work on my music. I even won a grant - a friend convinced me to enter a grant competition. The only requirement was sending in two finished pieces of music. One of the two pieces was an early version of 'Marcel Marceau.' 3000 bucks was a lot of money then! It's a lot easier if you don't have to work eight hours a day.
AAJ: So after Berklee'