Al Di Meola's Guitar Solo From Sorceress

Al Di Meola
Al Di Meola | Source

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Why this Al Di Meola solo?

Al Di Meola is renowned for his virtuoso guitar performances, which often feature blisteringly fast, immaculate lines using a full picking technique. (In contrast to Chick Corea's most recent guitar collaborator, Frank Gambale, who is famous for 'the sweep'.) However, the reason I wanted to analyse this is because of its simplicity. For whatever reason, Al apparently chose to lay back for this one. Maybe the boys had just completed the take for 'The Duel Of The Jester And The Tyrant' and he felt he needed a rest. Or perhaps he wanted to contrast with Chick's complex piano solo on Sorceress?

I was surprised to find that there was, apparently, no pre-existing You Tube video analysing this solo. But maybe I should not have been, as this is not one of the usual suspects. For instance, you will find more than one guitar lesson for solos from Smoke On The Water, Alright Now, Paranoid, Sunshine Of Your Love (for which I have written a separate hub on the rhythm guitar) et al. Probably Sorceress is simply not on the radar. Reminds me of the time I lent a Colosseum II album to a Gary Moore fan and he returned it to me very quickly!

It was apparent on listening to this solo that it is an object lesson on the use of the minor pentatonic scale. Immaculately done, full of slides, hammers, pull-offs and bends, utilising four pentatonic postions or blocks, and packed with feeling. He sure can play the blues.

The purpose of this hub is to back-up my You Tube video shown below and my Video Score at musescore.com for which click here. In this hub I provide detail using the fretboard diagram. Those who don't read notation or who are more used to tablature may particularly find this helpful.

The legend (I mean the symbols, not Al)

Source

I believe the legend requires little explanation for guitarists. I can add a detailed decription of P, H, S, B and R should should anyone ask for it. I have put these between the appropriate notes where required. Sometimes I have used full notation and at other times a grace note, depending on what seemed the most appropriate.

As well as S, / and \ are used for slides where these fall outside notation.

To Start

Sorceress is mainly in 4/4 time, but switches to 6/4 for Al's solo. On listening, the change may not be immediately obvious but it's there. More of an issue for Stanley Clarke on bass and Lenny White on drums to think about, while Al Di Meola can riff. The clef is treble, and standard one octave lower for guitar but returns to normal at the 10th bar so that the notes don't go off into the ether. The key is B flat minor and looks a bit daunting, but please don't be put off. You can think in terms of the minor pentatonic positions or blocks. I'll refer to those as I proceed.

Bars 1-3

Here is the notation for the first figure:

Bars 1-3
Bars 1-3

At first the solo is concentrated on the first and second minor pentatonic positions. I have marked out the notes for these positions and highlighted the ones to be used.

So, I'm pulling off from Db to Bb, 4th to 1st finger, then hammering back to Db which is sustained with vibrato, then an Eb followed with a casual downward glissando or slide.

Slide from Ab to Bb with the 1st finger, two pull-offs from Db to Bb, then pick Ab to Bb, 1st to 3rd finger.

Bars 3-4

Next I'm sliding quickly (grace note) from Eb to F with my 3rd finger, then my 2nd on the Ab, then my 1st on Eb. Sustain with vibrato. Then bend the Db up one tone with the 1st and hammer on the Bb with the 3rd. This last note is barely perceptible on the recording, almost a ghost note.

Bar 5

From the previous figure you are now placed to slide (grace note) from Eb to F with the 3rd finger, then play Ab with the 1st or 2nd finger, then play Ab again then hammer (grace note) on to Bb, 1st to 3rd finger. Sustain with vibrato. Then Db, then hammer on Bb, then bend Eb by one tone (to F).

Bar 6 to 7

Starting on the 3rd finger, Bb to Db to Eb bent up one tone (to F) four times, then after the forth bend release to Eb, then play Db back to Eb - sustain with vibrato, then a quick Db to Bb.

Bars 7 to 9

Now, here's a long sequence. We'll break it down into two segments.

So it's picking all the way in bar 7, keeping the fingers in the same position: Ab-Bb-Db-Bb-Db-Db-Bb-Ab-Bb-Bb.

For the next part, bars 8 to 9, bend Ab one tone (to Bb) with the 1st finger and with vibrato, then a short Ab, then a sustained F, 2nd finger, with vibrato. A grace slide from Eb to F with the 3rd finger, then Ab, 2nd finger, while holding down the F, and back to F while holding down the Ab. Continue with a grace slide from Eb to Db with the 1st finger, pick and bend Db one tone (to Eb), then Bb.

Bars 9 to 10

Hot on the heels of the previous figure, grace slide from (the low) Eb to F with the 3rd finger, then Ab with the 2nd. Grace slide from Ab to Bb with the 3rd finger, then Db with the 1st, then grace slide from the high Eb to F with the 3rd and apply vibrato. Then pick (the high) F three times, and keep that vibrato going. Al's ratcheting up the tension now.

Note: on the stave the clef changes in the middle of the figure to an octave higher, ie you do not return to the low F.


Bars 10 to 11

So, here's another longer figure. We'll break it down into two parts again.

So now we've manouvered up to the 4th position or block. Your 3rd finger is already on the F and you grace slide it to the Ab, then F again, then pull-off from Ab to F twice. Then two bends on the Ab (to Bb), the last with vibrato.

Now you'll see that I've changed the position to Fmi pentatonic in the first position. This is where Al Di goes in the next bit. I think this is because, although a solo In Bbmi, the chord riff is Bbmi to Fmi. Or it could be that he's just choosing it for variation - the Fmi pent still fits Bbmi.

Anyway, from bending the Ab in the previous figure, you continue holding it into bar 12, then a slow release glancing over the unbent Ab, then play down the scale from the F to the low Ab. Then back-up the scale Ab to Bb, then Db to Eb.


Bars 13-14

Now the final straight. We're staying with the Fmi pentatonic for this, in 1st and 2nd positions. Bend the Bb up one tone (to C). Release the bend back to Bb, pull-off to Ab, slide down to F. Then bend the Ab one tone (to Bb), release the bend back to Ab, pull-off to F, then pick the Eb twice, sustaining the last note with vibrato. Finish with a casual slide down the fretboard. At that point the song segues back into 4/4 time.

Well, I think that just about wraps it up. In conjunction with my You Tube video and Video Score, I hope that this will assist you with the solo. As I said, I think this is a great solo for studying the minor pentatonic.

Now there follows a short quiz, which, like the survey at the top of the hub, is just a bit of fun!


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