Tosin Abasi’s Masterclass Lesson Notes

This post contains my lesson notes from Tosin Abasi’s Masterclass.

In this lesson Tosin covers the importance of learning intervals and how to incorporate them in your playing. He also discusses chord progressions, influences, overcoming writer’s block, and how he approaches soloing over chord progressions.

Summary Notes

8-String Guitar (11:10)

First 6 strings are tuned like a normal guitar (E-A-D-G-B-E). 7th string is a B, 8th string is an E.

Animals As Leaders song writing process (13:03)

Band does not do much jamming. Tosin will typically come up with a riff or melody. Share that with the band members who will then come up with their parts.

Intervals (14:10)

A scale is determined by the distance between the notes, the intervals. It’s important to understand what those intervals mean (how they sound).

For an exercise, play a Major scale on one string. Then add an interval (such as major 3rd) and play that same scale. Harmonize the major scale.

Learn to arpeggiate every chord in a Major scale.

Practice playing a scale and say out loud the interval (number) that you are playing (e.g. 1-6-2-7-3-ocatve).

Practice playing sets: 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths 7ths

Build on the foundation of the Major scale, understand the relationship between Intervals and how they sound.

Focus on what you like (21:30)

“Exploratory practice”. Tosin discovered the Melodic Minor scale, but gravitated towards a few of the modes in that scale. Didn’t feel he needed to learn all the Modes for his needs.

In your practice focus on the things that interest you, that align to your style.

Writing chord progressions (23:20)

Enjoys writing a harmony where you use a single voicing shape and move it around to different places.

Sometimes it’s as simple as creating a chord voicing that you like the sound of, no theory to come up with the voicing, but using your ear to play what you like.

It’s an exploration, you can take a basic chord progression and play it in a fundamental way. Or you can start adding these extensions, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, now you can influence the harmony in a different way…”

Will continue to explore the chord progression by adding different options until it’s in a place he’s happy with.

Thumping technique (30:00)

Utilizes the thumb to develop the technique. Initially it will feel awkward – may take some time for you to get comfortable with it. At some point it will just click for you.

Learning classical guitar techniques will help you develop your finger picking technique.

Influences (35:30)

Classical guitar for developing fingering technique as well as thinking about counterpoint.

Jazz for abstract chord shapes (Allan Holdsworth a big influence).

I don’t play Jazz but I have a diet of it so that my ear is stretched a bit…”

Writer’s block (41:50)

Understand that there is a flow to creativity and inspiration. It will ebb and flow. Try to figure out the things that drive your inspiration.

Hearing music that I like tends to inspire me…” 

Learn a new scale or a new concept, then apply it to writing a song.

Expecting to always be inspired is unrealistic, to combat lack of inspiration you can try listening to new music or exploring new concepts.

Improvising over chords (52:00)

Will deliberately come up with chord progressions that are in different keys in order to practice soloing over them.

Pattern recognition. For example playing an arpeggio (1-b3-5-7) – repeat the same four notes at different positions on the guitar.

Think of Modes as to how they are different from the root scale. What is the interval that differentiates it from the home base scale? For example Lydian has the raised fourth, that is what gives the Lydian sound. 

Reducing the amount of mental load, it’s easier to think of other scales as to how they relate to the Major or Minor scale…”

“Don’t be afraid to play something that is singable…”

As a starting point, try playing arpeggios instead of an entire scale when soloing.

Improvise by adding “colorful” intervals (9th, 6th). Remember how they sound. 

Slide into chord tones for a cool effect.

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