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Alice in Chains Lesson Sample

Teacher: Welcom to the lesson series on 90s Seattle Scene. This movement featured bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Candlebox and tonights group Alice in Chains

Teacher: Alice in Chains featured Jerry Cantrell on guitars and Layne Staley on vocals. Jerry's guitar, songwriting and vocals were the driving force of Alice in Chains sound.

Teacher: Here is our first riff for tonight. In the mind bending time signature of 6/4 no less.

Riff A

Riff A Jam Track

Teacher: The riff uses straight forward open and barred power chords rooted on the 6th strings. They are all the same power chord form except the open E5 chord. All chords are strummed

Teacher: The riff is in an unusual 6/4 time signature, however. Alice in Chains used odd time signatures. This is 6/4. The song 'Them Bones' features a 7/8 time. Alice in Chains and Soundgarden both feature some 'progressive' time signatures

This riff uses power chord rooted of notes of the E blues scale.

 E Blues Scale - Extended Pattern

E Minor Pentatonic - Extended Pattern

Teacher: Most of the soloing will come out of the Minor Pentatonic scale. Here is a useful pattern that covers the first 12 frets in the key of E.

Lick 1

Teacher: Notice the use of the repeating motif on the fourth string. Very vocal like in Cantrell's soloing. The use of the wah helps to shape the vocal effect

Lick 2

Teacher: The next lick uses a trill along the 3rd string. Followed with a big 1 1/2 step bend

pj: do you just open the wah on the 4th string?

Lick 3

Teacher: Pressing the wah slowly down as the trill continues and opening the wah on the next note change. The continious staccato picking while releasing the bend is a timeless Seattle style riff.

Riff B

Teacher: To get the pinch harmonics, the 'squel' sound - catch the string with the edge of the thumb on the downstroke.

Teacher: The second riff uses some 'stacked' power 5th chords. Alice in chains often features multiple overdubs of guitars. Altered and dropped tunings as well.

Teacher: These stacked voices can contribute to a big guitar sound when played alone.. Most guitars are doubled in the lesson sample

E Minor Pentatonic - 6th added

Teacher: The last scale is basically a Dorian mode with the 2nd left out right. That major 6th adds interest and is especially nice for double-stop bends on the 2nd and 3rd strings.

Teacher: The last section of the lesson features Alice in Chains, acoustic style.

Riff C

Riff C Jam Track

Teacher: The chords move from F# - G - A - B. Notice this is the standard 6th string major bar chord. First fretted then lifting the first finger off of strings 1 & 2 for added color notes.

Video Clip 1

Teacher: This riff is a mix of B Major and B Minor key centers. The first and last chords are from B Major, the G and A chords are from the B Minor scale.  To solo over this requires mixing the two scales. Here is a sample lick.

Lick 6

The run over starts in B major, then modulates to Minor for a run over the G and A chords.

Lick 7

Teacher: This lick could be played by one guitarist but is actually played by two guitars in harmony. Jerry Cantrell often would record 6-8 tracks of guitars and then mix them up or down in the song for this orchestral effect

Lick 8

Teacher: This last lick uses octaves for a full sound with just one guitar

Riff D

Teacher: There are the chords for the last section. They repeat the first two, C and D shapes, but end on a standard E major chord. Then repeat.

Teacher: Suggested listening would be Alice in Chains groundbreaking album 'Dirt'. For a great showing of their acoustic flavors check out their "Jar of Flies" EP or their MTV "Unplugged" concert album and video.

Teacher: And if you want to go more into Alice in Chains songs I would be happy to show them in private lessons. Email to

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