"Peg" gets Pegged by Drew Zingg

I came across this video on YouTube where people are asked to rate these different, live guitar solos over Steely Dan's "Peg."

Jay Graydon's original solo on the studio album is one that's become a classic and now is inexorably linked to the song. (Imagine a different solo at the end of "Stairway to Heaven." Same kind of thing.)

Interestingly, if you've seen the documentary on the making of "Aja," you'll know that Jay's was one of a few different solos that were competing for the final mix on the studio album.

Among these live solos on the YouTube video, three caught my ear.

Admittedly, I'm biased towards two of them: Wayne Krantz' for his brave take off and total disregard for the original (disclaimer, I'm friends with Wayne and took a few lessons with him when I first arrived in New York), and Jon Herington's model of how-to-improve-on-a-classic (second disclaimer, I'm friendly with Jon on a professional level).

But, Drew Zingg's drew (har) my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it was easy to hear what he was doing due to the clarity of his phrasing (and the recording for that matter) and second, he does a really nice job of working in some chromatic, and extended harmonic lines over the original harmony while employing some classic blues figures. Good reason for a transcription to figure out what he's doing!

Have a listen (Drew's is the second solo in at about :25):

Nice job Drew. OK, here's the transcription with my quick analysis (written in blue below each staff line). A PDF of the solo with TAB is at the bottom of the article (Edit: sharp-eared reader Walter Gross in the comments below pointed out that I missed a couple notes in this. Below is the corrected transcription. Thanks Walter!).

Click on chart to see full-size

So what's going on here?

Drew is using a general G tonality for his "base" and extends his lines from there, mostly returning to it for harmonic stability.

He begins with G blues lines for the first four bars and then begins opening it up. For me, the most interesting section is measures 5-8, specifically measure 5. Notice he begins measure 5 with a G triad over the CM7 chord (making CM9), pushes up a tritone to a Db major line, then back to a G triad (with a #11 passing tone) then back up a tritone, this time using a Db minor sound. This is all within the space of 1 bar.

Cool right? Make no mistake, this is planned out and practiced. I doubt he played this solo the same way every night, but his ideas are very sharp and phrased clearly which tells me he's not just blowing-- he's thinking about what he's doing here.

Here's a good chance to get this into your playing.

Practice switching between two tonalities using a metronome or, to really hear the harmonic superimposition, over a sequencer playing these chord changes (two beats of CM7, two beats of Gsus2). The idea is to do a consonant tonality over beat 1, an "out" tonality over beat 2 for tension, back to a consonant one for beat 3 and so on.

So, for beat 1 (the CM7 chord), play a G triad or G major type line, beat 2 switch to a Db major triad or Db major type line, beat 3 back to G major, beat 4 back to Db major.

You'll notice if all you employ is triads, the lines won't necessarily be as melodic, that's why Drew is mixing up playing triadic based lines with scale based ones. There's nothing wrong with doing just triads, it's its own sound -- you'll see what I mean.

What will happen after practice is you'll start to see the G major triad/lines as your home base and a comfort zone and you'll be able to look ahead to your next leap to a more out tonality like Db major. When you get to that point, you'll know your starting to nail it.

Experiment with other triads or scales as your out target as well. This is a great way to introduce harmonic complexity into your playing while still keeping some logic and melodic things happening.

Coming soon, a transcription of Herington's solo...

P.S. You can follow this blog on Twitter at http://twitter.com/somuchsound

Edit: July 8, 2010 -- edited for clarity. Alert reader and guitar player Mark Schuh caught a couple accidental accidentals in the wrong place. I blame Finale.

A .pdf of the solo with TAB is available here.


  1. Drew has copied the descending phrase....and everything else..from Buzz Feiten....Drew will admit to that

  2. Yes, the Buzz Feiten influence is so strong with Drew .. Buzz shld probably get royalties .
    He's a fun player for sure but Buzz must be credited .

    1. I agree entirely. There must be some "lick copyright infringement." Why the F isn't Buzz himself doing these gigs? Best guitar player of an entire generation, with little recognition.

  3. Hey Sean great transcription and analysis. I did find a few things that should be corrected however.

    In Bar 6 there is a little 32nd note lick that's preceded by a C note. You have it going C-D flat-C but it's actually a D Natural he pulls off from.

    In Bar 11, the fourth lick actually goes up to G then down to E.

    I've slowed this down using the Capo Software [http://supermegaultragroovy.com/products/Capo/] and when I've isolated these lines below half-speed, that's what I'm hearing.

    1. Hey Walter -- just got around to looking at this. You were totally right. Good ears! The first one I think was human error but the second one (on the 4ths lick) I blame on that damn snare-crack on 2 which obscures the note quite a bit. To be honest, I'm not even 100% sure that's a G, but the line makes way more sense that way than it did the way I had it and I'd bet you're right.

      Thanks for catching that stuff, I appreciate it!

  4. and I thought I was the only person that realized Drew Zingg is one of the greatest players out there! The live peg solo is so so great! Can anyone tell me what effect he is using on that solo? Chorus, Flanger? Phaser. Also thanks for the breakdown on the solo! it is a shame that most guitarist cannot appreciate Drew's playing. So sad! thanks again!