Mick Priestley's Axe Attack Print E-mail
Written by Mick Priestley   
Sunday, 13 May 2012 04:45

 

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Okay Uber Rockers, welcome to my new guitar column! If you play guitar (and if you don't, you should definitely start) I'm gonna be tying your fingers in knots every month with some horrifying guitar licks, super-gnarly practice routines and a monthly "Lick From Hell!" Let's start as we mean to go on...  

 

This month's lick is a bit of an arpeggio-fest...and we're gonna start out with a scale that you're probably familiar with - A natural minor. Playing guitar, you're gonna find that the majority of stuff you tend to be playing is in A minor, E minor or D - mainly because you've got the open string in there as your root note and it makes for some easy-to-play, cool sounding riffs. As a result, this is a scale that you're absolutely, 100% going to need to get your brain around if you're gonna play guitar in a rock band - or pretty much any band for that matter.  

 

I'm sure you probably know the standard position (starting at 5th fret on the bottom string, or an octave higher at 17th fret) but what you want to do is get to know the notes ALL OVER the fretboard, then you can get out of the habit of playing the same licks all the time and get into some better, more interesting-sounding guitar solo lunacy! Here's your scale - 

 

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That standard position you may be familiar with is in red, and I've circled all the root notes for you. Now if I was to play a riff in A minor, and you were to bust out some licks over the top, by looking at this diagram you can know that ANY of the notes you hit here are gonna sound cool. Of course, you might find a note that sounds cool that isn't plotted here...which means it's outside of the A minor scale, but that's cool too if it sounds good - just watch out and make sure you don't hit something heinous. We're gonna stick to the notes here for the time-being. 

 

WATCH OUT - If you're making up some of your own licks using this fret-map, and you're gonna pull off a really cool bend, make sure you bend it the right amount - is the next note of the scale ABOVE the one you're bending a semitone (one fret) or a tone (two frets) above it? If it's a semitone, make sure you only bend that note up HALF a tone (i.e. until it sounds like the note one fret higher). If the note above the one you're bending is a tone higher, make sure you bend the string up all the way. Bending a note by the wrong amount will almost certainly sound horrible -and it's a schoolboy error!

 

The eagle-eyed among us will notice that the A minor scale is exactly the same as the C major scale - and that it is. Exactly the same, note for note. So if you were to play a few licks using this scale, but starting and ending on a C rather than an A, for example, it'll sound fine. In fact, you'll probably have people praising you for your 'melodic' guitar playing. Groovy! Let's get to work...

 

Now the lick we're gonna be doing today is essentially an arpeggio lick, but we're going to change it up a bit. This would be your standard 'sweep arpeggio' lick...  

 

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...and it's what we would usually call a 'sweep arpeggio'. It's called a 'sweep' arpeggio because of the technique you have to employ to play it - hit the first note, pull off onto the second, then 'sweep' your pick in one big downstroke through the two notes below (don't pick them individually! Simply drag your pick through them, just like you were playing a chord), then 'sweep' back up again across the B and E strings, before hammering back onto the top note again. Malmsteen-style! Easy enough? Well that's not too much of a biggie...get your fingers round these:

 

Four string arpeggio 

 

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Five-string arpeggio 

 

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Five-string "tap" arpeggio 

 

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Now all of these are gonna basically employ the same technique - and weird as it might seem, you might find the bigger 'sweep' of the bigger arpeggios a little more manageable than that of the smaller ones. Four-string arpeggios you might find to be a bit of a pain at first - they're fairly unusual. Work slowly at first - there's no point burning through these if they're sounding lame. You want to be able to hear each note individually - if in doubt, go through it note by note, nice and slowly, and make sure you can hear every note as clearly as the one before it. With the bigger arpeggios, try to get into the habit of muting the strings below the one you're playing with your picking hand - like a palm mute-sorta thing - so that you don't get a load of horrible string noise as you're doing it. These will only sound cool if they're completely clear. The "tap" arpeggio is basically a two-octave arpeggio, but in a fingering-pattern different to what you'll have seen before. Can't say you see many guys play them like this, but I have absolutely no idea why! It sounds better, it's easy to play, and looks super-cool as you'll have both your hands on the fretboard.  

 

Okay, now to play this lick from hell you probably want to get your brain around those first. Option B of course, is to just dive into the deep end with it and see how you get on! You'll notice when you download the tab that all of the notes here are from A minor - there are no 'outside' notes - and pay attention to it! Watch the SLOW example (and remember that the 'slow' example is still at a fairly decent pace, really) and don't even attempt to blitz through it until you're 100% confident of where your fingers are going, what notes you're tapping...and where that tap-slide is! There's no point playing fast if it sounds like crap! Whip your metronome out (go buy one if you don't own one! You can get a cool electronic one for cheap from the guitar shop and it's an essential piece of kit if you're wanting to bust out crazy licks) and set it nice and slow - don't increase the speed until you can hear every note clearly and play it without thinking too much. 

 

So here's the lick - have fun! Stick it in one of your own solos and it'll sound absolutely killer - or come up with a few of your own. I'll see you next month with more fretboard warping lunacy. In the meantime, drop me a line at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and let me know how you're getting on!

 

 

Download the tab here - http://www.mickpriestley.net/lessons/theory/licks-from-hell.html