Archive for the Guitar Playing Category

Some atom ideas

Posted in Guitar Playing on November 14, 2011 by Staff Writer

Two very simple linear one-string ‘atoms’, i.e. one ascending with hammer-ons, one descending with pull-offs. Pick the first note of each triplet; or not – depending how slippery you want the sound to feel. Note I have not indicated the picking simile everywhere due to extreme laziness, but it is implied. Apply to taste – fast slow, whatever.

Fingering: Note that when I am playing this, the lowest note is always index finger (finger 1) and the highest is always pinkie (finger 4). Finger 2 or 3 is used depending. For a stretch such as frets 3 5 7, I always use fingers 1 2 4 (Paul Gilbert uses 1 3 4 in these instances, but he has giant Japanese Spider Crab hands).  For a grouping such as frets 4 5 7, I will use fingers 1 2 4. For a grouping such as 5 7 8, I will use fingers 1 3 4. Basically fingers 1 and 4 are always at the top or bottom in these particular kinds of atoms.

In this first idea (bar 1), we are introduced to the basic pattern – it’s the two atoms ascending then descending (A then D), followed by descending then ascending (D then A). Every example uses this series.

The second bar sees us splitting the series over two strings: the first string has A then D, the second higher string D then A (click for bigger version)


The next bar sees us continuing this idea onto strings 2 and 3. In bar four we split the series over two positions on the same string.


Now we have a couple more evolved examples of the prior bar – all working the series up one string. Note the position slides, observing correct fingering (1 for lowest note, 4 [pinkie] for highest):


Now we’re combining along string with across strings.


Finally, here’s a combination example which is descending overall in contour.


Feel free to substitute different atoms.


‘Extents’, more atoms and ADDA

Posted in Guitar Playing on March 15, 2010 by Staff Writer

Link to Earlier article

Consider the following faithful (yet tired) 3 note per string scale. Note that again, meter, harmonic resolution etc is up to you and doesn’t matter for the purposes of this illustration. End on a C for fun if you really want to go diatonic. (Ignore the lowest line which isn’t a tab line – it’s the black border from my screen snip tool.)


Now consider the ‘extents’ of each 3 note group, i.e the lowest and highest notes (or vice versa) or the notes at the ‘extent’ of the 3 note span. Here I’ve got them as an ascending run (AA) and a descending run (DA).


Here’s a nice line with descending atoms in an ascending line. I use low action pull offs to get this one fast


These atoms use only the first two notes of the 3 note group. In this case, ascending ascending


This example uses those, then alternates them with the corresponding ‘extents’:


Now a related example with descending atoms


You can apply extents to any scale form you know – just play the two notes at each end of the group you’d normally play. Here’s a C scale form I like:


..and here it is in ‘extent’ form:


…and finally here’s a run that mixes the extents and the original notes.


Melodic Minor over min7b5

Posted in Guitar Playing, Jazz Guitar on March 4, 2010 by Staff Writer

Considering a minor ii V I such as Dmin7b5 | G7 | Cmin, a melodic minor (in this case F) gives a nice flavour. I got it from here – Jack Zucker (who hangs at The Gear Page a lot). I spent about 20 mins jamming over this.

Introduction to Atoms and ADDA

Posted in Guitar Playing on February 24, 2010 by Staff Writer

Consider any scalar fragment or group of notes with a particular order, e.g. (doesn’t matter what string):

  1. —8—10—12
  2. –8—12–10
  3. –12—10—8
  4. –12–8–10

I call these ‘Atoms’ – let’s skip by why I call them that for now (I plan a deep dive on Atoms for the future) and look at some of their properties and application.  In the four cases above (and let’s imagine that these are all on the low E string) two of them go up, and two of them go down. The first two go up, i.e. the last note is higher than the first note (regardless of what note is in-between) and I call these ASCENDING (A) ATOMS. Numbers 3 and 4 go down, i.e. the last note is lower than the first note; I call these DESCENDING (D) ATOMS.

I’m trying to apply an approach to an aspect of my improvisation (mainly longer runs) that uses combinations of these to instill some variety within lines.

Let’s take the objective of getting from the note C on the eighth fret of the low E, and getting to the F note on the high E. A traditional scalar approach looks like this (for simplicity ignore the note groupings or harmonic resolution or whatever for now):


So here you have something which I think is played 99% of times by players who know this scale form in traversing these notes from low to high (incidentally I categorize this as an Ascending Ascending [AA] – which means that it’s an ascending line which uses ASCENDING ATOMS). Conversely, if going from the F down to the C, they’d (and I include myself up till recently) play something similar to this – the exact opposite:


And you probably recognize this (I categorize this as a Descending Descending [DD] – meaning that it’s a Descending line which uses DESCENDING ATOMS). I was starting to get very bored with these, but they do serve as a jumping off point for a different approach. Let’s start with this one:


I call this a Descending Ascending [DA] – in other words the contour of the overall line is descending (the last note is lower than the first) while the Atoms used are ascending. Here’s another:


This is an Ascending Descending [AD] line.

What’s so great about these? Well, there is an infinite number of combinations/permutations of atoms and their intermixing which pull you away from straight ‘AA’ or ‘DD’ all the time.  I can plan my line in my head as ‘ok – I went to get from up here to down here’ and I can go there by ascending or descending ‘atomically’ as it were.

I hope some of this makes sense – there is a whole evolutionary tree of stuff that springs from just this that will take me years to document…

Dave Mustaine showing some thumb fretting stuff…

Posted in Guitar Playing, Heavy Metal, Shred Guitar on February 18, 2010 by Staff Writer

…which Dave Navarro later describes as ‘that is f*cking the sh*t man!’.  And it is.

The lure of technique – tapping licks

Posted in Guitar Playing, Shred Guitar on November 6, 2009 by Staff Writer

I don’t know about you other guitar players, but I feel constantly compelled to work on my technique and to learn fast flashy stuff that will impress the pants (or knickers) off people. So while I should be diligently learning the Cycle of 5ths (and 4ths) or mapping out the arpeggios of G7 or analyzing the notes of the 7th mode of the ascending Melodic Minor (the Super Locrian/Altered Scale) against the root of the current chord in the name of trying to learn to be musical, instead, I get easily distracted by yet another article on How to Shred (even though I can already shred) or how to do some outlandish tapping exercise, an example of which I succumbed to this week.

You see, flippin’ Guitar Techniques magazine is too frickin’ awesome. And its contributors are too frickin’ awesome. I bought last month’s issue (“Acoustic Issue!”) because I had dusted off my Baby Taylor, grown my fingernails a little and wanted to get down some Beatles fingerpickin’ licks. Instead, I’m confronted by an article by the superb (and now clean shaven) Martin Goulding on doing two-handed tapping ala Nuno Bettencourt on He-Man Woman Hater (Pornograffiti).

Anyway, I spent about an hour with a metronome practicing these licks and aside from some muting flubs where I can’t get the 3rd string to stop ringing (or I mute it too hard and too early resulting in a muffled note) and by the end of the practice session was getting prettttyyy good at it. I cheated though and tied a cloth round the neck to stop notes ringing.

Anyway, here’s a C major 7 that I ended up practicing. I think the notes are right, but I’m away from my guitar right now. The key new technique for me is the left hand tapping, i.e. ‘hammering on from nowhere’ as we ascend to start up each string ringing.  Slurs are not indicated, but obviously, there’s no picking – it’s all hammers, taps and pulls.


Beatles licks have still not yet been attempted as Shredding trumps Beatles fingerpicky parts any day in my book.

Yngwie AWOL from DiMarzio site… hmm…

Posted in Guitar Playing on November 5, 2009 by Staff Writer

I’m the proud owner of an Yngwie Malmsteen Signature guitar cable, plus some other normal DiMarzio cables. I love them. I like the cloth braid instead of some nasty rubbber. Yes – I’m shallow – I’ll buy virtually anything with Yngwie’s name on it except the dumb DOD overdrive which I bet he doesn’t even use.   Anyway, being a fan of DiMarzio cables I went to the site to see what they had that I could get to connect some stuff to my Boogie’s effect loop.  Under the instruments section, I noticed that John5 has a new sig cable; cool. But Yngwie’s was no longer there. Further, he’s not under the Featured Players list (despite being the top proponent of the HS-3 pickup) and his name isn’t even in the full list of players.  Have Larry and Yng fallen out?