Here's a crazy-sounding video game–type lick that requires flexibility and dexterity to execute accurately. The object is to move seamlessly across the fretboard, using a wide-stretch symmetrical diminished arpeggio shape with the fret hand’s first, second and fourth fingers, coupled with a right-hand tap, which makes it a diminished-seven arpeggio.
The thinking behind this run is to get you from the fifth fret all the way up to the 17th fret with a smooth, connected flow of notes. It’s played as if it were in A minor, but I tune down one half step [low to high: Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb], so it sounds in Ab minor. I use alternate picking for the most part, which produces a burning staccato sound and gives your picking hand a great workout.
In the first two installments of Chop Shop, we looked at some arpeggio-based runs that were spiced up with octaves, finger taps, pinch harmonics and behind-the-nut bends. This time, as promised, I’m going to talk about the ways in which I’ve employed ideas I’ve learned from guitarists in different genres to my own playing.
I start off with an Amaj7 arpeggio, beginning on the seventh, G#. The first three beats incorporate legato phrasing [hammer-ons and pull-offs used in combination]. I play a total of five notes using the "2-2" form [two notes per string]. I then move to a D augmented arpeggio with a #11, again using the 2-2 form but only playing a group of four notes this time.
In this lesson, I’ll be taking the most common pentatonic positions and showing you how to string them together to create ripping-fast riffs and runs. It’s a great way to break out of typical pentatonic licks and is easy to visualize all over the neck.
Next up is a B fully diminished seventh (over E7b9) with notes from the B half-whole scale thrown in for some percussive and melodic flavor. Finally, I end on what I would barely call an altered E dominant seventh, over which I actually play an A whole-half scale, before finally ending the entire thing on E.
The run is built around a progression of sequenced major, minor and diminished-seventh arpeggios performed exclusively with two-hand tapping. As you’ll discover, it has some cool ascending and descending patterns and a jagged melodic contour that includes wide intervals and frequent changes in direction. Also, notice the use of string skipping and varied rhythms throughout.
Another great thing about this spread-fingering shape is that, from a theoretical perspective, it makes it much easier to visualize your scale intervals and to navigate across them. Say, for instance, you want to figure out how your I, III and V intervals sound when played together. You can do so easily by using this spread fingering position.