Today we’re going to simplify and understand an extremely important part of music theory: chord progressions. Like all the knowledge areas we’ve covered so far in this series, I’m going to explain this in the simplest of terms so you can achieve a thorough understanding and absolute mastery of this concept.
I’ve noticed something about my soloing in the last couple of weeks. First, I’m not what you would consider a “lead guitarist.” I can hang, sure. But it’s not my area and I’ve never really been comfortable playing at higher speeds. That’s alright, because I make my musical living on the rhythm and layering side of the business. But I also noticed that I had some consistent problem areas as I moved across the fretboard.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, when I’m soloing I like to combine a variety of flashy techniques—such as sweep picking, fretboard tapping and legato articulations—that allow me to play very fast lines. These techniques can be heard in my solos to the songs “Good Girls, Bad Guys” and “Don’t Mess with Ouija Boards” from the Falling in Reverse album The Drug in Me Is You. For this month’s lesson, I’d like to go over portions of those solos.
The title of this month’s column refers to the standard minor pentatonic “box” patterns that so many guitar players rely upon when soloing. While they are valuable, they can be restricting if they represent the primary way in which one utilizes these scale patterns on the fretboard. When playing in the standard box pattern, we generally play two notes per string.
As the Black Label Society's leader (and Ozzy's guitarist for more years than anyone else), Zakk Wylde has become infamous for his brew-tal riffage and lethal lead style. Remarkably, though, he also has a soul-stirring softer side.
In late 2006, Topeka, Kansas-based acoustic guitarist Andy McKee burst onto the global guitar scene with a solo acoustic video of "Drifting," a two-handed fingerstyle affair, oozing with percussive slaps, tasty taps and harmonic slaps. The video went viral on YouTube, and made him a star.
When learning how to play jazz guitar, one of the big concepts many players tackle is learning licks from famous players and classic solos. When doing so, you can learn the lick as played on the recording, but you also can work the lick around the bar rhythmically in order to give you variations that you can apply to your soloing ideas as well as the original lick.
I could never overstate the importance of a musician’s need to develop his or her ear. Actually, I believe that developing a good “inner ear” — the art of being able to decipher musical components solely through listening — is the most important element in becoming a good musician.
I like to play a lot of things legato, using whatever hammer-ons and pull-offs are available in any given position that my fret-hand fingers are in. I’m also inclined to do a lot of hybrid picking [pick and fingers], using picked down-strokes in tandem with upstrokes of the middle finger. This enables me to do a lot of string skipping very efficiently, with much less pick-hand movement and effort than would be required using only the pick.
For some of the really fast passages, I could hear that they were using a legato approach—incorporating an abundance of hammer-ons, pull-offs and finger slides—but I had absolutely no idea how to play the guitar in that way or achieve anywhere near their speed and precision. It sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before, so I always referred to it as “alien guitar.”