Back in the Holiday 2012 issue, I compared guitar playing to being like a winter sport. In the summer, we tend to put away our guitars while we engage in outdoor summer activities. Speaking for myself, my chops tend to get a little neglected over the warm months, whereas in the winter, I’m happy to sit by the fire and play guitar for hours on end.
By far the most prominently used scale and the most prevalent sound in rock, metal and blues is that of the minor pentatonic scale. The musical strength of the scale lies in its simplicity, making it a perfect formula from which to try to discover interesting and new musical paths.
Last month we investigated the dark sound of the Phrygian mode, which is spelled intervallically 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7. In the key of E, the notes would be E F G A B C D. Four of the Phrygian mode’s seven scale degrees—the second, third, sixth and seventh—are minor, or “flatted,” intervals, which is what gives Phrygian such a foreboding, “evil” sound, one that is perfectly suited to heavy metal music.
Whenever I am composing primary riffs for a metal song, one of my goals is to come up with something that not only sounds heavy but also takes the listener on some kind of journey to the unknown!
One effective way to create powerful music is to set up a groove and a riff or sequence, and just when the listener is settled into that groove, something will come along that twists it in an unexpected way.
This approach will keep the riffs sounding lively and the listener engaged and interested.
I was initially inspired to come up with these licks from a conversation I had with a saxophone player who asked me, “Why do so many guitarists always play pentatonic runs exactly the same way?”—meaning, why do most guitarists play up and down through the pentatonic scale within the confines of a single fretboard position?
One of my favorite things about heavy metal music is the brutal rhythm guitar parts that have been devised by the genre's greatest bands, such as Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and others. In this month's column, I'd like to show you some of the effective techniques for developing cool-sounding and very metal rhythm guitar parts.
The Phrygian mode is often referred to as the “third mode” because—starting from the major scale, which is the “mother,” or “parent,” scale to the seven fundamental modes and is itself considered the first mode—Phrygian is the third mode in the series, as it is based upon the third scale degree of the major scale.
A great way to discover new minor pentatonic sounds on the fretboard is to expand common “box” patterns. As shown in FIGURE 1, E minor pentatonic (E G A B D) is played in two connecting positions: when ascending, I play the scale in seventh position; when descending, I play it in 10th position.
As a metal player, I have found the study, understanding and incorporation of the modes to be invaluable in regard to all aspects of my playing and, most importantly, in terms of my overall grasp of the manner by which musical structures are formulated across the guitar’s fretboard. I visualize each of the modes on the fretboard in five different, distinct patterns.
In this month’s column, I’d like to present a few single-note patterns that are designed to fortify fret-hand/pick-hand coordination while they strengthen your overall chops and ability to play fast and clean. In my own experience, I have found that drilling on one or two very specific melodic fretboard shapes works wonders in uncovering technical areas of weakness in both hands.