Michael Angelo Batio: On The Double
FIGURE 4 is a freaky riff based on an E diminished-seven arpeggio [an arpeggio is a “broken” chord, in which the notes of a chord are played individually and in succession], with the notes a minor third (one and one half steps) apart. I play the riff on the first, third and fifth strings and, in the process, skip over the second and fourth strings. I have to stretch out the fingers of my fretting hand in order to position each finger over the fretboard properly. For this reason, I like to play this riff high on the neck, where the distance between the frets is shorter.
I also employ a technique I learned from watching Eddie Van Halen: he likes to bring the neck of the guitar close to his face so that it’s pointing skyward. Positioning the guitar in this way facilitates wide fret-hand stretches. This technique was an important factor in the design of my Double-Guitar, with the result that each neck points upward at about a 45-degree angle.
The term “sweep picking” is generally used to describe the articulation of arpeggios performed with an unbroken sequence of downstrokes when crossing from low to high strings and upstrokes when crossing from high to low strings. These are also commonly referred to as rakes (low to high) or reverse rakes (high to low).
Let’s begin the sweep-picking portion of this lesson by playing an A minor arpeggio in the 12th position [FIGURE 5]. The most important thing to master when playing this lick is the “sweep” itself: the first note, A [fifth string/12th fret], is fretted with the index finger and picked with a downstroke; this is followed by a hammer-on at the 15th fret with the pinkie; the four subsequent notes are sounded by raking across the fourth through first strings with one continuous downstroke, ending with the fretting hand’s index finger on the 12th fret. I then hammer-on at the 17th fret with the pinkie, followed by a pull-off back to the 12th fret; the remaining notes are sounded by reverse raking across the second through fifth strings with a single upstroke. You can start the lick on the high E string, too [FIGURE 6]. After playing the initial phrase 11 times, I repeat the top part of the lick in order to create a different effect.
I was once so intent on mastering this technique that, in one day, I practiced it 1,000 times in a row. I know, because I kept count! I was obsessed with making it sound really good and clean.
The arpeggio shape in FIGURE 7 is based on the first-position C major “cowboy” chord. I rake across the fifth through first strings, using a downstroke hammer-on from the 12th to the 15th fret, and then rake back across from the first to the fifth string, beginning with the pull-off from the 15th to the 12th fret on the high E string.
My obsession with finding the “lost arpeggio that no one could play” led me to add a fret-hand finger tap to the end of the arpeggio, like this [FIGURE 8], wherein I use the middle finger of the pick hand to tap the high C note at the 20th fret on the high E string. I’ll sometimes repeat the top part of this lick, too, in order to create a variation on the melodic shape [FIGURE 9].
When I was attending Musicians Institute in Hollywood, my colleagues and I decided the finger tap wasn’t far out enough. In response I came up with the “MI sweep” [FIGURE 10], a.k.a. the “Whipper sweeper,” which I used to practice all the time. This is basically the same maneuver as the previous example, except that here I tap on B at the 19th fret, slide the tapping finger up one fret to C and then back to B, and then execute the pull-off to continue the riff. Be sure to position the picking hand over the end of the fretboard to facilitate the tapped slide; there’s no law that says you always have to pick over the pickups.
There was tremendous competition among guitar players back then—friendly competition, mind you—and we were all trying to learn things from one another. It was a great time to be coming up and learning one’s craft.
Here’s a sweep-picking exercise that traverses the neck and wanders through a few different keys [FIGURE 11]. This is a great exercise because you repeatedly alternate between sounding three notes with an upstroke and three notes with a downstroke.
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