Performance Tips: Jason Becker — "Perpetual Burn"
Jeff Perrin's transcription of Jason Becker's "Perpetual Burn" appears on Page 114 of the July 2013 issue of Guitar World. The issue is available now at newsstands and the Guitar World Online Store.
Throughout this title track to Jason Becker’s landmark 1988 debut album, the phenomenally gifted and accomplished young guitarist frequently employs a lead-playing technique known as sweep picking to help perform the many swift and nimble-fingered arpeggios used to convey his classical virtuoso-style melodic ideas.
The technique involves dragging, or “raking,” the pick across the strings while your fingers transition from note to note in order to produce a fast, fluid-sounding chord arpeggio without sounding like a strummed chord.
In bar 1 of the transcription, we’ve provided the specific pick strokes used for each arpeggio. As you practice this Paganini-style violin-like passage, pay attention to your pick hand’s timing, making sure not to get ahead of your fret-hand fingers as they perform the various hammer-ons and pull-offs encountered throughout the lick.
Additionally, when performing sweep arpeggios in general, be sure to lift each finger off the fretboard (though not necessarily completely off the string) immediately after sounding the note. This will prevent the notes from ringing, or “bleeding,” together and keep them sounding like part of a distinct melody.
At section letter G (beginning at bar 44), Becker takes a more linear approach to his arpeggios by utilizing fretboard tapping exclusively on the B string. To handle some of the wider fret-hand stretches in these licks, such as from the D note (third fret) to Fs (seventh fret) during beats two and three of bar 45, try rotating, or “dropping,” your wrist and positioning your thumb on the back side of the guitar neck so that it sits directly opposite the D and G strings. Doing so will help allow your fingers to more easily spread and fan out along the length of the fretboard and make the demanding stretches required to play this passage.
At the end of bar 47, Becker begins creating a sort of “double-time feel” for the lick by rapidly and continually tapping his pick on the fretboard in place of each arpeggio’s finger-tapped notes. When recreating this passage, keep in mind that while this “tremolo tapping” should be performed as quickly as possible, the actually fret-hand hammer-on and pull-offs still occur at (approximately) the same pace (16th-note triplets) as previous played throughout the section.
This piece covers a lot of fretboard territory and many different tonal centers, and it requires a lot of deft fret-hand position shifts as well as a great deal of pick-hand finesse. The key is to “get off of” each note after it is played and try to be “light on your feet,” so to speak.