In this Sick Lick, I'm using the A Minor blues scale. In its traditional form, we would tend to use the Flat 5 note as a passing note (to slide in and out of or bend from) to get that real bluesy sound. What I do here is, rather than using the Flat 5 (D#) as a passing note, I tend to base the scale around this note. What this does is create an extremely aggressive sound, and it makes the scale awesome to use for heavier styles of music.
In this Sick Lick, I'm using the A Minor Pentatonic Scale. The lick is played high on the neck, which makes some of the transitions very difficult, but the results are worth it. We start this lick with a five-string arpeggio, then slide up to the 22nd fret and start moving back down the neck. You'll notice most of the really fast sections are created with three- and five-string arpeggios.
In this Sick Lick, I use a combination of the blues scale (Pentatonic flat 5) and the Diminished Scale in the key of E Minor. These two scales are, by far, my favorites. They create very aggressive sounds and are adaptable to all kinds of music. I'm incorporating the use of my left thumb to actually fret notes on the neck. Now I'm not doing this in the traditional form where we may use our thumb to play bass notes; rather, I'm bringing my thumb from around the back of the neck to fret on top of the fretboard.
In this Sick Lick, I am using the E diminished scale. This is one of my favorite scales. Not only does it create a powerful sound; it also works very well with the pentatonic scale and can be adapted to anything from jazz to metal. I incorporate a lot of three- and six-string arpeggios while using the diminished scale. It's a great way to move around the guitar at speed, and it creates a real intensity in your soloing.
If I had to choose my favorite scale for soloing, it would be the blues scale, that cool, slippery scale that adds the flatted fifth (f5) to the minor pentatonic. Among traditional players and modern shredders, it is probably the most commonly used scale in blues and rock.
My approach to guitar is tonally a little different than most modern shredders, as I base all my playing around the pentatonic scale. Players like Shawn Lane and Eric Johnson do this better than anyone on the planet. But my approach is a little different again. I use the combination of sweep picking and three-string arpeggios to get around the guitar rather than focus on the scales in their natural form.
In his second Guitar World column, Glenn Proudfoot continues his look a building patterns in the pentatonic scale, this month focusing on using pentatonic sequences to create what he calls "power burst" runs.