I am often asked how I incorporate chromatic notes into my solos and how I approach playing “outside” the given key center of a song. If you have ever used the blues scale, then you have already employed chromatic notes in some of the most musical ways possible.
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Before getting to the “Sevens” lick, I’m going to break down the technique involved so that you will be able to apply this idea to creating riffs of your own. The genesis of the lick was in trying to find a new way to play a major-seven arpeggio. I started out by breaking it down into two notes per string, as shown in FIGURE 1a.
Seated across from one another in a cavernous, chilly San Francisco photo studio, Tosin Abasi and Guthrie Govan are deep in conversation, dissecting and debating the relative merits of various guitar neck tone woods. They’re both clearly attuned to the same profound level of guitar geekery—fretboard brothers. But it’s hard to imagine two human beings more different in appearance.
For these licks, I employ fretboard tapping in conjunction with string skipping to achieve a very smooth and even sound throughout. I know many guitarists prefer to use sweep picking when playing arpeggios, but to me, the sound of dragging the pick up and down across the strings is a little too abrasive and percussive.