Because we generally approach the flat 5 or “blue note” as merely a passing note when we play blues or blues rock, the scale sounds incredibly smooth and even a little jazzy. My way of incorporating the flat into the licks and runs creates a slightly dissonant-sounding movement. The dissonance immediately creates the tension that is often needed when soloing to heavy, dark rock or blues-based rock.
In this lick, I'm using the blues scale in the key of E. When used in the right fashion, this scale can sound incredibly dark and even a little evil! It is the dissonant sound of the flat 5 that creates the dark feeling. In the traditional blues format, the flat 5 is used as a passing note. This creates the intensity and gives tremendous feeling to the lines or licks.
In this Monster Lick, I'm using the E minor pentatonic scale and demonstrating how to create huge transitions all over the fretboard. I was always fascinated when I'd watch guitar players soloing and moving all over the neck — players like Steve Vai, Shawn Lane and Eric Johnson. I approach this in my own unique way, by combining the use of six-string arpeggios with hammers, pulls and slides.
What makes this a little more difficult than usual are the stretches. They require a lot of practice and getting used to. The techniques in this lick are nothing unusual (apart from the over-the-top section) but the techniques, in conjunction with the stretches, become very difficult. So like anything else, be patient and work on it slowly.
The grouping of notes is very heavily inspired by Shawn Lane. When I first heard Shawn play, it was so blisteringly fast, it really excited and scared the hell out of me at the same time. I could hear that a lot of his tonality was with the pentatonic scale, but I couldn’t understand how anyone could play this scale so fast.
I start this lick on the eighth fret of the high E string. You'll notice I'm combining two patterns of the pentatonic together, and I do it throughout the lick. As we are traditionally taught the pentatonic scale in the box form (or two notes per string), this will be a new way of thinking for some of you.
What I love most about this scale is that tonally there are no surprises for the listener; it is harmonically beautiful whether played fast or slow. Obviously, this particular lick is to be played with some speed, but if you break it down, you could use any line from it and lead into a bend or slide — and it would sound incredible.
In this week's Monster Licks, I am — once again — pushing the boundaries of the minor pentatonic scale. The harmonic qualities of this scale really resonate with me. I know this may sound strange because this lick is played at high speed, but for me, the scale never looses its melodic beauty, no matter how fast or slow it’s played.
In the first installment of my new Monster Licks series, I'm going to take you through my extensive pentatonic lick library. These licks are the product of many years of hard work, and I'm glad to be sharing them with you! The straight (minor) pentatonic scale often gets overlooked when soloing. I find that most guitarists tend to head to the blues scale or other variations of the pentatonic because they find the straight scale a little limiting.