In this Sick Lick, I'm using the Whole Tone Scale. You have to be careful with this scale when adapting it to rock, as tonally it is way outside what the listener would normally be used to -- so it's important not to get lost in this scale! Make sure you are always mindful of where you are on the neck and that you are thinking about what other scales you can switch in and out of if you start to get too far outside the tonal core.
I'm using a pretty crazy combination of scales in this Sick Lick. We start with the whole tone scale then move into the diminished and finish with the pentatonic. When I'm combining scales, I always base it around the pentatonic scale. As in, even though I might be using many different scales, I tend to focus the solo or lick around the pentatonic. Basically, I use it like my road map!
In this Sick Lick, I'm using the E Pentatonic Blues Scale (Pentatonic Flat 5). Whenever I'm soloing, this is the scale I naturally gravitate toward because I love its aggressive sound and power! For me, Stevie Ray Vaughan used this scale better than anyone, and he was my inspiration to explore the possibilities with this scale and sound.
In this Sick Lick, I'm using a combination of the “Natural E Minor Pentatonic," Flat 5 (blues scale) and Major 3rd Pentatonic. Many players forget there is a difference between these scales, and the “Natural Pentatonic” often gets overlooked and replaced by these other variations. There is a significant difference between them, and they should all be given the same respect and attention.
For a long time when I was younger, I felt trapped with the pentatonic scale. Most players only use the scale in the box form or two-note-per-string technique. Now, while I absolutely love the sound this creates, I was searching for ways to create runs that were tonally similar to my personal favorites such as Stevie Ray Vaughan or Jimi Hendrix but utilize techniques that Steve Vai or Satch would use in their soloing.
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.
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.