Whether it's turning a doorknob or stirring coffee, guitarists frequently use a host of imprecise analogies to illustrate their hand movements. These everyday images may seem helpful on the surface, but the problem is that they mean different things to different players. This can make learning and teaching even basic movements an exercise in frustration.
When I first heard Albert Lee's "Fun Ranch Frolic" in high school, I was floored by its precision and unstoppable groove. It was a decade of plectrum prowess, and there was no shortage of muscular technique to go around. Yngwie Malmsteen was, of course, famous for his ability to play full-picked lines across the strings with seemingly impossible accuracy. And even Eddie Van Halen could sting unexpectedly with blasts of right-hand wizardry.
The Eighties was a decade of unrivaled guitar heroism. And one of its greatest heroes is also one of its greatest villains. Steve Vai's nefarious turn in the 1986 film Crossroads sent legions of kids scurrying to their metronomes in hot pursuit of his blistering neoclassical chops.
What is stringhopping? Know your enemy! Stringhopping is a jumpy hand movement that almost everyone encounters when trying to play fast with a pick. It’s the Number One thing you want to avoid to develop picking-hand smoothness, especially when going from one string to another. Understanding why it’s so inefficient is tricky, and it serves as a good introduction to the fundamental wrist movements of guitar playing.
Guitarist Troy Grady hosts a web series called "Cracking the Code." In each episode, he breaks down a phrase — or something awesome that he has learned or figured out — and then explains it in a detail-packed way that includes an information- and graphics-packed video.
Morse is renowned for reeling off what he calls "un-guitaristic" lines of seemingly impossible complexity. These keyboard- and fiddle-inspired trademark phrases often consist of no more than a single note on any given string. This kind of one-note-per-string arpeggio picking is typically regarded as the domain of fingerpickers, not flatpickers.
After all, the pentatonic scale is nearly ubiquitous as a cornerstone of modern rock lead playing. And fours is a common rhythmic grouping, especially considering that most rock songs are written in 4/4 time. As a result, we hear pentatonic fours patterns in rock leads all the time, especially in keyboard and horn parts.
Even more amazing is that Speed, Accuracy and Articulation was filmed in one straight take, with virtually no edits or re-takes, after a previous studio session left precisely one hour on the clock for the day. As anyone who has filmed video lessons can attest, this is simply a super-human feat of on-camera consistency and cool-headedness.
Van Halen’s recent Jimmy Kimmel Live performance affords an almost perfect glimpse of Eddie Van Halen’s legendarily unique approach to tremolo picking. The incredible speed and consistency of his take on this technique has been a source of fascination for 35 years.