Sick Licks: Create Wide-Open Arpeggios by Fretting With Your Thumb

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.

As a musician, I've always searched for new ways and techniques to create different sounds and unique solos. I gain a lot of my inspiration from all kinds of musicians -- not only guitarists. I love watching and listening to players like Virgil Donati or Jaco Pastorius. These are people who really pushed the boundaries of their instruments and created something new and exciting.

Which leads me to this Sick Lick!

The thumb technique is something that is very unique. I love the wide-open arpeggios I can create with it, along with the manic sound.

Since I was a kid, I've been looking for ways to play runs all over the neck of the guitar -- like a piano player would. You know, you watch a great pianist and they have both hands on the keys, just wailing up and down all over the piano! I wanted to be able to do a similar thing on the guitar; so I started messing around with bringing my thumb from behind the neck.

I must say it wasn’t “smooth sailing” in the beginning; actually, it was quite painful ... hahahahaha. But after a few blisters and many months of practice, I started to master the idea and put it into action!

This technique is not for esthetics. It enables me to play runs that otherwise would be impossible. This is why I do it! You may be wondering, "What's the point?" Well, the point is, “Why not?!”

You can clearly hear the uniqueness of this lick with the thumb technique. The sound may not be for everyone, but my belief is that in order to grow and get better as a musician, you must always be challenging yourself, whether that be by practicing new techniques, learning another instrument or playing with a new band -- or all of the above! You must challenge yourself, and that is why I'm always searching for new ideas and ways to convey my musical message through the guitar.

We start this lick with a six-string arpeggio moving down toward the nut. Then I bring the thumb into play to create arpeggios that otherwise wouldn't be possible. Once I bring my thumb around from the back of the neck, it doesn't go back behind until the end of the lick. There are four notes in total that I fret with my thumb, and it is not until the last of these notes that I then put my thumb back behind the neck.

The section where I have my thumb on the fretboard requires a lot of finger strength. The pressure you have to apply is far greater than it would be if your thumb were behind the neck. Keep this in mind when you're practicing this. Also be sure not to be straining your wrist.

This entire lick is using the E Blues Scale. I tend to accent the “flat 5” (Bb) instead of using it as a passing note. This creates a very aggressive sounding lick!

Please feel free to join me on Youtube here.

Thanks, and play hard!

Australia's Glenn Proudfoot has played and toured with major signed bands and artists in Europe and Australia, including progressive rockers Prazsky Vyber. Glenn released his first instrumental solo album, Lick Em, in 2010. It is available on iTunes and at Glenn was featured in the October 2010 issue of Guitar World and now creates "Betcha Can’t Play This" segments and lessons for GW. Glenn also has a monthly GW column, "Loud & Proud," which offers insight into his style and approach to the guitar. Glenn is working on a project with Ezekiel Ox (ex Mammal) and Lucius Borich (Cog), which is managed by Ted Gardner, ex-Tool and Jane's Addiction manager. The band has done pre-production on 22 tracks and is set to hit the studio and finish their first studio album. The album is set for release in 2012. Glenn also is working on the followup to his debut album; it, too, will be released in 2012.

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