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Lick of the Day: Eric Johnson-Inspired Melodic Climb

This is an Eric Johnson-inspired melodic climb in the key of E. It's based on a six-note sequence that I transpose to different tonal centers as I move up and across the neck. The first part of the lick, up until the legato ending, is all alternate picked with palm muting.

I begin in sixth position, playing the initial six-note sequence based on E, leading off with my middle finger on the E note on the A string's seventh fret. After playing these first six notes, I quickly shift my fret hand up to eighth position and apply that same six-note pattern to the B note on the D string's ninth fret.

I then proceed to repeat the E and B sequences an octave higher, moving up the neck and over to the G and B strings, then over to the B and high E. Notice that the physical fretboard shapes are different on the G and B strings because of the way they are tuned to one another--a major third apart--which alters the shapes of intervals played on these strings.

For contrast, I end the lick with a smooth legato phrase on the high E string, initiated with a hammer-on, followed by a double pull-off and downward slide, which leads into a "scooped bend," from the D♯ note at the 11th fret up to E, to which I apply some subtle, decorative vibrato. This bend is challenging to perform precisely, as you're using only the index finger to bend and shake the string. Listen closely and strive for an accurate pitch bend and a smooth, even vibrato.

The tempo is 102 beats per minute, 72 for slow practice.

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Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.