In the patterns I’ll demonstrate here, I add a fast triplet picking motion, down-up-down, followed by an upstroke and a quick hammer-on and pull-off. In this way, the fast triplet picking technique included on each beat functions almost like a trill, as it is a quick little embellishment that serves to make the licks sound more intricate and aggressive.
Let’s begin with phrases based on the minor pentatonic scale (1 b3 4 5 b7), sounding two notes per string. FIGURE 1 is a lick based on D minor pentatonic (D F G A C), and I begin with a fast 16th-note triplet rhythm, alternate picked, on the high D root note. I refer to this as a “whiplash” triplet because the pick hand needs to repeatedly whip through the triplet rhythm in a down-up-down motion. After the initial triplet, a second 16th-note triplet is played by picking the first note and sounding the next two via a hammer-on and pull-off. I then repeat this phrase on each lower string.
Now let’s expand the application of this technique to a three-notes-per-string shape: in FIGURE 2, I begin with the same alternate-picked-triplet attack on the high D root note, but I follow the subsequent D note with a double hammer-on up to F and G and then a double pull-off back down to F and D, resulting in a five-note phrase. This three-notes-per-string pattern is then repeated on each string, moving from high to low, with the “trill” picking technique beginning on the upbeats and the five-note legato sequence falling on the downbeats.
Now let’s examine two new twists to the basic idea, first by switching to a D major scale (D E F# G A B C#) and then by additionally starting on the middle note on each string, as opposed to the lowest note. FIGURE 3, akin to the previous examples, is played in 10th position, with the index finger stationed at the 10th fret, but instead of beginning each phrase at the 10th fret, here we will start at the 12th. Once again, we’re using the whipping motion for the fast trill-type alternate picking, with slight palm-muting throughout, so that each string sounds clear and rings individually. The lick played on each string is a pattern of seven notes, or a septuplet.
Finally, a great twist is to move between the strings in a variety of different ways. In FIGURE 4, I begin on the first string, move to the second string but then continually move back to the first string after playing the phrase on each subsequent lower string. I move from high to low, always doubling back to the first string. Once you get down to the sixth string, you can reverse the sequence, moving from low to high.