Haken's Charlie Griffiths teaches you 5 shred licks to take your technical abilities to the next level

Charlie Griffiths
(Image credit: Ross Jennings)

Haken guitarist and long-time GT contributor Charlie Griffiths says his debut solo album, Tiktaalika, allowed him free rein to put all his favourite thrash, prog, and unusual scale choices, plus all his riffing and soloing approaches into one single body of work. 

“One thing I will never tire of,” says Charlie, “is thrash riffing of the Hetfield downstroke variety. I’m yet to find something that warms up the picking hand and forearm more effectively than hopping from string to string while holding down constant eighth notes.

“As well as metal I’m a huge prog rock head, so I’m always looking for a way to use odd numbered note groupings to turn the beat on its head and create syncopation, in both licks like the one in Example 2, or in King Crimson-inspired riffs like Example 5, which I’ll often use in verse type sections.

“Having spent some time in India over the years I feel a strong connection to that incredibly inspiring rhythmic and melodic musical language, but I actually picked up the ‘Kamavardhani’ scale from Mattias IA Eklundh in Sweden! I find the tonality very evocative and I use it for everything from melodic soloing like Example 3 to brutal Slayer-style chromatic riffing.

“Sometimes you just need to blast through some high-speed alternate picked scales to get the desired emotion across, so Example 4 shows a typical way I’d do this while owing a huge debt to players like Al Di Meola and Chuck Schuldiner. 

Lick 1. Thrash Riffing

Nothing gets the hands warm like some Hetfield style thrash riffing. Use one finger per fret to play the tritone intervals across the four lowest strings. For the ultimate workout, pick each note with a palm muted downstroke. You can also start off with alternate picking and build up to strict down picking.

Lick 2. Odd Time Note Groupings

This lick is based in a Dorian-meets-Blues hybrid scale (1-2-b3-4-b5-5-6-b7] and is phrased in groups of seven 16th notes. Each group of seven notes is played as a four-notes, then a three-notes-per-string shape, played with five alternate pick-strokes, then two pull-offs. This means that each string change starts with a downstroke.

Lick 3. Indian Kamavardhani Scale

Here’s a lick using the Kamavardhani scale: 1-b2-3-#4-5-b6-7]. The intervals may seem strange at first, so think of the shape as Blues scale a semitone up from the root. Play each root note with a fretting-hand tap and a simultaneous whammy bar scoop. Next, use legato to play six notes, then repeat an octave higher and so on.

Lick 4. Fast Sextuplet Alternate Picking

Based in E Phrygian Dominant (1-b2-3-4-5-b6-b7), this lick is played with fast, sextuplet alternate picking throughout. Keep your picking hand consistent by ensuring that a downpick coincides with each downbeat. For smoother string changes use the very tip of your pick to glide over the strings and don’t dig in too much.

Lick 5. Note Displacement

Our final lick is a hypnotic two-handed tapping pattern using the C Augmented arpeggio (C-E-G#). We are in 4/4, but can divide the 16th notes into more unusual phrases that displace across the bar. Divide the melody up into two groups of 22 16th notes and finish with four extra notes for a total of forty-eight notes.

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Charlie Griffiths

Charlie Griffiths plays guitar in acclaimed prog-metal outfit Haken, and has a wealth of experience handling corporate and session gigs for genres as diverse as rock, heavy metal and pop. He has been a regular contributor to Total Guitar, Guitar Techniques, and Guitar World for over a decade, and released his debut solo album Tiktaalika in 2022.