Creed and Alter Bridge veteran Mark Tremonti has put together one of rock's most impressive catalogs of crowd-pleasing riffs and solos. Learn his muscular metal guitar style

Mark Tremonti
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns)

Mark Tremonti formed Creed in 1994 and released four albums with the band, as well as winning a Grammy for the single With Arms Wide Open. In 2004, Tremonti put together his new band, Alter Bridge, who have to date released seven studio albums. 

The group’s music contains lots of melodic guitar playing, chord progressions, heavy riffs and soloing, and has gained Tremonti respect from fans and peers alike. As well as Alter Bridge, Mark has released five albums under his solo project, Tremonti, which has an even harder metallic edge. 

Mark describes himself as a songwriter first and foremost, which is reflected in his frequent output over the past decades. But that said, his guitar playing is as inventive as it is technical. In this lesson we will look at some of the trademark shred techniques that Tremonti uses.

Our first example is a lick that could be used in a modern blues, rock or metal context and is based in the Minor pentatonic scale. There is a mixture of traditional two-notes-per-string pentatonic shapes as well as three-notes-per-string shapes, which allows for various legato techniques to be applied to wider intervals.

Example 2 is an arpeggio-based part using a combination of picking and fretting-hand tapping. Fretting-hand tapping is a combination of legato and string muting. 

When hammering on to a new string, use your fretting finger to land cleanly and squarely on the string near to the fret-wire. As well as this, lightly touch the unused strings with your first finger and any other spare fingers in order to mute them. If done correctly, it should be possible to play these notes without using the picking hand.

Our third example is a long legato line using some odd groupings within 16th-notes. Tremonti likes to play legato phrases using either five-note or seven-note groupings that can be connected together to smoothly navigate through positions of the scale, while at the same time not sounding repetitive or predictable.

Lick number four is a single-string idea using pull-offs and selective picking. The combination of repeating open-string pedal notes, picking, and pull-offs is tied together by keeping the picking hand moving down and up continuously – even though the pick is not always in contact with the strings. Maintaining constant momentum is the best way to stay in time and ‘in the pocket’, while synchronizing your two hands.

Our fifth and final example uses a combination of sweep picking and alternate picking using triad shapes from the key of E Minor, and scale notes in-between, which connect them together.

Learn each example slowly and accurately at first, and only when you can sense that muscle memory is attained, gradually speed up in small metronome increments. 

Get the tone

Amp Settings: Gain 7, Bass 4, Middle 5, Treble 6, Reverb 1

If you have one, go for a guitar with humbucker pickups and use the bridge pickup for a tight, clear, articulated tone. Tremonti favors 6L6-voiced tones, such as Mesa Boogie, or his signature PRS amps, so a more ‘American’ gain would be most appropriate. Use the gain control sparingly and aim for a balance between an organic rock guitar tone and sustaining shred-style lead.

Example 1. Descending pull-off lick

Start with your fourth finger and pull off from the 17th to 12th frets, then use your third finger to pull off from the 15th fret. Use this three-notes-per-string approach to descend through E Minor pentatonic (E-G-A-B-D). In bar 2, switch to palm-muted alternate picking to complete the scale.

Example 2. Ascending fretting-hand tap triad phrase

Pick the notes along the fourth string with downstrokes and fret with your first finger, using your remaining fingers to fretting-hand tap the notes on the fifth and sixth strings. Ascend the neck through these Minor and Major triad arpeggio shapes and finish with an E Natural Minor (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D) legato line.

Example 3. Five and seven-note fragment lick

This legato lick is based in E Natural Minor (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D) and uses fretting-hand taps and slides to change strings and shift positions. The lick is comprised of five and seven-note fragments, but is played with a straight 16th-note feel.

Example 4. B minor pedal-tone lick

Use the open second string as a pedal note for this B Natural Minor lick (B-C#-D-E-F#-G-A) and use pull-offs to play the notes of the scale. Keep your guitar pick moving in an alternate picking fashion throughout, in order to synchronize the hands.

Example 5. Linking triads and scale lines

This lick combines sweep picking and alternate picking and uses an E Minor triad and a C Major triad, which are connected with E Natural Minor Scale positions on the first string. Focus on synchronizing the pick and fingers when transitioning from 16th notes to 16th-note triplets.

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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.