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Joel Hoekstra teaches you how to play the intro and opening solo to Whitesnake's Shut Up and Kiss Me

Hello everyone, and welcome back to my column, School of Rock! As always, it is my hope that these lesson will inspire your playing while also expanding your musical horizons on the guitar.

In this column, I’d like to focus on the intro riff and intro solo I play in Shut Up and Kiss Me, from the latest Whitesnake album, Flesh & Blood. The song is played in the key of E, with a chord sequence and intro solo based on the notes of the E minor pentatonic scale: E, G, A, B, D.

(Image credit: Future)

The intro begins with a long finger slide, or gliss (glissando), down the low E string, from a random starting point high up on the neck, followed by two-note powerchord accents played alternately against the palm-muted open low E string, as shown in FIGURE 1

The picking is all downstrokes here, and I palm mute open low E notes between the chord stabs. The E note serves as a pedal tone (a recurring note among changing chords). 

I play the two-bar pattern three times then perform another gliss down the low E string and repeat the two-bar riff pattern (see FIGURE 2). I cap off the section with syncopated accents on open A5 and D5 chords, as shown in FIGURE 3.

My Whitesnake co-guitarist Reb Beach and I always try to coordinate where we’re going to shake chords, or add finger vibrato to them. For example, at the end of the progression where I play the E5 chord accents, I add vibrato to the chord.

Now let’s look at the intro solo, which is based on the stock 12th-position fretboard pattern of the E minor pentatonic scale depicted in FIGURE 4. For the solo, I engage my wah pedal and switch from my bridge pickup to my neck pickup, which to me offers a greater range of mid- and low-end sweep with the wah.

FIGURE 5 presents the first four bars of the solo, which are played on the top two strings, with a whole-step bend in bar 2 from G to A, which I over-bend a whole step, to B. The phrase ends with a bend from D to E on the B string, to which I add a wide, aggressive bend vibrato.

(Image credit: Future)

To summarize the rest, FIGURE 6 shows the next two bars, which feature a series of wide-interval open-string pull-offs, played in a 16th-note rhythm and performed with hybrid picking. 

FIGURE 7 shows the high A bend that follows, and FIGURE 8 combines the two phrases and continues to the end of the solo, where I bend, partially release, re-bend and then shake the high D note at the 22nd fret.

Joel Hoekstra plays for Whitesnake, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Cher and his own side project, Joel Hoekstra's 13. Whitesnake's latest album is 2019's Flesh & Blood. Find out more here.