Here in a lesson written bespoke for Total Guitar, Sylosis main man Josh Middleton presents five licks that’ll help you get shredding. Before you dive in with his tab, first take note of some broader concepts.
To start, Josh is using the Phrygian dominant mode throughout. So what? Well, its exotic harmony is a great start point for various sub-genres of metal guitar, particularly melodic death metal and thrash.
Next, Josh’s guitar is in C# standard tuning, which though less relevant for our purposes (Josh isn’t playing particularly low here), is suitably low for jamming along – and seeing as his licks are in C#, you get the benefit of the low root note.
Each of Josh’s licks has a technical and creative idea for you to explore. Learn them note for note or treat them as springboards for your own ideas. He’s even created a jam track for us all to play along to. Thanks Josh!
Example 1. Mimicking sweep picking
Josh introduces his first lick by emphasising how string skipping can “mimic sweep picking, cover a lot of ground and get some wide intervallic leaps happening”. Handy, because sweep picking is just quite hard to do – and any shortcut to a similar vibe is alright by us!
Example 2. Accuracy when picking
This lick is arranged with three notes per string and Josh picks every note. As he explains, “It’s really important to practise picking every note because it’s quite an annoying way to pick; sometimes you’ll start on a downstroke and sometimes you’ll start on the next string on an upstroke.”
He’s dead right – it can be tricky, so make sure to practise slowly and focus on accuracy.
Example 3. Twisty descending shred
More Phrygian dominant shreddy goodness here, with a twisty descending lick, which, as Josh explains, includes a mix of picking and hammer-ons/pull-offs. This allows for more contrast in the accents than a straight alternate picked approach would give you.
Example 4. Evil diminished run
Whole songs are written in the Phrygian dominant mode; diminished chords, however, tend to be short-lived – evil-sounding, dissonant blasts that resolve quickly back to friendlier harmonies.
Thing is, the notes of a diminished triad can be found in the Phrygian dominant mode starting on its second note. D is the second note of C# Phrygian dominant, so Josh is playing a D diminished run over a C# Phrygian progression. Gettit?
Example 5. Exploring the fretboard
Here Josh presents a simple way to get more mileage out of a relatively simple lick: play the same notes an octave higher. You could just head 12 frets up the neck, but Josh has ascended only seven frets, also crossing to a higher string to reach the octave mark.
This gives some slightly different phrasing options compared to just playing the same patterns 12 frets up.