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Learn a Killer Chris Poland Lick

Chris Poland needs no introduction. The former Megadeth and current OHM guitarist is renowned for his labyrinthine legato lines, and mixing up diatonic modes with chromatic passing tones.

To any listener, it’s almost indecipherable. As soon as one of Chris’s mind bending runs hits you, it’s already gone, leaving most of us guitar players scratching our heads, wondering what he’s doing.

But one of his most recognisable licks is one that I’m going to show you now in EX 1.

It’s a four note repeating lick that sounds best if you start it right at the end of a bar, so the third note hits at the same time as the new bar.

Technique wise, you want to use an upstroke sweep to capture the string change from the B string to the G string.

Poland holds his pick with the trailing edge angled upwards and he treats most of his string crosses as sweeps. The simplest way to describe his technique is economy picking meets legato.

Once you hit the G# note, bend it up immediately by a semitone so that you hit the note of A just before you use your third finger to hammer back onto the 14th fret, sounding the A note again.

The next part is relatively easy. Just pick once on the B string and use hammer-ons to dispatch the next two notes. Do the same thing on the E string and then it’s time for the next quirky Chris Poland trademark.

You need to slide from the note of G immediately to the A note on the 17th fret and bend up straightaway by a whole tone. You let that down a semitone, giving you an A# and then back down to A.

When that’s taken care of, hit the G note and bend upwards by a semitone, adding some proper Poland style vibrato. Make it narrow and fast if you want to keep it authentic.

EX. 2 shows a slight variation at the beginning, inspired by the Megadeth classic "Devil’s Island."

Both examples suggest a tonality of E Dorian with the addition of the major 3 of E—the G#—giving a Mixolydian suggestion for a brief moment.

Ben Higgins started playing guitar at age 10. He’s released five solo albums and continues to teach guitarists from around the world. In 2012, he released the YouTube video “30 Shredders in One Solo,” in which he emulated the style of 30 of the world’s greatest guitarists. He topped this in 2017 with “101 Shredders in One Solo.” In 2016, Ben developed his “Badass…” online courses, which are aimed at improving people’s technique in picking, sweeping and hand synchronization. To find out more about Ben and his courses, visit benhigginsofficial.com.