Michael Angelo Batio is legendary in the shred guitar world and rightly so. Michael is one of the original batch of seemingly superhuman guitarists with incredible alternate picking and sweep picking that literally wipes the floor with anybody in his path.
MAB is famous for his rare ambidextrous style, switching between left and right-handed necks of his double and quadruple neck guitars. But don’t be fooled, this showmanship isn’t a distraction from a lack of musicality, in fact the solo albums No Boundaries and Planet Gemini are wholly entertaining and full of great tunes as well as perfectly executed scale runs and sweep picked surprises.
Michael is also a highly respected instructor and, apart from his instructional videos, counts Tom Morello and Mark Tremonti among his students.
We start things off in blistering fashion with a Nitro style alternate picking riff in F# Minor (Nitro was a short lived late-’80s band featuring MAB’s lightning guitar antics). Building shred guitar technique is like training for a marathon, but sometimes it is worth testing your sprint speed and just going for it to exercise the muscles and develop stamina.
Next up is a pattern using two-notes-per-string arpeggios. We are using Major 7th and Minor 7th shapes, but you could apply the same pattern to Dominant 7, Diminished 7, Pentatonic scales and any other scale or arpeggio, as long as there are two notes per string you can use the ingrained muscle memory for as many musical situations as possible.
Our third lick switches between subdivisions, which is an important skill if you need to change gears from fast, to supersonic.The lick starts with 16th notes and accelerates to sextuplets; four notes per beat, then six notes per beat.
Moving between different rates of notes at any given tempo will allow you to express rhythmic phrasing approaches which enhance the groove and emotion, while not bombarding the listener with the same thing over and over again. Michael’s No Boundaries is a masterclass in balancing ferocious speed and keeping things interesting through rhythmic variation.
Lick 4 is all about wide stretches and ideas like this can yield interesting and unexpected results with a mixture of wide intervals, close intervals and chaotic ascending and descending patterns across the strings, as heard in Michael’s tracks I Do For You and The Jam Game.
Our final idea is a blend of sweeping and tapping to create seamless arpeggios. This example uses the Augmented sound with each arpeggio note spaced a Major 3rd apart. This not only sounds cool, but is great to practise as it utilises all four fingers of your fretting hand, plus the second finger of your picking hand.
With control of this technique you can play around with the intervals and play any arpeggio or weird and wonderful shape you can dream up; there really are no boundaries in music!
Get the tone
Amp settings: Gain 7, Bass 6, Middle 7, Treble 7, Reverb 3
Michael Angelo plays a variety of Dean electric guitars, usually humbucker equipped and with Floyd Rose vibratos. Batio’s tone is classic heavy metal, so use your bridge pickup into either a high-gain guitar amp with lots of front-end drive; or put the guitar through an OD-1 style distortion pedal but without drowning the ‘fundamental’ note. Add judicious reverb or delay to taste.
Start by picking six notes per beat and accent the downstroke on each downbeat in order to stay in tempo. Michael anchors his second and third fingers to the guitar body beneath the pickups and picks with quite a steep pick angle, so you may want to experiment with a similar technique.
This lick starts with an Amaj7 pattern played in a 6-6-4 rhythm across two bars. You can use strict alternate picking (as indicated) but economy picking will work too. This essentially means always start the first string with a downstroke and always start the second string with an up; then move between strings in a sweeping motion.
The lick is in E Aeolian mode (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D) and is alternate picked. Use the tip of the pick as this will make string changes smoother. When changing subdivisions it is sometimes helpful to only think about the downstrokes, as 16th notes have two downstrokes and sextuplets have three downstrokes per beat.
This six-note pattern starts in F# Dorian (F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E) and uses progressively wider finger stretches to take the notes outside for a chaotic effect. Have your thumb positioned low on the back of the neck and pointed toward the headstock. Experiment with what hand position feels most comfortable for you.
Sweep across the lowest four strings in one picking motion, lifting your fingers as the pick leaves the string just played. Next hammer-on with fourth finger, then use your picking-hand’s second finger to tap the 20th fret. Descend the arpeggio with fretting hand taps and repeat the process a tone lower, then repeat a tone lower again.