In this Monster Lick, I'm using the E minor pentatonic scale and demonstrating how to create huge transitions all over the fretboard.
I was always fascinated when I'd watch guitar players soloing and moving all over the neck — players like Steve Vai, Shawn Lane and Eric Johnson. I approach this my own way, by combining six-string arpeggios with hammers, pulls and slides. I love the effect this creates.
Although this lick is very quick, this style of playing can be used in a melodic sense also. Check my song “Sterling” on YouTube or iTunes. Toward the end of the song, I use this approach with six-string arpeggios to create a passage that moves with the chord changes. It sounds very pretty. Obviously, this style sounds great when you want to shred peoples' heads off when soloing!
There are two main techniques to factor in here when learning this lick.
First, there are the stretches. As I move down the neck, the stretches become quite wide and can be very tricky. I suggest you make sure your left thumb is in the middle of the neck to help you maximize your stretching capability. Also, you can simply focus on the parts of the licks higher up the octave first if the stretches are too difficult. Your stretching capability, like anything on the guitar, can be improved and worked on, so don’t worry if you struggle at the start. It will get easier with every practice session.
Second, there's the picking hand. In theory, as I'm using sweep picking, the picking on paper looks incredibly easy, as a majority of the time, it is all down-strokes or all up-strokes — just like when you're strumming a chord in a slow, controlled manor. The difficult thing here is the syncopation between your left and right hands. Your left hand is working “over time” with the quick transitions and wide intervals the arpeggio shapes create, so it becomes very difficult to sync up both of these to create a smooth, clean-sounding run.
The way I worked on this was by trilling the pattern in one position and working through it slowly with a clean sound, making sure I'm syncing my hands together perfectly. As with any lick, it is best to work on it very slowly at first and build speed. I am a big advocate of practicing with a clean sound as opposed to having a heap of gain on your amp when learning something. Practicing clean will help you control the techniques better and allow you to pick up the unique nuances of certain techniques.
Once you are comfortable and have the lick under control, crank it up!
Australia's Glenn Proudfoot has played and toured with major signed bands and artists in Europe and Australia, including progressive rockers Prazsky Vyber. Glenn released his first instrumental solo album, Lick Em, in 2010. It is available on iTunes and at glennproudfoot.com.