In this Monster Lick, I'm using what I call the "E pentatonic major 3rd" scale — E, G#, A, B, D, E.
I'm substituting the minor 3rd (G) for the major 3rd (G#). Often, I'll keep the minor 3rd in the scale as well, because it gives it a harder edge.
Tonally, when you add the major 3rd and substitute it for the minor 3rd, you get a real Mixolydian sound. It is very important to understand what happens when you add and subtract notes, too — or from a scale.
I use this particular variation of the scale a lot, especially when Im creating melodies that need to have a bit of "cheek" about them. This sound reminds me of something Steve Vai would use. The character Steve injects into his playing is genius, and this is a way (tonally) I've found to help me capture a bit of that.
That said, this is a total shred lick. There is no character or melody in this; it's purely an example of how far you can take the scale idea.
I start this lick on the 12th fret of the low E string. From there I play two three-string arpeggios moving down the neck until I hit the B string. Once I reach the B string, I play a four-string arpeggio leading back up to the A string then into two more three-string arpeggios. There's a small legato transition before a six-string arpeggio that leads into the over-the-top section.
NOTE: Whenever you see an arpeggio (They are easy to identify because they run diagonally across the transcript), they are all picked using sweep picking, meaning one continuous stroke up or down the strings, like strumming a chord. Even though the picking is all in one direction, it must be a controlled motion. It's essential to make sure your right and left hands are syncopated, no matter what speed you're playing at.
As explained in previous Monster Licks columns, the over-the-top sections are great for a challenge but not necessary. I certainly don’t concern myself with techniques like this when I'm writing music, and neither should you. But they are fun to rip out and show your friends! Just look at it as a challenge, nothing more.
The important thing is to get a grasp tonally on what is happening here, and also to understand how the arpeggios are constructed. Like all of these licks, it's not important to be able to play them note for note or as fast as I do here. What's important is that you take something away from it and add it to your arsenal of licks!
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.