Mika Tyyskä is a guitarist born in Finland in 1976, but is perhaps better known as the man behind the animated guitar instructor and spiritual guru Mr Fastfinger. The content and animations for this cult character were all created by Mika, accompanied by the album The Way of the Exploding Guitar.
Mr Fastfinger and Mika have continued to share their wisdom ever since, releasing the latest album Tremors early 2023. Mika’s style is rooted in rock, but he has a unique creativity in abundance. In this lesson we will explore some of the techniques and approaches this stunning player uses.
Our first example is a two-string sweep picking idea based in the pentatonic scale. We usually think of pentatonic scales as ones we play up and down, but Mika takes a more intervallic approach for that to provide a unique flavor.
Use a sweep picking motion to quickly pick between strings and focus on synchronizing your fingers with the pick. Fretting only one note at a time and keeping the unused strings muted will produce a clear effect.
We’re using C major pentatonic, but you can apply this technique to any two-notes-per-string scale or arpeggio.
Example 2 uses a combination of techniques including arpeggios, hybrid picking, legato and fretting-hand tapping to breathe creative life into a typical three-notes- per-string shape.
The notes used here are all from D major, but rather than playing up and down the scale, we use arpeggios. Whenever you place your first finger on a new string, use this as a starting point for a three-note arpeggio using hybrid picking.
Following this, use pull-offs and fretting-hand tapping to smoothly descend the scale and set up the next string. To add rhythmic interest the phrase is six notes long, but played through 16th-note phrasing, but you could also play this in a triplet feel.
Example 3 is a great alternate picking pattern in E minor and uses a combination of a seven-note and a five-note pattern to form a longer twelve-notes-per-string idea which can be transferred from string to string.
An important benefit of even-numbered patterns is that they are much more alternate-picking friendly than odd numbered ones. With strict alternate picking each string naturally starts with a downstroke and allows for a consistent pick angle and hand position throughout the lick.
Our fourth example is a wide interval lick utilizing legato and slides, as well as octave jumps up the neck. Mika often uses exotic flavors in his playing and in this style of lick he extracts the intervals 1-3-4-5-7 from the major scale to create a pentatonic sound often referred to as the Balinese scale.
The fifth and final example is a two-handed tapping lick using four notes per string. The nice thing about this lick is the fingering and fretting shape is the same on each string, but neatly fits within the A Mixolydian mode, with a couple of minor 3rd intervals peppered in to add a touch of bluesy tension.
Play each example slowly and accurately while focusing on producing clean notes, then gradually speed up in increments until you can play along with the backing tracks.
Get the tone
Mika uses a Juha Ruokangas guitar with DiMarzio pickups into H&K amps. The tone is best described as crunchy and fat, with the gain set to a moderate level.
Mika’s playing is extremely expressive and his tone needs to be sensitive to touch and guitar volume changes in order to produce everything from gentle cleans to screaming harmonics.
Example 1: Two-string sweep
This lick is played entirely within C major pentatonic (C-D-E-G-A) and uses two-string sweep-picking motions.
Allow your pick to glide across the pair of strings in smooth downward and upward motions. Use your fretting-hand fingers to ensure the notes do not ring together.
Example 2: Hybrid lick with tapped bend
For this D major scale lick (D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#), play the first three notes with a downstroke, then hybrid pick with second and third fingers and pull-off to the 11th fret.
Now descend two notes on the fifth string, moving diatonically through the strings. Finish the lick by tapping the 13th fret while holding the 12th-fret bend.
Example 3: Seven and 12-note phrases
This lick uses the E natural minor scale or E Aeolian mode (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D). Play the first seven-note phrase with strict alternate picking, then shift down two frets with your first finger and play the following five-note phrase.
Both phrases together equal a longer 12-note passage which descends the strings and resolves to E.
Example 4: Intervallic lick with octaves
This lick is based in G major (G-A-B-C-D-E-F#) and uses the intervals 1-3-4-5-7.
Use your first and fourth fingers to hammer on and pull off between the wide interval skips and use fourth finger to slide up and down a semitone. Ascend the neck in octave shapes with each pair of strings.
Example 5: Descending string-skipped pattern
Start with a tap at the 19th fret, then pull off with the fourth, second and first fingers. Repeat this on each string and descend in a string skipping pattern.
The notes fit within the A Mixolydian mode (A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G), with a minor 3rd C. Finish the lick with a tapped harmonic at the 19th fret while adding vibrato at the 12 fret.