Sick Licks: Over-The-Top Shredding Using the E Minor Pentatonic Scale

My approach to guitar is tonally a little different than most modern shredders, as I base all my playing around the pentatonic scale.

Players like Shawn Lane and Eric Johnson do this better than anyone on the planet.

But my approach is a little different again. I use the combination of sweep picking and three-string arpeggios to get around the guitar rather than focus on the scales in their natural form.

I tend to combine two of the scales to create a three-note-per-string scenario. This immediately changes the way you would normally build runs and really starts to open up the scale.

My reasons for approaching the guitar like this are simple. My favorite players from a young age where Angus Young, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. What I loved so much was the sound they had when they where soloing. As for the more neoclassical-style guitarists, while I admired their technique, the sound didn’t really appeal to me. So I set out to capture the technical prowess of the modern-day shredders with the tonal aspects of my personal favorites.

So this “Sick Lick” (No. 1) is in the key of E, using the E minor pentatonic scale. You will notice there are sections where I bring my hand over the top of the neck and fret the notes. This can be a little tricky to get the hang of; in fact, it's a real bitch ... Hahahaha. Nonetheless, this is a great exercise in control and strength -- not to mention that it looks way cool!

I also incorporate some right-hand fingering/tapping. This is not the traditional finger tapping you may be used to; rather, it's there to create a longer legato run on the one string, and it allows me to move across the neck at great speed. I actually love the sound of this technique and I often use it in soloing. It features in my track "Evangel" (You can find this on YouTube) in a couple of spots. It can sound incredibly beautiful when adapted correctly.

In the sections where I bring my hand over the top, I fret the note before with my thumb. This creates the pivot point and allows me to still be fretting the guitar while switching to the over-the-top playing.

Like I said, it's incredibly difficult, but your focus here should be just having fun with the idea. I certainly don’t focus on this kind of technique when I'm writing music, and I don’t view this as musical. But it's fun, and it's always great to challenge yourself!

Check out the Sick Lick video below -- and the transcription right below it. I hope you enjoy it!

Visit my YouTube channel or find me on Facebook, Twitter or at

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 Glenn was featured in the October 2010 issue of Guitar World and now creates "Betcha Can’t Play This" segments and lessons for GW. Glenn also has a monthly GW column, "Loud & Proud," which offers insight into his style and approach to the guitar. Glenn is working on a project with Ezekiel Ox (ex Mammal) and Lucius Borich (Cog), which is managed by Ted Gardner, ex-Tool and Jane's Addiction manager. The band has done pre-production on 22 tracks and is set to hit the studio and finish their first studio album. The album is set for release in 2012. Glenn also is working on the followup to his debut album; it, too, will be released in 2012.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49