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Tosin Abasi's Introduction to Double Picking

This month, I’d like to talk about a cool, useful technique I sometimes use called “double picking,” which involves repeating each note in a melody twice using alternate (down-up) picking. A good example of this technique can be found in the first solo I play in “An Infinite Regression,” from Animals as Leaders’ 2011 release, Weightless (see FIGURE 1).

I begin over an F#m chord and play an Fsus2 arpeggio across bars 1 and 2, sticking with a rhythm of straight 16th notes while double-picking each different note. This creates a melody-within-a-melody effect, as your ear hears a slower eighth-note idea within the 16th-note rhythm, almost as if you were tremolo picking.

In bars 3 and 4, I change the fretboard shape slightly to acknowledge the underlying D chord, with brief use of the sharp four, G#, which I immediately resolve up a half step, to A, the fifth of D. I use the same approach in bars 5 and 6 over Bm, but here I truncate the idea by starting on the B root note on the A string’s 14th fret before moving down and then back up again.

Across bars 7 and 8, I play a quick descending-ascending line over the five (V) chord, C#, using notes from the C# Phrygian- dominant mode (C# D E# F# G# A B), which is the fifth mode of F# harmonic minor (F# G# A B C# D E#).

I switch to much simpler and more melodic lines in bars 9–14, outlining the same F#m-D- Bm chord progression of bars 1–6. At bar 15, however, I play a fast C# Phrygian-dominant descending line again, using 16th-note triplets, quintuplets and 16th notes.

The solo wraps up with a restatement of the “melodic” approach of bars 9–14, but at bar 21, I introduce a new chord to the progression, Eb, which affords a shift in harmonic content to what is already a “shifty” harmonic environment. I finish up in bars 31 and 32 with straight eighth notes and use descending fourths to outline the B-to-C# chordal movement.

Overall, this is a challenging solo to play up to speed, so I encourage you to take it one bar at a time and gradually work it up to tempo. Once you have the shapes down, you’ll find that it’s not as difficult to play as it may seem.