Thrash Course with Dave Davidson: Utilizing Different Picking Techniques, and How to Play "Invidious"

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to my new Guitar World column.

Over the next few months, I’ll be demonstrating many of the techniques and musical devices I employ in my playing and writing with my band, Revocation. I hope the concepts I present will help you become a better musician and inspire you to discover new sounds on the guitar.

I’d like to start off by demonstrating some of the licks I play in the song “Invidious," from our latest, self-titled release. Some of the melodic phrases in the tune are performed using hybrid picking, a technique sometimes referred to as “chicken pickin’,” wherein I combine standard flatpicking with fingerpicking.

Hybrid picking is not usually associated with thrash metal-style guitar playing, but I find the technique to be extremely useful in executing fast, unusual phrases like these.

FIGURE 1 represents the primary melodic lick in “Invidious,” which, as you can see in our video for the song, I originally performed on banjo. I pretty much always play a seven-string guitar, tuned down one half step (low to high, Bb Eb Ab Db Gb Bb Eb). All of the examples in this column, however, can be easily played on a standard six-string guitar, as the seventh string is not used.

The lick is based on the E blues scale (E G A Bb B D), and I accentuate the flatted fifth, Bf, by repeatedly pulling off from this note to the open G string, followed by E (fourth string, second fret). The lick is built from a repeating three-note pattern played in a rhythm of even, or “straight,” 16th notes, which creates a shift wherein the first note of the three-note pattern falls on each beat.

On beat three, I slide up to the fourth fret on the G string, followed by the open high E, which I pick with my middle finger. I like playing the lick this way—that is, with hybrid picking—because it serves to emphasize that high E note and make it jump out of the pattern. In the tune, this one-bar ostinato (repeated) lick is played 15 times, and the 16th time I end with a staccato Bb that lands squarely on beat three.

FIGURE 2 illustrates the rhythm part that is played under the single-note ostinato lick. Using the exact same rhythmic syncopation throughout, I move from E5 to G5 and Bb5, followed by a C7 chord voicing that is atypical in thrash metal guitar playing. I then repeat the E5-G5-Bb5 progression, ending on E5 and culminating with a single-note riff that, like the single-note melody, ends on Bb squarely on beat three of the final bar.

Later on in the tune, I play a different riff that is based on the exact same fret-hand technique and rhythmic syncopation, as shown in FIGURE 3. This riff begins with a pull-off to the open B string, starting with a high B note, fretted at the 12th fret and followed by the pull-off and then an Fs on the third string’s 11th fret.

The pull-off then moves down to the eighth fret on the B string and then over to the 11th fret of the G string. At the end of the lick, I employ hybrid picking again, picking each F# note on the B string with my middle finger.

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