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

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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