Thrash Course with Revocation's Dave Davidson: The Advantages of Alternate Picking, and How I Play “The Hive,” Part 2

Last month, I demonstrated the primary riffs that I play in “The Hive,” the opening track on Revocation’s new, self-titled release.

As I explained, the song’s opening licks are executed using fast consecutive downstrokes, and I also perform tremolo picking.

This month, I’d like to cover some of the song’s other primary riffs, which, conversely, are all performed with alternate (down-up) picking, combined once again with some super-fast tremolo picking.

Figure 1 represents the bridge riff to “The Hive.” The passage is played in 3/4 meter and is based on the E symmetrical diminished scale (E F G Gs Bf B Cs D), which is somewhat similar to the E whole-tone scale (E Fs Gs Bf C D). While applying a light palm mute (P.M.) throughout—lightly resting the edge of my pick-hand palm across the strings next to the bridge saddles—I begin with a downstroke on the open low E note and proceed to alternate pick the remainder of the lick, picking the Bf with an upstroke. The riff is comprised of a two-bar pattern played twice, after which the first bar is repeated, followed by a lick in bar 6 that is slightly different than bar 2 in that it steadily descends through the E whole-tone scale. I love the weird, mysterious quality of the symmetrical diminished scale, whose minor and major thirds—G and Gs, respectively—and diminished, or “flatted,” fifth, Bf, lend a warped harmonic sensibility to its sound.

This riff is followed by the pattern shown in Figure 2. This second riff is played exactly the same way in bar 1, but in bar 2 I switch from single notes to two-note dyads—E and Gs—accented on upbeats. This two-bar riff is played twice, then I modulate down two whole steps, beginning on Fs, and play a nearly identical motif but as single notes, using the open low E string for the upbeat accents. Alternate picking is used to execute this riff as well.

The song’s final theme is a permutation of the opening lick, wherein chromatic notes on the fifth and fourth strings alternate with low repeated pedal tones, but here the lick is played in 3/4 time, as illustrated in Figure 3. Using alternate picking exclusively, I play chromatically ascending notes on the fifth string with upstrokes, while the low root notes on the sixth string are down-picked, after which the fret hand moves up one fret and the low sixth-string root note alternates with chromatically descending notes on the fourth string. This four-bar pattern is played four times, then I switch to tremolo picking the chromatically ascending and descending notes on the fifth and fourth strings. After that four-bar phrase is played twice, I return to the opening four-bar figure.

To me, the most challenging aspect of this lick is the tremolo picking, so I recommend working with a metronome. Start out slowly at first, and then gradually build up speed until you can tremolo pick these lines smoothly and cleanly at 225 beats per minute.

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