The 13th Fret

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Guest Busters (Who You Gonna Call?)

Welcome back, HMS-ers! This month I want to delve into a topic that I’ve been finding myself immersed in, on an increasingly regular basis: the guest solo! As a player who enjoys and dabbles in many types of music, it’s not unusual to imagine yourself becoming a fairly versatile player over time. Even many well known players have been tapped to ply their abilities in service of another’s vision. As a player, it can be a very fun and rewarding experience, as you’re often thrown into an arena that is outside of your comfort zone.

In my own situation, these sessions have found me adapting to various styles such as rock, blues, R&B, country (LOTS of country…believe it or not), prog/fusion, and of course metal. The focus of this months column is of the latter; my guest solo on Graham Stirrett’s track, “Immune To Your Poison”. Graham is one half of the guitar team in PHEAR (close friends of my band PRISMIND), and an excellent player/songwriter/vocalist in his own right. Being impressed with his output and work ethic, I was more than happy to accept the invitation to appear on this track. Let’s check it out!

My first order of business when formulating a plan of attack, is to survey the scene, and determine what the overall harmony that the section entails. In the case of “Immune”, we’re in the key of C# minor and find ourselves with a riff that is centered on a C#5, with D5 and C5 close at hand. This basically reveals that we aren’t dealing with a purely diatonic chord structure (not perfectly based on a simple major or minor scale). With the chords being of very close proximity, we can hear shades of C# Phrygian (C#,D,E,F#,G#,A,B) and perhaps the Hungarian Minor scale (C#,D,E,F##,G#,A,B). Truthfully, there are many scale options to suit this scenario. I’m just listing a few possibilities here.

The intro to the solo begins one bar ahead of the actual allotted space, at 2:14 on the track. I hear the backdrop in front of me as a churning and twisted canvas, and I intend to paint it as such. The first bar opens the proceedings with a line that combines blues scale, diminished scale and passing tones, in a figure that varies as much in tonality as it does in articulation. Bends, hammers, pulls, slides….all used to kick things in gear.

With it’s stop/start beginning and triplet tag, the second bar is the platform on which the rest will launch. Drawing on the Half/Whole Diminished scale (as covered in an earlier column), this bar makes use of both close AND wide intervals. I find that this can obscure the scalar nature of many lines, and make for a “fresher” sound.

Bar 3 continues along the same line, in a 64th note figure. Resuming with similar scalar choices as bar 2, I also make sure to include a healthy portion of C naturals; a nod to the instant presence of C5 chords in the progression. A combination of alternate picking and legato is the name of the game here.

Click here to download or view the sheet music for this lesson.

“These sessions have found me adapting to various styles such as rock, blues, R&B, country (LOTS of country…believe it or not), prog/fusion, and of course metal.”

In measure 4, things begin with a diatonic alternate picked line in C# Phrygian, giving way to a Blues scale passage that leads back to Phrygian on beat 4. Both technique and note choice is not dissimilar to Paul Gilbert’s approach.

The final passage is a purely C# Phrygian lick that makes use of “economy picking”; a combination of sweep and alternate picking. The first six notes sets the picking template here. “Up" followed by three consecutive “down” strokes (really, one continuous down), leading to a final upstroke that CARRIES THROUGH to begin the next figure….also beginning on an “up”. Pay close attention to the picking directions here. Anything other than the prescribed picking method may result in a needlessly laborious mush.

When looking at the manuscript, don’t be alarmed by the abundance of black dots and intimidating rhythmic figures; at a tempo of 74 BPM, the lines here are quite accessible and not as tendon-frying as they appear!

Give it a go, enjoy the entire track, and drop me a line with any questions! See you next month!

As always, if you have any questions about this piece, drop me a line at my Facebook page.

Kelly Kereliuk, HMS

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