Lesson 1: Warm-ups
Lesson 2: Half/Whole Diminished Scale
Lesson 3: Diminishing Returns
Lesson 4: Tempered Metal
Lesson 5: Attack Formations
Lesson 6: Picking Exercises
Lesson 7: Autopsy Of A Solo
1. WARM-UPS: DESIGNING YOUR OWN AND TARGETING WEAKNESSES
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!Hello and welcome to part one of The 13th Fret, my column for Horror Metal Sounds! I'm looking forward to sharing some of my ideas regarding guitar playing, and music in general. I intend to cover many areas of technique (and a little theory), and even use some of what I play in my band PRISMIND to illustrate some of the concepts. Let's get rollin'!
The topic of warming up seems to be a suitable starting point. There are many different approaches for this, and I'd like to impart a few ideas that you may be able to use in your warmup routine.
From my perspective, a warmup exercise is most effective if it meets two important criteria: 1 – it tackles one or more technical areas that you require in your playing. 2 – it's musical enough to be interesting, therefore enticing you to want to play it enough times to be effective!
To accomplish these two things, I like to compose my own exercises based on areas that I feel weak in at the time. The accompanying example (FIG.1) is one such exercise. This piece was designed to tackle two areas that I want to improve in my picking hand: constant string crossing while alternate picking (down/up strokes), and descending scale ideas while alternate picking. I know that I'm not alone in finding these to be troublesome, so chances are you'll find this effective too.
On the topic of making a warmup musically interesting, I simply borrowed the chord progression of a popular song (in this case "I Will Survive", by Gloria Gaynor), and fashioned the passages to reflect the progression. After hearing and playing this, I'm sure you'll agree that it has little resemblance to "I Will Survive", and that's half the fun! Approaching it this way practically ensures that it will be pleasant to listen to, as it is based on actual music in the first place. Quite a contrast to how most "warmups" sound!
From a technique point of view, FIG.1 is intended for alternate picking. However, this piece could also be executed using a combination of sweep picking and legato, as briefly illustrated in FIG.2. Choose whichever version you feel addresses your weaknesses, or spend a few minutes on both.
Finally, make sure you are starting this at a tempo that yields ZERO mistakes consistently before increasing the speed. After you get the hang of it, see if you can loop it for 5 minutes while maintaining accuracy. Good luck!
2. HALF/WHOLE‑HEARTED (the half/whole diminished scale)
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!Let's dive into #2: the Half/Whole Diminished Scale; a selected group of notes that has a tendency to illicit a rather mysterious (or even "evil") vibe that can function in a number of different settings, from Jazz to country to... METAL.
To me, this particular scale contains all of the "cool" notes; the notes that conjure up the most distinct emotional response... especially when isolated over the appropriate chord or root note. The spelling of the Half/Whole Diminished scale is: 1, b2, b3, 3, #4, 5, 6, b7.
When played note‑by‑note over it's root pitch, a few details can be deducted:
‑the b2 is the "dark" note (think Metallica's "Shortest Straw"... or anything from Slayer)
‑the b3 is the "sad" note
‑the 3 is the "happy" note
‑the #4 is the "evil" note
‑the 5 is the note needed for a power chord (do I really need to explain IT'S importance?! lol)
‑the 6 is just a cool note that is somewhat bluesy... somewhat moody and plaintive
‑the 7 is the biggest link to the blues or pentatonic scale, as it is usually bent into the root note
FIG. 1 shows this scale in the key of A. These deductions are, of course, MY interpretations of the tonal qualities that I've come to after many years of listening and analyzing. However, everyone is different, and may not agree. Feel free to come to your own conclusions! If the explanation of the scale seems daunting, I'm sure you'll find the consistent fretting structure to be gratifying! Consisting of repetitive half step/whole step intervals, it makes for easy fingering. Check the tab in FIG.1 for details.
One of the best things about this scale is it's ability to function over both major AND minor chords, as it contains the notes of both (1,3,5 for major...1,b3,5 for minor). This makes it quite ambiguous, and therefore ideal for metal, jazz... or anything requiring an "off kilter" sound.
In FIG's 2 and 3, you'll find this scale's application in my band PRISMIND's song "Dagger", in which I use this scale several times. The first appearance is the riff leading into the instrumental break at 3:03. In the key of E, it provides the "falling" feel that introduces the manic nature of the pre‑solo section. FIG.2 shows the riff that both Justin (Faragher, bassist) and I play in unison to usher in this section.
FIG.3 demonstrates the final lick of the solo which utilizes the H/W Diminished scale, again in the key of E. In this example (at 4:13), it's mysterious and sinister tendencies are used to build tension towards the solo's end. This section uses strict alternate picking (down/up), for maximum attack. The string skipping involved does not make this any easier, but plenty of SLOW practice and accuracy will get you there in no time.
3. DIMINISHING RETURNS (To Kick Your Ass)
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!This lesson is actually a continuation of our Half/Whole Diminished concept discussed last month. I figured that having another concrete example of a fairly obscure scale such as the H/W would help to understand its sound and possible applications.
This month, we'll turn to the theme song that I recorded a few years back for the website, "Metal Motivation"; an excellent resource that takes principals for life achievement, and uses metal music to "light the wick". Having watched several of their videos and being impressed with their work, I contacted head MM‑er, C.J. Ortiz and offered to pen a theme song of their own.
He accepted and I got to work.
The brief track (0:47 total) has been featured in many of their videos, and is intended to represent the rawness and impact that the MM message and videos have. I'm using a 7‑string guitar in standard tuning (B,E,A,D,G,B,E) and chose the key of C# minor as the canvas for the madness. Although not intentional, the piece manages to utilize the C# half/whole diminished scale (C#,D,E,E#,G,G#,A#,B) almost entirely! The main riff was largely inspired by Morbid Angel and their tendency to craft twisting, churning rhythms that are both memorable and interesting. The riff is played using alternate picking exclusively (down/up), until the four chord conclusion where I resort to down strokes.
The solo is a study in the "symmetrical" nature that is inherent in the H/W diminished scale. You'll notice that the fingering in bar 5 is a half‑step/step and a half structure that moves diagonally across strings 2 to 1 (B to E), until the position shift enters in the second half or bar 6. This lick actually excludes a few notes from the scale, which provides a wider, more intervallic sound. Once again, bars 5‑6 are played with strict alternate picking.
The final run is a series of string‑skipped diminished 7th arpeggios that combine alternate picking with legato (hammer on/pull off), to help vary the amount of "attack" in the line. Although the arpeggios move around to different fretboard positions frequently, I really only view them as TWO different arpeggios: C#dim7 (C#,E,G,A#) and Ddim7 (D,F,G#,B). Interestingly enough, the sum total of ALL of those notes comprises the entire H/W scale!
To wrap it up, I use a tapped bend from the 24th fret on the B sting. Keep in mind the power of the bend should come from the left hand; the tapping finger (I use my middle finger of the right hand) should simply go along for the ride.
I hope you found this to be a helpful reference to the H/W diminished scale, as well as a source for licks/riffs/ideas. Check out C.J.'s site and page for more on Metal Motivation.
4. TEMPERED METAL
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!Now let's look at how music of other styles can inform and expand your ideas, which you can bring back to your regular preferred idiom. There are literally millions of examples of this that we could point to, but we'll narrow it down to one that I've found to be effective, both melodically and technically.
Many of my favourite players over the years have touted the benefits of learning classical or jazz pieces as a means of challenging your technique AND gaining new melodic ideas. Steve Morse, John Petrucci, Tony Macapline, and even Mike Stern have recommended this approach as a valuable supplement to your practice routine. With players of that caliber all dispensing the same advice, I thought it was worth investigating!
Years ago, I found myself in a small book store, in search of a book of violin etudes to add to my arsenal of material to work on. I didn't find one at that particular shop, but I did find a small book of flute pieces called, "Melodious Etudes For Flute" or something similar. I hesitated to even open it, as it had a rather flowery cover, looked like it was printed in the 50's, and...that title! Has anyone even said "melodious" in the last century?!
After a quick glance at it's twenty‑some‑odd pages and equally diminutive price ($5), I made the purchase. My selection process for which piece to start with was simple: which one LOOKED the coolest. I found one simply titled "#7"... no real title or author credited. It looked cool alright, but sounded even better. Here it is...
As this was not designed to be played on guitar (with guitaristic fingerings in mind), I think you'll find it to be somewhat of a challenge for the left hand. This arrangement is only my interpretation, and I'm certain that other easier fingerings could be applied. However, "easy fingerings" is NOT what I'm after here; this is meant to task all four digits while still maintaining logic.
Along with the fretting considerations, this is also an alternate picking bootcamp. You'll encounter instances of single‑string playing, one‑note‑per string picking, and everything in between. Take your time and get the strokes right; it'll be worth it.
To demonstrate the intentions of both hands in one phrase, take a look at bar 1. The first four notes not only utilize all four fingers (1,3,4,2 in this case), but plummet you headlong into alternate picked string crosses (down, up, down, up). Sure you could ignore your pinky on your fretting hand and use a "sweep" to get through the picking easier, but making these concessions won't help strengthen potential weaknesses.
...and THAT is the whole point here.
This piece is also a great study in melodic chord‑based ideas. The way the lines weave themselves through the changes is quite interesting, and the ideas within can certainly be used in other styles such as our favourite here at Horror Metal Sounds... metal! Many of these lines remind me of the intricate guitar/keyboard lines employed by Yngwie Malmsteen, Children Of Bodom, Ensiferum, etc.
One particular favourite section is BAR 6, where the "tension and release" of the progression (Fdim7‑Am‑B7b9‑E7) is cleverly navigated with smart connections from chord to chord. The line percolates to the top of the B7b9 before sliding nicely down the E arpeggio.
Satisfying melodic storytelling crammed into a single bar.
There are many examples of this throughout and not enough space here to sight them all. Just take it 4‑8 notes at a time and enjoy the melodies... and the workout!
5. ATTACK FORMATIONS (PT. I)
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!One of the coolest things about the guitar is the infinite amount of expressive possibilities that can be coaxed from it! From full‑on aggression to a gentle whisper, the guitar can handle practically anything you can throw at it. Let's take a look at a few short yet fun runs that use ALTERNATE PICKING to achieve an aggressive attack.
Let's make it interesting and add one other element; let's make the contour (or form/shape) of the lines a little more interesting than your regular "straight up‑straight down" lines which are so prevalent.
The first example is based on a 3‑note‑per‑string scale pattern, and could be viewed as either B minor or D major (as they share the same notes with a different tonal center). Notice that after completing the first three notes on the low "E" string (D,E,F#) we skip over to the 4th string for the next three (C#,D and C# again). Think of this as the MOTIF that we will base the rest of the line on. The motif then gets an almost mirrorimage treatment as we reverse the direction with three notes on the 4th string (E,D and C#), and wrap it up with three on the 5th string (B,A and B again).
This concept then gets carried through the next few string sets, until an intervallic cascade based on a two‑string Bm9 arpeggio (B,D,F#,A) brings everything to a rest on B.
Next up is a rather jagged line based on the C# minor pentatonic scale (C#,E,F#,G#,B) that, due to it's interval dispersion, comes across as decidedly more "modern" that your typical Page/Clapton/Wylde‑style usage of the scale. Another contributor to the jagged feel is the polyrhythmic nature of the passage; it's a melodic grouping of five, spread over a rhythms grouping of 6. This means that the first note of each pass of the motif will land in a different place within the beat, giving it an off‑kilter feel.
It ascends two notes on the low "E" string, followed by three notes on the 4th string. It's THESE notes that give the line its twisted feel as they work from the "outside in"; not straight up or down, but low to high to middle (B,E,C#). As with the previous example, this motif gets carried along the next few string sets, ending with a lick that resolves on an A#. This note is not from the C# pentatonic scale, but can either be found in C# Dorian or as a chord tone if you were to land on an F# (or F#7) chord.
The last run we'll look at is longer, but has a smoother ascent. It almost reminds me of a hummingbird, in that it alternately hovers in one spot before darting up to the next plateau. This is a classic way to build tension.
This lick is also based in Bm/D major and like the others, can be transposed to any key you desire. Using palm muting on the lower pitched strings will help with clarity, as well as building the aforementioned tension.
These kind of runs are great practice for developing your alternate picking technique. Even more importantly, they can help you form a secondary layer of interest when playing faster lines! After a certain speed, the notes themselves aren't as important as the shape or contour ("formation", as the title suggests) that they take on. Thinking in this manner can save your lines from sounding too "scalar" and/or random, and help you use them for what truly can be a purposeful and ear‑catching means of connecting melodies! Top of the page
6. PICK YOUR BATTLES
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!Let's look at a few exercises that REALLY focus on common weaknesses; effectively amassing our own "picking gym"!
These licks/ideas will likely force you to pay closer attention to your technique (and perhaps occasionally curse excessively). Let's get to it!
FIGURE 1a is a short, repeatable lick inspired by Al Di Meola's conga‑like picked phrases. Many of his lines have a certain "burst" to them, that occurs seemingly at will. The phrase in question is essentially NINE notes long before it repeats, AND contains a triplet burst. Two challenges arise in getting this lick to sound right:
1 – aiming for a smooth and seamless transition between the 16th note and 16th‑note triplet, without stumbling or "ramping" up or down.
2 – Due to the odd number of notes, you'll be starting every other pass of the lick with and UPSTROKE, while trying to maintain the integrity of the rhythmic nuances. This means the burst will likely feel weird on the upstroke pass too.
FIGURE 1b is the same pattern with a string skip, just to compound the difficulty. This one makes an excellent warmup!
FIGURE 2 is an intervallic workout based on a common progression in Aminor (Am, G, F, E7). This contains repeated melodic groupings of five using alternate picking. Spread out over several strings (including string skips), each chord is expressed with a dispersement of the notes in a keyboard‑like manner. One non‑chord tone is used in each instance as well (the 4th note). The ﬁnal four notes over the E7 chord hint at an E7b9 (with the inclusion of "F"), and serves as the transition to restarting the lick.
As with the last example, every second repetition will start with an upstroke. Navigating through the string skips will feel a bit trickier because of this.
7. TIME UNFORGIVING: Autopsy Of A Solo
Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!Welcome to the October instalment! Clearly, this month holds a special significance here at Horror Metal Sounds. So, let's get some licks in before ghosts steal your picks, and Pinhead finds a better use for your strings.
This month, I wanted to show you the solo in "Time Unforgiving", from my band Prismind. The song itself is on the thrasher side of the band's metal spectrum, with a hint of progressive touches here and there. The solo happens to be a great illustration of several of the concepts we've already covered in previous columns….and perhaps a few more. Let's check it out!
The first bar is an elaboration of the underlying Bm chord (B,D,F#), with the addition of the 9th (C#). I tried to approach this passage in a more intervallic manner, as opposed to straight up/down, to give the line a more interesting feel than a regular arpeggio. The rhythm is eighth note‑based, which serves as a "ramp" into bar 2. The second bar accelerates into eighth note triplets, and continues the Bm‑plus‑extensions started in bar 1. This time adding in the 7th (A) and 11th (E).
Bar 3 begins with a bend on a upper octave B, like a roller coaster momentarily pausing before barreling downward. The cascading tumble is highlighted by the faster 16th notes, as well as the inclusion of legato phrasings (hammers/pulls/slides) and melodic contours.
Bars 5 and 6 demonstrate a device I love to exploit; approaching key notes with rhythmic bends and outside (out of key) notes. Using the otherwise "wrong" A# to bend into B, adds an interesting tension that gets resolved by the following Bm chord tones (B,D,F#). This section also makes use of the push/pull rhythmic variations. Going from sixteenths to eighths to triplets, gives the line a skidding, elastic sense of time; very much a conscious decision, considering the title. This makes the influence of Marty Friedman on my playing pretty evident!
This brings us to bar 7, where I wanted to answer the loopy bends and off‑kilter rhythm with a stable triplet feel and a pattern that simply drops an octave. I guess you could say that this whole solo is set up in a calland‑response manner. I really like this approach, as it helps with the sense of structure and storytelling, as many of my favourite solos from others tend to have.
Lastly, the solo concludes with a stream of alternate picked sixteenth notes that cover three chord changes. The C/Am/D progression finds us leaving the Bm canvas that the solo began in, and leads back to the Em key that the rest of the song uses. The challenge with this section was clear: how do we take a regular 16th note rhythm and a well worn minor scale, and make it INTERESTING? I decided to focus on what I call "melodic contours".
Melodic contouring involves a static rhythmic value (16ths in this case) and manipulating the number of notes that occur in ascending or descending direction. For example, Bar 9 (over the C chord) begins with 6 notes descending, followed by 10 notes ascending. The next bar has 2 groups of 6 descending, and a group of 4 ascending. As simple of a concept as it seems, it can really add life to a line in danger of being too predictable.
The last two bars take an eight‑note pattern and drops it through a series of target notes. Played over a D chord, I made sure that the first note of every 8 landed on a D chord tone (with the exception of B, on beat 2/bar 11). This places strong notes on the strong beats 1 and 3. A small detail, but I believe it contributes to the overall effect!
That about wraps it up for "Time Unforgiving". By all means, check the accompanying video for the song and solo (beginning at 2:57), and feel free to drop me a line if you'd like the actual Guitar Pro file.
As always, if you have any questions about this piece, drop me a line at my Facebook page.
Keep rippin' and I'll see you in part 2 of The 13th Fret! \m/