Hello there Premier Guitar readers, and welcome to this month's edition of Lethal Guitar. This month I'll be teaching a seminar entitled "Full Shred Ahead" for the National Guitar Workshop in Maclean, VA during June 30th - July 5th. That being the case, I felt this month's Lethal Guitar article should bear the same name. I'll share with you guys some of the topics included in the Virginia seminar.
The term "shred" typically conjures images in the minds of most guitarists of extreme speed and technical abilities rolled together, so I'll illustrate some technically challenging ideas coupled with some break-neck metronome settings.
One caveat: there is no substitute for precision. Practicing these ideas slowly with the metronome at first is essential. Remember, humility comes before honor, so a humbling metronome speed is not a bad thing. It's about being honest with yourself and your guitar playing, and paying your dues. If you take this approach to your practice sessions, when all is said and done you'll be the guy or girl who's the real deal. The confidence level in your playing will be genuine and that will come out in every single note you play, no matter how fast or slow your tempo.
Next, let's talk about your picking hand. The most important piece of information I can give you is that strict alternation of your pick is critical to achieving consistency. No two strokes in a row. It's always down, up, down, up - or up, down, up, down. Don't break this sequence no matter how unnatural it feels for your picking hand.
As for the fretting hand, correct fingerings are also critical to your advancement in the art of shredding. A typical approach is to always assign your fingers to adjacent frets; for example, if you're playing in the first four frets, finger one is assigned to fret one, finger two is assigned to fret two, finger three is assigned to fret three, etc. This rule applies all over the fretboard with some exceptions for further reaches. This kind of fingering logic will pay off like gangbusters in the future. Now try these licks on for size:
A diminished arpeggio executed in triplet sequences is great for picking development, and creates an interesting tension in the listener. This lick is great in any style of music. It's important to note that any tone in the diminished arpeggio can be the root, and that the most basic resolution of a diminished arpeggio is one half-step above the root. So whatever note chosen to be the root can be resolved a half-step above itself. In this example I resolve the arpeggio to E at the 24th fret. Try triplets at 100 beats per minute (bpm) on your metronome.
If we incorporate some string-skipping ideas into the pentatonic scale, we can give both hands a significant workout in technical development. Again, I want to emphasize the importance of strict alternation with the picking hand. Ascend in quadruplets and descend in sextuplets, also at 100 bpm.
Taking a sequential approach to a scale or arpeggio is reasonably common for most shredders, but here we'll take that idea a step further by playing a quadruplet sequence based on every other note in the scale, instead of the typical use of every note when sequencing. Try it at 144 bpm.
Our last example is an interesting mix of arpeggios based on the root and flat V of E major ascending and descending. Try it at 138 bpm.
That about does it for this month's lesson. Remember, if you can't do these tempos on your metronome just start out slow and work your way up in tempo. Increasing your metronome speed by five or so bpm per week is a good approach to increasing speed without losing accuracy. Hopefully I'll see you in Virginia at NGW, and thanks for tuning in. I'll see you guys next month.
Jeff Beasley holds B.A. degrees in Music and Classical Guitar. He offers his readers 30 years of experience in studio, teaching, and performance. He is on the National Guitar Workshop faculty in Nashville, TN. Jeff’s CD “Tiebreaker” is available through CD Baby, Guitar 9, and Jeff’s website, GuitarSource3.com
. Jeff holds endorsement agreements with Peavey, DiMarzio, RKS, THD, Ensotec, Robert Keeley, Knucklehead, and In Tune.