Welcome to this month’s Lethal Guitar. I recently had the opportunity to play with guitar great Michael Angelo Batio and it was a blast! We jammed at one of Mike’s clinics for Dean Guitars, and it was an honor to shred with him. Since you guys really seem to enjoy my shredding lessons and I had so much fun jamming with Mike, I think I’ll be spending more time giving you what you want. As a matter of fact, I’ll inundate you guys with shred, shred, and more shred! Sound good?
As always, I love getting your feedback, so feel free to let me know what you think. Based on the emails I’ve received, I’ve noticed that you pay close attention to the details in my lessons, so since the devil is in the details, I’ll continue to be as precise as I can.
Now I’m going to illustrate some of the more challenging technical approaches to developing your picking and fretting hand. I learned a lot of this stuff from my classical guitar teachers, as well as my jazz tutors. The exercises in this month’s lesson will greatly improve your overall technique if you practice them consistently over an extended period of time – typically years! You can be encouraged, as there are a lot of exercises out there that will only give you minimal results.
These are some of the cream of the crop. Over the past three decades I’ve tried and tested each of these exercises, in addition to many more approaches to technical development, and by far, these are the best. As usual, practice with a metronome and use a clean tone at first, as this will ensure the quickest and highest quality technical development.
So, how will you know if you’re making progress? There are indicators, including a noticeable consistency in the “attack” of your pick. Eventually the attack of your pick will have a specific dynamic/volume to it, and you’ll not only hear this consistency but you’ll literally “feel” it in your hands. It’s difficult to explain, but you’ll know you’re there when on your worst day, when the dog died, your amp is acting up and your action’s too high, you still have the consistency. It’s not enough to be accurate; you have to have the dynamic uniformity. The same thing happens to your fretting hand. You gain control and begin to focus on musicality instead of technique. If you’re not there yet just keep truckin’. If you don’t give up, you’ll get there.
This exercise is known as “smart fingers.” There are two approaches given here: the first is to develop your picking, the second your fretting ability. The picking aspect should be practiced beginning with a downstroke and beginning with an upstroke to ensure well-rounded development. I’ve illustrated up to the fifth fret, but continue on until you reach the twelfth. Take a two-second break and descend back to the first fret.
Now let’s try this exercise in an approach to develop our fretting hand. Again, I’ve illustrated up to the eighth fret but continue to the twelfth and then descend back down to the first fret.
Remember, this is just the beginning. Try these on for size, and as we continue with our Ph.D. in shredding we’ll cover a gamut of finger-busting techniques to get you where you want to be. The two approaches in this issue are very effective for developing both hands, so don’t slight one over the other. Be sure to tune in next month for another in a series of exercises to help you gain the technical control you want. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments about this month’s lesson and I’ll see you next month in Lethal Guitar.
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.