• Develop a better sense of composition by layering guitar parts.
• Understand how to imply harmony by adding notes to power chords.
• Learn how to incorporate jazz sounds into your shred solos. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
Formed in 2005 by guitarist Misha Mansoor, Periphery started life as a vehicle to perform Mansoor’s material. Influenced by such bands as Meshuggah and Sikth, Mansoor initially gained notoriety on the internet metal scene working under the moniker Bulb. He’s now one of the most influential and important progressive metal guitarists this side of the millennium, and one of the main faces of the “djent” movement.
Periphery has always been a three-guitar band, and since 2011 the lineup has consisted of Mansoor, Jake Bowen, and Mark Holcomb. With five years under their belt as an ensemble, the musicians now function more like a band rather than one member’s solo project with hired guns. As the band evolved musically, each member brought increasingly diverse influences to the table, and this has helped Periphery develop a unique, identifiable sound. They’ve released five full-length studio albums, and although 2016’s Periphery III: Select Difficulty is a fine offering, I’d suggest anyone new to the band start with 2015’s double concept album, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega.
One of the biggest hurdles in learning to play like Periphery is getting the band’s sound. The group uses a huge array of tunings across 6-, 7-, and 8-string guitars. For the sake of consistency, I’ve opted to record all the examples in C–G–C–F–A–D, which is dropped-D tuning, but down a whole-step. While these could all be played in dropped D, one of the big features of Periphery’s sound is the low tuning. On a 6-string, Mansoor often tunes the lowest string down to A; he keeps his 7-strings tuned to G# and 8-strings in F#. I’ve recorded everything in the lesson using Toontrack’s EZmix plug-in with some of Misha’s own presets. These have been EQ’d a little bit and enhanced with a little more noise gate in places—an important part of the sound. You need plenty of midrange crunch and an almost unnatural gate effect where your chain is silent between chord stabs. For this lesson, I’ve composed a handful of examples that demonstrate how Mansoor, Bowen, and Holcomb integrate their parts.
Ex. 1 is a triplet-based idea fitting loosely around a Locrian sound, though in concept it’s really about playing in C minor and adding notes that contrast it, like the Db and Gb. To play this cleanly, pick the notes on the 6th string, then use your third fretting-hand finger to sound the notes on the 4th string without picking them. This is often called a “hammer-on from nowhere.”
The final aspect of this riff that’s common in Periphery’s writing style is the use of tapping. Because you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the pick, use your picking hand’s middle finger to tap the notes.
In our next group of examples, we’ll begin to delve into how the three guitarists use some rather extreme dissonance. In Ex. 2, you can see a short triplet-based lick that combines traditional tapping with some hammer-ons from nowhere. Ideas like this will feel alien at first—it’s all about synchronization and building speed over time.
It’s hard to rationalize the notes in Ex. 2 from the standpoint of music theory. While one might argue similarities to the diminished scale, in essence this is really about channeling some unusual Holdsworth-inspired sounds. (Allan Holdsworth was another of Mansoor influences.) Ex. 3 repeats the basic pattern down a half-step, while Ex. 4 is down a whole-step.
Now, let’s up them all together. Take a listen below.