- Learn how to incorporate open strings all the way up the fretboard.
- Build velocity in your playing without practicing speed exercises.
- Discover an easy way to steal licks from the pros using YouTube.
A couple of prefaces:
Most of the licks in this lesson are exponentially easier when hybrid picked.
And in case you didn’t know, YouTube allows you to alter the speed of videos. This is a massive tool to take advantage of when learning licks, practicing them, and getting them up to speed. Simply click the Settings button in the bottom right corner of the video player and select Playback Speed. This will allow you to speed up or slow down the video to your liking without any changes to pitch. Transients will become an issue the farther away from the original speed you go, but not enough to keep you from slowing a solo down 50 percent to really learn and nail the nuances.
We’ll start by just dipping a toe in the water for Ex. 1, looking at a small part of the solo from Brad’s song “Ticks.” This section is found at the 3:06 mark of the video below. Brad really likes to use open strings to provide color to licks, usually with the note falling outside of the established scale. This little nugget is entirely in the E major scale (E–F#–G#–A–B–C#–D#) with exception of the open 3rd string. The use of the open string throws a b3 into the mix, while making it feel faster with little added effort. If you were to play this lick at half speed, the open G string does not sound great—but that’s the whole idea behind what Brad is able to do with open string licks. At tempo, the open string sounds like a natural inflection and the lick has more velocity than if it were omitted.
In Ex. 2 we’re still looking at the “Ticks” solo but focusing on the back half. This entire section of the solo is a smorgasbord of open strings. The first phrase uses sliding and open strings to create an almost bouncy and circus feel. The use of the open G string allows Brad to travel up the fretboard with some very interesting flair. Then he uses the open 1st string in measure 2 to create momentum again, but in this instance, the open-string pull-offs fall inside the E major scale rather than acting as color tones. It’s much easier to connect this section of the lick to the previous by using the third finger to execute the bend and the fourth finger to start the new descending phrase. Lastly, Brad takes the solo home with a simple descending three-note-per-string pull-off lick that combines inside and outside notes.
If you’ve ever listened to Paisley’s “Time Warp,” you know that it’s a gold mine of licks to steal. In Ex. 3, I’m focusing on a lick Brad plays on the “Live on Letterman” version, which occurs after the piano solo at the 1:23 mark in the video below. It’s worth noting that this is not the same line featured on the album version from Time Well Wasted. This lick is a perfect example of how Brad uses open strings to create velocity and really get going downhill at breakneck speeds. The lick is not overly complicated, but it is extremely fast, especially if you are new to hybrid picking. I’m playing it at roughly 75 percent speed so that the notes are intelligible and not just a blur. The lick is mostly based in the A Aeolian mode (A–B–C–D–E–F–G), with flatted second being the exception.
Brad Paisley - Time Warp (Live on Letterman)
In this example (Ex. 4), we tackle a fantastic phrase from the solo to “Water.” The lick I’m breaking down falls around the 1:43 mark in the YouTube video. What’s so interesting is that while the song is in F major, Brad utilizes the open A, D, and G strings to navigate the fretboard vertically and create energy. My favorite thing about the descending pull-off section of this lick is that it’s a tame bluegrass-style lick in G, but it’s the placement of the lick over the chord changes that makes it sound interesting.
Brad Paisley - Water
Ex. 5 is where things get really exciting. It’s from a live performance of “Water” during the 2010 ACM awards. At the 3:40 mark Brad uses an open-string lick to build tension and work his way up the fretboard that caught my attention. As before, it sounds monstrous at tempo but really doesn’t make a ton of sense when slowed down. It’s a fairly simple pull-off lick that isn’t too difficult if you’re already used to hybrid picking, but it creates a ton of movement and excitement when sped up. I’m guilty of stealing both this lick and the idea behind it for “wow” moments in solos.
Brad Paisley - Water (live ACM Awards 2010)
It’s undeniable how freakishly good of a guitar player Brad Paisley is (try grabbing some of the monster licks from the outro of “Water”). Because of how many tricks he has up his sleeve, he’s nearly impossible to replicate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something that everyone can take from Paisley’s bag of tricks. Use this concept of using open strings in unconventional places to add spice, speed, and mystique to your playing.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.