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Power Shred: Diminished Sweeps

Herman Li''s debut lesson looks at getting more out of your licks through diminished chords and hammer-ons and pull-offs

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Welcome to the first installment of Power Shred. I’ve been looking forward to writing a column where I can really share my love for the guitar with all of you, as well some of my favorite techniques. These first few lessons are going to look at some different ideas to help spice up your leads, rhythm and explore some new territory with your playing.

First, we need to understand how diminished chords work on the fretboard in order to get more mileage out these licks. A diminished triad contains the root, b3rd, and b5 from a major scale. You can also think of it as two minor third intervals stacked on each other. In order to make this triad a diminished seventh chord, we add the diminished 7 (same sounding note as a natural 6) to the mix. Since each note in a diminished seventh chord is a minor third away from each neighboring chord tone, any note can be considered the root.

With these diminished runs we want to break out of the one-note-per-string sweeps and incorporate some hammer-ons so we can squeeze more notes out of the phrase. Fig. 1 is a legato sweep starting with a downstroke on the fourth string, hammering onto the next note, sweeping downwards and then repeating the same pattern. Pay close attention to the picking pattern and make sure to use all four fingers on your fretting hand in order to achieve maximum speed! Since the diminished chord is based on minor thirds, we can move the pattern up three frets (or down three frets) and keep the same picking and fingering.
Download Example 1 Audio...

Fig. 2 is the descending version but instead of pulling off, we are going to use economy picking all the way through. I like the change of techniques during a solo to give it more dynamics. To successfully execute every note, start with a downstroke and sweep your way through it. If you are used to practicing alternate picking, make sure to slow it down. Notice how by playing an odd number of notes in each beat and an even number of notes (to change sweep direction) on each string gives you a constant economy-picking sweep pattern.
Download Example 2 Audio...

Although economy picking is usually related to being smooth and almost a legato feel, I like to sometimes hit the strings a little harder giving it more attack. The sound is as if you were using alternate picking but without the hard work.

Fig. 3 is the same as Fig. 1 but starting with an upstroke so you can try it with economy picking as well. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way of doing it! It all depends on the feeling you want to project into the notes. Try using this run in your solos and make it your own.
Download Example 3 Audio...

Herman Li is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated metal band DragonForce. In the last few years, Herman has established himself as one of the most recognized and influential guitarists of the new generation, winning numerous awards around the globe. Apart from touring with DragonForce, he has also given guitar clinics in four continents in three different languages. Find out more at and