Balance hammer-ons and pulloffs with picked notes to create a smooth sound.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginner
Lesson Overview:
• Rekindle your deep love for minor and major triads.
• Balance hammer-ons and pulloffs with picked notes to create a smooth sound.
• Learn about powdered-wig rock.

Click here to download the sound clips from this lesson.

If King Louis XIV were to strap on an electric guitar, what would he play? My guess would be triads. There is something regal about the sound of triads. So as you sit atop your throne and gaze across the realm, contemplating swords, sorcerers, and serfs, you might enjoy picking and pulling-off some triads in the key of E minor (and finally resolving to E major). Let’s look at the details.

Left-Hand Stretching: Your left hand will get a good workout from these triad phrases, but you’ll never have to stretch more than a major third interval (four frets). I jump up an octave towards the end in order to make the stretching easier. If your hand is sending you signals of panic or discomfort, please jump up an octave at anytime. There you’ll find the frets are much closer together and the major third more stretchable.

Balancing Pick and Legato Techniques: I wrote out my exact picking pattern for the first measure. This combination of picked notes and left-handgenerated notes continues throughout the following measures. So once you’ve got one bar, you’ve got them all! (The last bar is the exception because I used a different phrase for the ending.) I can’t stress enough how important this exact combination is to making these phrases playable. One method to check that you are in sync is to observe what pick stroke you are using on the downbeats. For this phrase, it should always be a downstroke on the downbeat.

The Rhythm: The hammer-ons and pull-offs allow you to squeeze the fast 16th-note triplets into the phrase without having to stress the picking hand. These phrases don’t require much muscle, just accurate technique.

String Skipping: There’s a lot of string skipping here, and if you like triads, you’ll like these fingering shapes. After you have memorized the shapes, you can try your own phrasing ideas inside them. Again, I must emphasize that the balance of picking and legato techniques is the key to making these work. Why do I keep saying that over and over again? Because it’s true.

The Last Measure: I decided to end with a different phrase. It still uses triads, but the pattern is different. Please make note of where the hammer-ons occur and make sure to play them in those exact locations.

I hope you enjoy these triads, and for the ultimate in powdered-wig rock ’n’ roll make sure to check out a band called The Upper Crust and their aristocratically excellent song “Let Them Eat Rock.” Indeed!

Paul Gilbert purposefully began playing guitar at age 9, formed the guitar-driven bands Racer X and Mr. Big, and then accidentally had a No. 1 hit with an acoustic song called “To Be with You.” Paul began teaching at GIT at the age of 18, has released countless albums and guitar instructional DVDs, and will be remembered as “the guy who got the drill stuck in his hair.” For more information, visit

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