fierce guitar

Dave Martone shows you how to combine an intervallic approach to playing arpeggios with some wicked hybrid picking

When I dig into a burning solo, I like to combine different techniques that can give my lines an interesting feel. In this lesson, we’re going to combine an intervallic approach to playing arpeggios with some wicked hybrid picking.

Displacing certain notes in the arpeggio and combining them in odd groupings creates a flowing, angular feel that will make people say, “Hey! What is that?” These examples will involve a lot of string skipping, so in order to play them at breakneck speeds, we’ll need to use some hybrid picking. Essentially, hybrid picking is when you use the other fingers on your picking hand—usually the middle and ring fingers— in addition to the flatpick. Hot-rod country players have been doing this forever, and we’re going to steal it and combine it with some pure rock fury.

In the first example shown in Fig. 1, I’m playing a G#m arpeggio starting on the b7th. This works really well over the F#m. Since F# is the second note of an E major scale, this chord functions as a iim7. This arpeggio will be our starting point for adding some intervallic displacement, since right now it sounds a little plain. Download Example 1 audio...

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Passing Tones

Greg Howe shares a method to spice up solos: passing tones.

One of the approaches I’ve found to be very effective in spicing up solos is the use of passing tones. Passing tones are often regarded as scale tones residing between two chord tones. While this may be accurate by official definitions, it seems to me that the overly vague nature of such a definition does very little to provide useful information to someone genuinely interested in exploring this concept. So, for the sake of practicality, passing tones might best be thought of as notes residing between two scale tones that are a whole tone apart. For example, any one of the following notes could be used as passing tones in a C major scale application: C#, Eb, F#, Ab or Bb. Simply put, a passing tone is basically a non-harmonic tone maintaining the primary function of transitioning from one scale tone to another.

They are embellishments that can serve to add depth, tension, and an overall element of sophistication to almost any solo if used fittingly. Traditionally, it has been taught that passing tones should fall on weak beats or upbeats; however, I don’t personally adhere to that rule unless the specific soloing section seems to lend itself to that approach. In most cases (but not all), it would generally be considered musically inappropriate to land on or linger on a passing tone. But again, this really is subjective territory, and the only rules that should ever really be obeyed are the ones that enable you to sound your best.

Historically, the recurring use of specific passing tones within the context of traditional scales has often resulted in permanent modifications whereby the passing tone is subsequently included as part of the modified version. Such is the case with many contemporary scales, most notably the bebop scales and the classic blues scale. There is still some debate as to whether or not the modded versions qualify as legitimate scales at all. My personal opinion is, “Who cares?”

The following examples are designed to imply a D7 tonality. They’re basically comprised of D Mixolydian notes (same notes as G major) along with passing tones. While these licks initially seem to imply a D7 tonality, they can also work equally well in the following G major related modes: Dorian, playing the licks over an Am chord, and Lydian, playing the licks over a C major chord.


Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 4B

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Break out of your ruts with three-note-per-string variables

Welcome back, guitar fanatics! This month we’re going to talk about a cool way to bust out of those undesirable ruts we all encounter from time to time. This is a concept that is still in the development phase; I call it Three-Note-Per-String Variables. The three-note-per-string variable concept takes you through the six variations of three notes per string: 1-2-3, 1-3-2, 2-3-1, 2-1-3, 3-2-1, 3-1-2. These numbers refer to the directions of your fingers in relationship to the three notes you will play in a scale as you ascend and descend through a single position. Make sense?

Let’s take a look at each example. A quick note: I’m just going to use an A Major scale, which consists of the notes A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#, A

Example 1. 1-2-3


Example 2. 1-3-2

Example 3. 2-3-1

Example 4. 2-1-3

Example 5. 3-2-1

Example 6. 3-1-2

Now for the technique: feel free to explore legato, alternate picking, economy picking and string skipping. Also, be sure to try applying these to a more liner approach and be creative; the three-note-per-string variables will give you a more intervallic sound. Play them slow and scoop into some of the notes using your whammy bar like Holdsworth or Malmsteen. These will also help you to come up with more original sounding ideas, because it’s breaking you out of the normal ascending and descending traps. As a bonus, you will develop stronger finger independence because of the initial shock your fingers will encounter. So explore the possibilities and have fun.

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