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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What is the best way to increase picking speed when you seem to have hit the velocity ceiling?

Throughout the years, I’ve been asked many questions, the most popular being: How did I develop my technique? More specifically, what is the best way to increase picking speed when you seem to have hit the velocity ceiling?

We’ve all been there. You know the feeling. You set the metronome to a given speed and play accurately to the beat. As you increase the tempo, you eventually max out at the same point, over and over again. There seems to be a disconnection between different speeds. There’s slow, medium, fast and turbo! (And as you know, all of us aim for turbo, whether or not we want to admit it.)

I contend that reaching that top speed sometimes has more to do with a certain feel than it does just adhering to a strict beat. I think it physically feels different and we honor a whole different set of approaches than at a slower tempo. More so, it’s how we hear or view the notes we’re playing. Let me explain.

When we’re diligently slaving away, playing to a fast beat, we’re usually picking to a standard subdivision of the beat (quarter-note, eighth-note, sixteenth-note, and so on). It’s most likely we view each note singularly and play its subdivisions with an even, unaccented consistency. This approach is valid and has served us well up until this point. Yet now, it’s this point we want to get past.

I’ve noticed that if I group the notes differently in my mind while accenting certain ones I get different results. If I think of a grouping or a phrase of notes instead of just the single notes, I experience a much different feel, and therefore, a different result on the guitar. The key to this is that I accent a certain note in each phrase, and that note becomes my focus point.

As I’m playing this grouping of notes, I make sure that my “focus note” lands on a certain beat. As long as I make sure this note lands consistently on a particular beat, all the other notes in the phrase move accordingly around it. By placing the accent on a certain beat, we automatically delineate the phrase. This gives us our grouping feel.

Fig. 1 shows a scale broken down to groupings. I find that more often than not, the accented note is not the first note in the phrase, but rather the phrase’s highest or last note. The accented note is the key to making this approach work. I aim for it and by doing so, all the other notes in the phrase fall into place. Download example audio...

This approach also translates to other guitar techniques. Take sweep picking, for example. I’ve always viewed sweep picking as a “timeless” technique—not in any historical sense, but in the sense that you can fit a sweep (regardless of how many notes it contains) into a required space by viewing it in groups or phrases.

Now take a look at Fig. 2, where I play some arpeggios with unusual groupings. To accomplish this, I have to treat each arpeggio as one grouping or phrase and make sure that the first note of the group falls on the quarter note (in this example). Don’t be intimidated by the value or numerical grouping of the notes. Remember, this phrase is only as fast as the tempo you choose, so it looks scarier than it really is. The audio example that illustrates this concept is a song called “Magnus 212” from my upcoming CD, 212. You’ll hear some other grouping examples in this audio clip as well. Download example audio...

The advantage of this approach is that it feels different to play these riffs if the notes are grouped and the phrases have an accent in them. I believe that viewing fast lines this way opens up your technique, because it feels different to play with accents and groups instead of playing straight up with the metronome. Where you would think of one note, now you can visualize a phrase around it.

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Creating new licks and sequences using string skipping, barring, and hammer-ons from nowhere.

After covering various techniques and approaches over the past few columns, I figure it might be fun to combine some of these ideas to create new licks and sequences. In the following examples, I’ll combine string skipping, barring, and hammer-ons from nowhere.

Fig. 1
involves the use of a diminished arpeggio sequence that merges all three of the above concepts. The combination of big interval jumps generated by string skipping and the hyper-speed possibilities provided by the barre, creates the potential for an insane-sounding result.

To play these examples, I recommend hybrid picking (plucking strings with one or more of the available picking-hand fingers in addition to the pick), as it makes it easier for you to execute these ideas and make them sound tighter.

Fig. 2 is a long melodic exercise that also combines barring and string skipping. In this example, we’re outlining a classic chord progression in the key of D major using major and minor triad arpeggios. This passage is designed with a triplet feel and alternates between two very distinctive 12-note sequences.

The arpeggiated F# minor triad involves a huge stretch between the 10th and 16th frets. If you find this physically impossible, simply change the F# (16th fret, 4th string) to E (14th fret, 4th string). It will no longer be a genuine arpeggio, but it will still sound great. The overall concept is much more important than the actual notes.

Combining these techniques yields many possibilities, so I recommend experimenting on your own. You may be surprised with what you discover.

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