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One of modern rock’s most buzzed-about shredders shares his insights on an often-misunderstood topic.

Chops: Intermediate/Advanced
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Develop proper sweep-picking technique.
• Learn how to move across two, three, and four strings.
• Create diatonic shapes that move up and down the entire fretboard.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

This lesson is about my bittersweet relationship with sweep picking. To be honest, sweep picking has always scared the ever-living crap out of me (and it still does). For whatever reason, it has taken years for me to find any use for it. It’s only recently I’ve found myself applying the technique here and there, kind of like a loose light bulb flickering on and off.

Well, I finally put on my big-boy pants and started tackling it, or rather, it started tackling me.

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Progressive metal’s most influential guitarist combines immaculate picking technique with aggressive tones to create the most technically demanding licks around.



Chops: Advanced
Theory: Advanced
Lesson Overview:
• Gain a deeper understanding of complex, shifting time signatures.
• Learn fast-paced, alternate-picked riffs.
• Create phrases that use legato, sweeping, tapping, and alternate picking. Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

Formed in 1985 at Boston's Berklee College of Music by drummer Mike Portnoy, bassist John Myung, and guitarist John Petrucci, Dream Theater continues to be one of the titans of progressive rock and metal. While the group would consist of this basic trio at the core until Portnoy left in 2008, over the years they've had a handful of keyboard players and several vocalists. (Current keyboardist Jordan Rudess has been in the band since 1999, and singer James LaBrie has been in the fold since the band's second album, released in 1991.)

There's no disputing that Dream Theater is the quintessential prog band for fans of proficient instrumental skills and metal. For over 30 years, Petrucci's trademark style has influenced generations of players through the group's 13 full-length studio albums. The band's sound has evolved a lot over the years, from the softer rock albums like Falling into Infinity, to the classic prog-rock of Images and Words, grand concept albums like Octavarium, and heavy metal shred-fests like Train of Thought. Each one is underpinned by Petrucci's astonishing technique. He's developed into an absolute master of picking, legato phrases, sweeping, tapping, and more.

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Learn how to bridge jazz and blues by tackling one of the most popular progressions around.


Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Learn how to play convincingly over “rhythm” changes.
• Develop deeper bebop vocabulary.
• Understand how to outline chords using Mixolydian, Lydian Dominant, and Super Locrian scales.


Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

One of the most daunting aspects of taking your blues playing to the next level is turning up to a jam night and finding out that the players lean toward the jazzier side of the blues. For the last few years, this column has sought to shed light on relevant aspects of the jazz idiom by introducing you to intriguing scales and soloing concepts you can use in a blues context. But what happens if the context is jazz? There’s a common pool of songs that jazz musicians pull from, and some of those songs can be classified as a contrafact. A contrafact is a composition that’s based on an established set of chord changes. The practice became common in the bebop era when musicians wanted to improve their chops by playing over chord progressions they were extremely familiar with. They would then write new melodies to some of their favorites songs.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to consider the blues progression as a contrafact, since so many tunes use those changes. Other common jazz tunes that have served as inspiration for countless contrafacts are “Cherokee,” “All the Things You Are,” “Giant Steps,” and of course “I Got Rhythm.” There are so many tunes based on that Gershwin classic that the progression has become known simply as “rhythm” changes.

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