Ideas that will give your arpeggios a more angular sound.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Learn the difference between open and closed voicings.
• Create modal sounds using two pairs of triad arpeggios.
• Use string skipping to improve right-hand technique.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
Hello and welcome to The Thinking Shredder. Today’s special on the menu: open-voiced arpeggios! There are many different ways to play arpeggios across the guitar and in this column I will introduce you to ideas that will give your arpeggios a more angular sound. We want to escape the dense sound of playing arpeggios with a series of stacked thirds.

A few ideas include skipping ever other chord tone and “dropping” chord tones by an octave. The resulting interval gaps allow for more sonic space and will make the sound appear less dark and dull.

In Fig. 1 you can see two voicings for an A major chord. The first is known as a “closed” voicing meaning all of the notes are within an octave. We spread things out a bit in the second voicing and create a more “open” sound since the range of notes extends more than an octave. By skipping or displacing a note within the voicing of the arpeggio or chord, it increases the intervallic range.


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Once we understand how to create an open-voiced chord, we can then turn them into arpeggios pretty easily. In Fig. 2 you can see the three inversions of both A major and A minor arpeggios, in addition to a fingering for A diminished and A augmented. These arpeggios require some stretching so practice each form slowly and cleanly before attempting to put all the inversions together to a longer sequence.


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Now that we have a few shapes under our fingers we can start to create some musical phrases. In Fig. 3 we use a root-position B major arpeggio and combine a few intervallic skips and slides.



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In Fig. 4 you can see how to connect a few different arpeggios through a chord progression. In the first measure I am using an ascending D minor arpeggio and a descending F major arpeggio. The remainder of the sequence combines two different inversions of the C and Ab major arpeggio, and finally closing the Lick with a C# diminished arpeggio and ending on a D power chord.



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We move over to the C Lydian mode (1–2–3–#4–5–6–7) for Fig. 5. We combine a C major arpeggio along with a D major arpeggio in order to create the Lydian sound. The second measure continues with a both arpeggios in first inversion and ends with a tapped note on the 1st string.



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The goal is to develop and write new musical ideas that don’t sound like exercises or simple ascending or descending patterns. Use these ideas on more linear lines by displacing notes to different octaves. This will not only be a great technical and musical challenge but also define your own sound as a guitar player and musician.

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Today, we are going to look at an unusual way of combining right- and left-hand tapping with some basic scale shapes.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
Chops: Advanced
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Understand the basic concept of tapping and string skipping.
• Create licks that use “hammer-ons from nowhere.”
• Develop phrases that combine triplets, sextuplets, and quintuplets.
Today, we are going to look at an unusual way of combining right- and left-hand tapping with some basic scale shapes. I am sure many of you are familiar with tapping, but for those of you who aren’t, let me give you a short explanation. Tapping utilizes the fingers of the picking hand to produce notes on the fretboard with simple hammer-ons and pull-offs. This technique will guide you to new and interesting phrases that would be quite difficult to play with only one hand.

My approach to tapping is different than the usual Van Halen-style of licks. I utilize the additional finger–or fingers–to create different phrases and sounds. Thinking of it more as an extension of my left hand gives me more options. This column will show you some basic ideas that will put interesting spin on your sound and playing.

We begin with Fig. 1, a simple three-note-per-string major (or Ionian) scale in Bb. The difference here is that I play the first note with a “hammer-on from nowhere.” This is when I use a finger on my fretting hand to sound a note without plucking it. Even though I could easily reach the third note on each string with my pinky finger, I choose to use my picking-hand to tap each note. This creates a very smooth and even sound and can be played extremely fast without breaking out in sweat. After you have played it a few times, try other fingerings of the scale in different keys and get used to the new shapes.


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Once you have the basic technique together, we want to move on to something new. An easy way to build on this idea is to combine it with some string skipping and move it around to different octaves. In Fig. 2 we move to the key of Eb major and create a pattern that is primarily based off of three notes–Eb, F, and G. We start the pattern on the 5th before skipping to the 3rd and then the 1st before ending the phrase with a tapped bend that goes from A to Bb.


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In Fig. 3, I begin the phrase with an ascending scale pattern sequence in D minor based on alternating 5- and 4-note patterns. When I reach the top of the phrase I descend with a series of sextuplets based on a hexatonic (6-note) scale. The goal is to try and develop different patterns and sequences that train our fingers to move independently with a light and smooth touch.


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We move to the key of A minor for Fig. 4. Traditionally, this type of phrase is played with only the fretting hand. Depending on your posture, and where your guitar sits in relationship to the rest of your body, some string skipping licks can be quite difficult to pull off painlessly. Make sure you relax and take each phrase very slow. Check out how I combined triplets with quintuplets to give the lick an off-kilter feel.


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In Fig. 5 and Fig. 6, we applied these new ideas to some basic ascending and descending patterns that most players learn with alternate picking. Playing these common phrases with tapping will give you an exceptionally smooth sound. Try to use this “basic” idea of tapping the third note of a three-note-per-string scale, pattern, or fragment to create new and exciting licks and sounds. The sky is the limit!


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Breaking down large musical ideas and examples into manageable parts and practicing them over and over to develop speed.

Print it!
Click here to download a high-resolution, printable PDF of this lesson's notation.
Hello and welcome to my first column for Premier Guitar. Here, I will discuss different ideas and give you insight into the world of modern rock guitar. The goal will be to present some cool licks in a different and more applicable manner. Throughout the years as a performer and teacher I have noticed a lot of misconceptions of how technique, speed, and dexterity is achieved. The guitar is a very personal instrument and you should develop and establish your own way of playing. Everyone is unique and therefore will have a different understanding of the instrument.

Many students ask me about my picking technique and speed. The answer is surprisingly simple. I break down large musical ideas and examples into manageable parts and practicing them over and over. The example in Fig. 1 is a common scalar pattern in C major. At first, it might be a lot to tackle all at once, so let’s break it down.

Download Figure 1 Audio: Slow - Fast


In Fig. 2A and Fig. 2B you can see two short examples from the previous figure. Both of these are essentially the same pattern with the first one ascending the scale and the second one descending. Remember, we want to use straight alternate picking throughout all of these examples. Whenever you work on technique, always practice with a metronome. It will help you keep track of your progress. In order to increase your speed over time, you will need to minimize the motion of both hands as much as possible.

Download Figure 2A Audio: Slow - Fast
Download Figure 2B Audio: Slow - Fast



Since neither one of the examples involve position shifts, you will be able to get these together pretty quickly. But what if you need to change keys? This is where we really need to make our practice time more efficient. Instead of just running patterns as finger exercises, learn how each phrase or sequence is made. Then move that same sequence to different keys and different string combinations. I know it sounds like a lot of work—it is—but by combining both the technical and theoretical concepts you can maximize your practice time and develop a deeper understanding of the fretboard.

Fig. 3 shows a descending sequence in A minor across the 1st and 2nd strings. You can see that you will need to shift positions on beat one of each measure. Keep your alternate picking tight and start slow. Once you have a handle on the sound of the sequence, move it to other string sets.

Download Figure 3 Audio: Slow - Fast


Fig. 4 is a great exercise to build up dexterity when moving across two strings. Even though it might be more comfortable to use an upstroke on the first note of beat two, keep to the strict alternate picking pattern we have been working on.

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Both Fig. 5 and Fig. 6 use similar sequences, but combine the notes within the beat in a new way. In Fig. 5 we are playing five notes per beat—also know as quintuplets. Since there are an odd number of notes per beat, it has an uneasy feel that is great for building up tension.

Download Figure 5 Audio: Slow - Fast


We add one note to each beat in Fig. 6. You can think of these two ways, either as sixteenth-note triplets or as sextuplets. Either way, make sure to start these at a reasonable tempo and keep your hands as relaxed as possible.

Download Figure 6 Audio: Slow - Fast


The key here is to take these patterns through different keys and string combinations. Keep track of your progress and only increase the tempo when you are feeling comfortable and your playing is accurate. These sequences and melodic patterns are also an important part of creating melodies and melodic development. They can be used to emphasize melodic high or low points, embellish melodic movement, and create smooth connections between longer melody notes.

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