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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Elaborating on the altered scale shapes with licks built from last month''s ideas.

In my last column, I talked about the altered scale and provided some shapes in order to help emphasize and exaggerate the altered sound. This time around, we’re going to elaborate on those ideas by playing licks built from some of those previous shapes.

As you may recall, C altered is directly related to Db melodic minor—it contains the exact same notes as Db melodic minor. Therefore all of these examples can be used not only in the context of C altered, but also in the context of any mode related to, and including, Db melodic minor.

For an altered sound, simply play these licks over any kind of altered C7 chord. As I mentioned last time, you may want to start by playing over a C7#5 chord, since the chord itself is altered and will initially sound very complimentary.

Another way to use this scale effectively is in a typical ii–V–I chord progression, which, in this case, would be in the key of F. A typical version of this progression would be Gm9 (ii) to C7#5 (V) to Fmaj7 (I). Remember, the idea is to build tension over the dominant 7th chord and release it over the I chord. Without resolution, the tension just sounds unfocused and not as melodic as it could be.

For a Lydian dominant sound, try playing these licks over an F#7 chord. In doing so, you will effectively be playing the notes of the F# Lydian dominant scale (F#–G#–A#–B#– C#–D#–E). When applying the licks in this manner, I personally get the best results by going back and forth between Mixolydian and Lydian dominant. For a melodic minor sound, simply play these licks over a Db minor chord.

If you’re unfamiliar with the sound of altered scales and chords, these concepts will help you get oriented. There is much, much more to this subject, but this is a good place to start getting acquainted with the sound of altered licks. We’ll see you next time.

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A look at popular altered chords, scales, and arpeggios.

One of the subjects I get asked about much more frequently these days is the subject of altered scales and chords. It is a fairly large and sometimes confusing subject, due to the ambiguous nature of certain definitions describing many associated musical terms and concepts. For our purposes, we will categorize an altered chord as simply a dominant chord in which either the fifth or ninth has been raised or lowered by a half step. The most popular altered chord played on guitar is probably the #9 chord, commonly referred to as “the Hendrix Chord,” shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 2
shows a three-note-per-string C altered scale. The easiest way to play the altered scale is to move up a half step from the established root and play the Melodic minor scale.

More Examples

Fig. 3 enables us to play the notes of C altered simply by playing Db Melodic minor. It can also be helpful if you preface the scale by playing an altered chord. Fig. 4 is a C7#5 chord, which is altered and sounds very compatible with the C altered or Db Melodic minor scale.

In this scenario, we will also focus on two arpeggios that can be very effective in emphasizing the tonal characteristic underlying the altered sound. The shapes in Fig. 5 and Fig. 6 are very similar to shapes we’ve seen before, in that they are based off a 5th string root with the exact same format as those in previous articles.

The simplistic version of what’s happening here is that we are playing Db Melodic minor over a C altered chord. Though this is not the only method that can be used in addressing altered chords, it is certainly one of the more popular methods and definitely my favorite. I will discuss typical chord progressions that enable us to use altered chords and scales in my next article.

My next article will also focus on modifying this month’s shapes, so becoming familiar with them will help you see the logic in the design of the upcoming licks. In the meantime, have fun with these shapes and work on getting your ears accustomed to these tonal qualities. See ya next time.

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