In this column we are going to look at some ways to visualize the notes on the fretboard.

Chops: Beginner
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview: 
• Learn three-note-per-string fingerings for the diatonic modes 
• Connect scale fingerings over the entire fretboard
• Visualize common scale patterns and fingerings
Over the last few years I have been traveling the world doing guitar clinics. One of the most asked questions is “How do I break out of the same old box patterns when playing solos?” The more I get asked this, the more I realize a lot of guitarists don’t know the basic concepts behind the modes. I believe that learning the seven modes of the major scale is one of the most essential skills a guitarist can develop. In this column we are going to look at some ways to visualize the notes on the fretboard.

We'll start by looking at the scale patterns of each mode, shown in Fig. 1. We want to make sure all of the fingers on our left hand are used, so for the most part we will have three notes on each string. As you progress and get faster it's ok to use whatever finger position you're most comfortable with higher up the neck, but at the beginning it's really important to stay with the correct finger positions and really give your hands a workout!


You have to learn each one of the scales for this to really make sense. Here, we're going to start with the Ionian (otherwise known as major) scale and work our way both down and up the neck. All of the examples here are in the key of C, so we don’t have any sharps of flats to worry about.

When you play, the most important thing is to look at the fretboard! Of course we like to play by feel but this is first and foremost a visualization exercise. First, you want to play through each fingering very slowly and use alternate picking. Also, mix things up by breaking the patterns into two- and three-string groupings.

Repeat this process for the other diatonic fingerings. In Fig. 2 you can see how the patterns connect over the entire fretboard. Pay attention to how each pattern relates to each other and shares the same notes on the fretboard. We want to be able to visualize how they are connected to each other.


Once you have done this, do the same thing starting on the 3rd fret with G major scale and going to A Dorian, B Phrygian, C Lydian, and so forth. If you got a hang of this easily, you can try them out in all different keys. Soon you will see how the solos you have already begun to learn fit into these.

Next month we'll take a look at how to seamlessly transition from one mode to another to start to break out of the box!

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How to combine some sweeping arpeggio runs with both one- and two-handed tapping licks.

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This month I want to cover how to combine some sweeping arpeggio runs with both one- and two-handed tapping licks. It is a technique I use often in my solos when I want to combine different sounds and colors.

In Fig. 1 I wanted to start with a basic C major arpeggio starting on the 5th string. The basic idea for all these licks is to ascend with a sweep and descend with a combination of both left- and right-hand tapping. When I am sweep picking I like to hold my pick with the thumb and index finger and tap with the remaining three fingers. In this example, use your middle finger to tap all the notes. Each time we switch to a new string, we use a “hammer-on from nowhere,” where you tap with a finger on your fretting hand without picking the note. You may notice I have added an extra note outside of the arpeggio on the 1st string. Experiment with other notes outside the usual arpeggio as well as different expressions such as sliding and bending to add a little extra character to the lick. For reference, check out the finale solo of the DragonForce track “Valley of the Damned” at 6:45. I used this same technique over C major and G major.

Download Example Audio: Fast - Slow



We change things around a little bit with Fig. 2. This time we are in D minor and use a double tap with the right hand. Again, use the index finger for tapping but pay extra attention on muting the strings lightly with the palm or wrist of your right hand. Use the area in which your hand touches the guitar body or strings as the pivot point and tap using wrist movement. I tend to use the flesh of my left hand index finger to mute the high strings when doing descending runs.

Download Example Audio: Fast - Slow



Once you have this down, you can also use the guitar pick to tap all the notes and gain extra speed when you are ascending or descending. Listen to the DragonForce tracks “Once in a Lifetime” at 4:31 and “Heroes of Our Time” at 0:19 where instead of sweeping down I tapped with a pick in both directions.

Let's get more fingers moving on the right hand by fusing the C major arpeggio with an A minor pentatonic pattern. In Fig. 3 we are using the same sweep-up and tap-down method but we are outlining a basic A minor pentatonic scale with our tapping hand. When starting out, use your index finger on your tapping hand for the first note and then your ring finger for the second.

Download Example Audio: Fast - Slow



A good reason to use more than one finger when you tap multiple notes on each string—apart from looking cool—is to stop your right hand wrist from moving up and down the neck too much. Your wrist should be resting lightly on the lower strings to mute them when not being played. Less movement up and down means more efficient and less noise.

Make sure to alternate between the three fingers to help strengthen them. The pinkie is smaller so it is especially useful on the higher frets. Be sure to experiment and see what works best for you.

I love to hear your suggestions for future lessons and see you try these licks out on YouTube!

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Herman Li''s debut lesson looks at getting more out of your licks through diminished chords and hammer-ons and pull-offs

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Welcome to the first installment of Power Shred. I’ve been looking forward to writing a column where I can really share my love for the guitar with all of you, as well some of my favorite techniques. These first few lessons are going to look at some different ideas to help spice up your leads, rhythm and explore some new territory with your playing.

First, we need to understand how diminished chords work on the fretboard in order to get more mileage out these licks. A diminished triad contains the root, b3rd, and b5 from a major scale. You can also think of it as two minor third intervals stacked on each other. In order to make this triad a diminished seventh chord, we add the diminished 7 (same sounding note as a natural 6) to the mix. Since each note in a diminished seventh chord is a minor third away from each neighboring chord tone, any note can be considered the root.

With these diminished runs we want to break out of the one-note-per-string sweeps and incorporate some hammer-ons so we can squeeze more notes out of the phrase. Fig. 1 is a legato sweep starting with a downstroke on the fourth string, hammering onto the next note, sweeping downwards and then repeating the same pattern. Pay close attention to the picking pattern and make sure to use all four fingers on your fretting hand in order to achieve maximum speed! Since the diminished chord is based on minor thirds, we can move the pattern up three frets (or down three frets) and keep the same picking and fingering.
Download Example 1 Audio...



Fig. 2 is the descending version but instead of pulling off, we are going to use economy picking all the way through. I like the change of techniques during a solo to give it more dynamics. To successfully execute every note, start with a downstroke and sweep your way through it. If you are used to practicing alternate picking, make sure to slow it down. Notice how by playing an odd number of notes in each beat and an even number of notes (to change sweep direction) on each string gives you a constant economy-picking sweep pattern.
Download Example 2 Audio...



Although economy picking is usually related to being smooth and almost a legato feel, I like to sometimes hit the strings a little harder giving it more attack. The sound is as if you were using alternate picking but without the hard work.

Fig. 3 is the same as Fig. 1 but starting with an upstroke so you can try it with economy picking as well. It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way of doing it! It all depends on the feeling you want to project into the notes. Try using this run in your solos and make it your own.
Download Example 3 Audio...



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