** As featured in issue 34 **
Hi there and welcome to this month’s Modern Rock Techniques column, with the ninth part in our series looking at legato-based ideas. Following on from the previous issue where we looked at integrating sweep arpeggios with our legato lines, this time we are going to further develop this concept by adding in some right hand tapped notes - extending the range of our ideas. Developing this technique will enable us to combine scales and extended range arpeggio ideas seamlessly, and offers a fast, fluid and melodic sound which is often used to build intensity in solos.
A well used trademark in the styles of mid to late 1980s modern Rock virtuosos such as Tony Macalpine, Greg Howe and Richie Citizen - this issue’s routine is based around the sweeping and left and right hand hand tapping techniques integrated with the full-roll legato style. I’ll be demonstrating the ideas as sixteenth-notes at 160bpm over our backing track Full Roller. This track features a hard-rock feel in A Dorian - which is the second mode in the key of G major, and is downloadable along with the tablature by following the link on the page.
Get the tone
To get a good modern Rock tone, set the gain on your amp to maximum, with the bass and treble set slightly boosted (1 o’clock), and the mid-range either slightly scooped (10 o’clock) for rhythm or boosted (1-2 o’clock) for lead. For the lesson, I used my Ibanez J Custom with Bare Knuckles VH II pick-ups, through an Axe-FX II - set up with the Brit Super amp (based on the Marshall AFD head), along with a Tubescreamer style overdrive pedal and some stereo delay.
Our first example is a practice routine based around an A minor triad in bars 1 and 2 - with three repetitions of a two-beat phrase, followed in bars 3 and 4 by a similar phrase based around a G major triad. Both triads are in position 3 (C shape in relation to the CAGED system), and feature a sweep stroke when ascending which is then extended with a right hand tap on the octave, and with a left hand tap or ‘hammer-on-from-nowhere’ on the B string when descending.
Try to ensure that the sweep stroke is played lightly and in one single motion. To keep the notes well separated and to avoid any dissonant clashes - focus on the fretting hand with the finger pressure released as you play the next note. Practice the exercise slowly until memorised, before finding your base speed on the metronome and repeating continuously for five minute per day as part of an overall routine. During this timeframe and in general when repeating exercises continuously - always shake out the hands and arms as soon as you feel the onset of any tightening sensations, fatigue or tension.
After a week or so, and when the exercise can be repeated continuously with good accuracy, timing and tone - try increasing the metronome slightly and again practice daily for another week or so before any further increase.
On the fretting hand - keep the thumb in the middle of the back of the neck, and with plenty of space from the underside of the neck to the cup of the fretting hand. For the left hand tap - hit down hard and from a height at first to encourage good timing and accuracy, and concentrate on an equal velocity between all the notes.
On the picking hand - hold the pick as normal for the sweep strokes and use the second finger to tap so as to provide a seamless transition from sweeping to tapping. Position the hand flat with the heel/thumb-pad resting on the bass strings over the fretboard in order to mute, and close to where the tap is played. Try to minimise any movement in the right hand as you rest on the strings so as to prevent any unwanted noise.
Our next example features a sixteenth-note lick which ascends our A minor triad - pushing through the sweep stroke in a single motion, before hammering-on and extending with a right hand tap. After pulling back off and descending onto the B string using a left hand tap or ‘hammer-on-from-nowhere’, the lick then moves via a pick stroke back up to the high E string. From here, a full-roll style legato line descends through the positions using slides.
Starting off based around the A minor chord in position 3 (relative to the CAGED system), the lick resolves on the 5th degree in position 1 - pulling the string downwards in direction for the finishing vibrato and using a rotation of the wrist and forearm. On the video lesson, I demonstrate the lick firstly played using strict sixteenth-notes over our 160bpm backing track Full-Roller, as well as a second freeform version which is played as quickly as possible for effect, and with the nearest beat targeted for the finishing vibrato note, an approach common in the style.
This next example starts by ascending a G major triad, although superimposed over our A Dorian track gives us the b7th, 9th and 11th degrees - extending the harmony and adding colour.
Similar in technique to our previous idea, the example ascends using a sweep stroke and right hand tap in the first two beats, before pulling-off and targeting the high E string with a pick stroke. From the third beat onwards, a legato run descends using some first finger slides to resolve on the root note in position 1.
Practice the idea slowly - breaking the example down and reinforcing the sixteenth-note feel by tapping your foot on each beat. Once you have memorised the run and can play it with good accuracy, timing and tone - start the metronome and find your base speed - repeating continuously for a timed period of five minutes.
This next idea features an ascending A minor triad starting from the 5th degree on the 7th fret A string, and hammering-on to the root note at the 12th fret. This form can be visualised around our position 3 A minor chord (C-shape relative to the CAGED system). After our initial hammer-on, the lick uses a four-string sweep stroke from the D string, before leading into a 3-notes-per-string scale fragment with the fretting hand and a right hand tap. The lick then uses pull-offs to roll back to the first finger before descending horizontally through the positions using slides. From the third sixteenth-note of beat 2 in the second bar, the lick descends through the scale shape - leading across the strings using left hand taps and finishing on the G string with the b3rd degree.
For the vibrato which pulls downwards in direction, you’ll need to make a quick transition from the square hand positioning that the legato technique demands, with the thumb in the back of the neck to more of an angle with the thumb moving up to the top of the fretboard to form a pivot with the first finger just above the main knuckle. The vibrato will then work from this pivot, with the wrist and forearm rotating - similar to the motion of turning a key in a lock, and with the fingers remaining rigid.
Moving on to our final example for this issue, we have an ascending 5-string A minor triad similar to our previous example, with a hammer-on and ascending 4-string sweep stroke leading into 3 notes with the fretting hand and a right hand tap on the high E string. After pulling-off back to the first finger, the fourth finger then hammers down on the 10th fret followed by another right hand tap on the same note. The idea then pulls back off with the first finger repositioned on the 7th fret, and from here - descending down through an E minor 7 arpeggio using left hand taps.
This position 4 (A-shape relative to the CAGED system) E minor 7 sweep arpeggio voicing gives us an A minor 11 sound when superimposed against our A Dorian backing track, and other than the low E at the 7th fret on the A string - is the same in shape and technique to our G major triad in position 3.
Isolate the different techniques and work on pushing the pick through the strings in a single motion on the sweep stroke - the feeling similar to dragging a stick through park railings and with the pick dropping down onto the next string slightly in advance of pushing through. Try to ensure the arpeggio is clean and with any unwanted string noise muted off by the fretting hand first finger which lays flat across the strings. As you ascend - the heel/thumb-pad of the picking hand moves down to mute off the unplayed bass strings.
When descending arpeggios using the left hand tapping technique - hammer each note down hard and form a height at first to build timing and accuracy. You’ll notice that the first finger will be the weakest as is generally unused in this way in conventional playing, and so slow the example down until you feel good control and are able to hit down on each note with an even velocity.
With the descending legato run, work through slowly and concentrate of trying to eliminate any dissonance when pulling-off. Set the first finger on each string so that the tip mutes off the lower string above, as well as all higher strings underneath. With all these ideas, be sure to position the fretting hand square and dropped with plenty of space between the underside of the neck and the cup of the hand.
That’s all for this month, thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next issue for the tenth part in our series. In the meantime, please feel free to visit my site at www.martingoulding.com