** As featured in issue 32 **
Hi there and welcome to this month’s Modern Rock Techniques guitar lesson column, with the next part in our series looking at the legato guitar technique. This time, we are going to look at moving through the 3-note-per-string positions using slides. Developing this guitar technique will enable us to move freely around the fretboard, and offers a fast fluid sound which is often used to build intensity in guitar solos as well as providing a contrast to the more pick-orientated styles.
A well used trademark in the styles of modern Rock virtuosos such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Richie Kotzen, this issue’s routine is based around the full-roll legato style with examples covering quintuplet and sixteenth-note subdivisions. I’ll be demonstrating the ideas at 160bpm over our backing track Full Roller, which is based around a hard-rock feel in A Dorian, 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 features a single string, full-roll repetition exercise which can be used to gain familiarity with the technique. Based around quintuplets, the example ascends and descends using first finger slides. After the initial downstroke, all notes should be even in velocity with the hammer-ons, pull-offs and slides consistent in timing and tone.
At first, practice slowly - reinforcing the quintuplet feel by tapping your foot as you execute the slide on each beat. When you have established the feel of the exercise with good accuracy and are able to repeat continuously, start the metronome at around 60bpm and spend a week or so consolidating before increasing speed.
As this technique is known to induce rapidly escalating tension and fatigue, make sure you shake out your hands and arms frequently as any tightening sensations arise. After a week or so, your stamina will start to improve and the discomfort will become less as you gain familiarity with the technique.
Our second example features a fast and fluid single string legato-roll, which uses slides to descend horizontally from position 3 down to position 7. The lick then resolves on the B string with a bend from the b7 to the root note, before finishing with slow wide vibrato.
Try to keep the fretting hand position fairly dropped and slightly forward angled with the thumb placed in the upper-middle area of the back of the neck. This will help set up a strong position for the final bend, with the thumb moving up and over the top of the fretboard to form a pivot with the first finger - and with the bending and vibrato motion coming from a rotation of the forearm and wrist.
To encourage this slightly more angled finishing position, try using fingers 1, 2 and 3 as indicated. This is a common alternative fingering used by classic and modern rock players when playing tone-semitone combinations, and which are often integrated with string bending and vibrato techniques.
Our next example features another quintuplet, full-roll style legato lick which starts off in A Dorian position 6, and uses slides to descend three positions on the high E string before moving on to the B string for a full-roll. This whole 1 bar phrase then repeats down through the scale until it finishes in position 7 on the B string, targeting a semitone bend from the 6th degree up to the b7th.
The success of this lick will depend not only on good accuracy and timing, but also on effective muting. Make sure all unwanted strings are muted off with the heel/side area of the picking hand - nearer to the neck than if you were picking for example. Any dissonance which may occur when hammering-on to the high B and E strings is likely to come from unattended bass strings.
Also be aware of any higher noises which may occur as you pull-off when on the B string. This may indicate that the first finger is positioned too flat and may be inadvertently pressing down on the E string. For this technique, other than the first finger which gently mutes the surrounding strings, your fretting fingers will need to be fairly arched with the pull-offs played gently and moving downwards and slightly outwards in direction.
Our fourth example features some legato slides on the high B and E strings - starting off in A Dorian position 7 and sliding up into position 1 and back using the first finger. Once back in position 7, the idea settles into a fast descending pattern based around groupings of seven, and leading from string to string using hammer-ons-from-nowhere.
Keep the hand position square and dropped with plenty of space from the underside of the neck to the cup of the hand, and hit down hard and from a height at first when hammering-on-from-nowhere. The tip of the fretting hand first finger arrives on the string muting the lower string above as well as all higher strings underneath the string being played as the run descends.
This run is a freeform idea which, once learnt and developed using a sixteenth note feel to encourage equal spacing between all notes, is to be played as fast as possible over the bar with the final vibrato note targeting the nearest beat.
These ideas are common in modern Rock improvisation, and whereas an exercise may be developed based around a certain subdivision, when improvising the idea may be rushed over the beat in ‘note-rows’ of flowing lines to create a smooth effect. With that in mind, the tablature includes a sixteenth note version which we can use to learn and memorise the idea, followed by the fast version which rushes the whole phrase over the bar by feel.
This final example demonstrates another freeform run featuring some first finger slides, again initially presented as sixteenth-notes to encourage equal spacing between the notes and an even velocity.
After starting off in A Dorian position 7, the run then ascends into position 1 using a first finger slide, and after pulling-off on the high E string - moves to the B string using a hammer-on-from-nowhere. The idea continues to ascend with another first finger slide into position 3 at the end of beat 2 in the second bar. From here a slide on the B string at the end of the second bar turns the run around to descend - weaving back through positions 1 and 7, and finishing with a downstroke on the low E string root note - pulling downwards for the vibrato.
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 at around 60bpm and spend a week or so consolidating before increasing speed.
That’s all for this issue, thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next issue for the next part in our legato series, which will be looking at integrating the sweeping and hammer-on-from-nowhere techniques.