** As featured in issue 41 **
Welcome to the first instalment of my new column for Guitar Interactive. In this series I want to look at some modern advanced shred guitar concepts to help spice up your high energy playing. Whilst I will be demonstrating technique, I won’t be going over any fundamentals, instead I will be looking at what you can do once you have the fundamentals understood, such as basic legato technique and muting. I want to stress here that even though I am giving this the label of ‘Shred’ the concepts looked at are universal to all styles of music and can be used however you want. One thing I really want to help inspire you to do is find ways of incorporating these ideas into your improvisation. Being able to create ideas on the spot is a valuable skill and I often find that learning licks verbatim only gets you so far, if you study the concept behind a certain phrase you can be sure that you will be able to create lots of variations on the spot depending on your musical situation. This is all provided you put the practice in and spend the time owning each concept.
In the first few instalments of this series I want to take a look at one of my favourite legato based concepts: 3-1-3. This way of visualising scales on the neck is a great way to create unique sounding musical phrases fast and slow. Most of us will be familiar with three note per string scale shapes, these are great for fast runs with both picking and legato. They are very useful for connecting large areas of the fretboard together and they are relatively easy to remember, it’s all good stuff! However, it can be easy to sound very monotonous if you are simply running up and down these patterns, we are essentially just playing the seven notes of the scale over and over. 3-1-3 is a great way of keeping our three note per string framework and technique whilst giving us more arpeggio based sounds. The numbers simply denote how the pattern is laid out across the strings, three notes on one string followed by one note on the next then three etc. From this we end up highlighting certain intervals and stumbling across sequences that sound far more like something a saxophone would play.
The sequences I am looking at in this video lesson are based around taking three notes on one string and the following string taking the middle note of a three note per string pattern, this normally gives us a perfect 5th above the root note of the pattern depending on where we are visualising from. I would suggest taking this concept across five strings at a time (example A up to high E) in each three note per string shape. Get used to how they sound and feel. I am using legato throughout, when ascending a pattern I use hybrid picking to sound notes on new strings on the way up, on the way back down I use hammer-ons from nowhere.
It's important to be very strict on the rhythmic subdivision you are going for when initially practising these patterns, because of the odd note groupings on each string it can be easy to sound as though you are jumping from string to string, instead we want to keep it as smooth as possible by practising as evenly as possible in either 8th notes or 8th note triplets. Perhaps practice going between both subdivisions once you are more familiar with the patterns, once you have this try shifting between the patterns using rolling shifts (al a Satriani) as demonstrated in the licks I perform to the backing track. One thing I really like to do with these is use the base arpeggio in super imposition over different chords, for example, the first lick I play an idea based around Cmaj7 going up to Em7, this could be played over those chords, or just over the Em etc. as they are diatonically connected, but because you are playing a more arpeggio based sequence you are going to get more harmonic context to your line. Which is much more enjoyable to listen to and satisfying to play!
We can apply this concept to most scales. One of my favourite to apply it to is the minor pentatonic scale. If you ever wanted to play some of the synth horn or bass lines you hear on some Michael Jackson records, this is one sure way of being able to visualise the minor pentatonic scale in order to make those sequences a possibility on the guitar. The pentatonic scale isn’t a three note per string pattern traditionally, however if we combine two positions we can create a 3-1-3 pattern which can lead to some really modern sounding phrasing within the classic pentatonic scale. 3-1-3 isn’t just a good way of getting some new shred licks, but it’s also a really helpful extra way of seeing the neck, and particularly with pentatonic scales you can really cover some ground on the fretboard using this concept.
Try some of the licks I demonstrate in this column and spend some time finding as many 3-1-3 patterns that you will find useful, don’t forget to apply these shapes into your playing right away, you don’t need to shred them on the first instant, you can use them very effectively for melodic playing and riff writing. Have fun with these ideas and I shall see you next issue for some more extreme shred!