Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #22
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Mark Tremonti’s influences are from a wide span of metal, classic Rock and Blues players.
Sam Bell delivers an in-depth analysis of the style that had made Mark Tremonti one of the world's most respected Rock guitarists.
In this issue's tech session we shall be breaking down the style of Alter Bridge and Creed lead guitarist Mark Tremonti. Mark Tremonti’s influences are from a wide span of metal, classic Rock and Blues players. Some of the influences you can hear in his soloing are players such as Zakk Wylde, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rusty Cooley and various speed metal bands from the late '80s/early '90s.
In this tech session the backing track is in the key of D minor, I will be using a blend of D Blues scale, D Dorian and D Aeolian. Most of the licks reside around the 1st position of the minor pentatonic scale. We will venture to other areas of the fretboard as the solo progresses. I shall break down each lick one by one, be sure to study this solo with the video and the tab in order to really break down and understand these licks. Once you have them mastered, try making your own solos by taking the concepts and licks outlined in this tech session and putting your own twist on them.
The solo opens up with 4 tone wide bends on the 13th fret B string, meaning we bend the note on the 13th fret up to the pitch of a fretted note on the 15th fret B string. When performing bends its always good practice to make sure the note you are fretting and bending has support behind it. With this bend I fret the note with my 3rd finger whilst keeping my 2nd finger behind it to help support and push the string upwards. I also keep my index finger flat behind the 2nd finger in order to keep other strings from ringing out. On the 4th bend I hold the note and apply some vibrato before heading into our next lick.
Our next lick is a classic cyclic pentatonic speed lick, used a lot in classic Rock and Blues. We start with a pull off between the 13th and 10th fret on the B string before picking the 12th fret G string. This means we only pick the B string and G string once on each of the six repetitions of this lick. The cyclic lick ends with a long tone wide bend and release on the 13th fret high E string, when the bend has been released we apply some vibrato on the 13th fret E.
This lick is a brilliant example of using accents on odd groups of notes in order to create a really cool rhythmic feel. The lick descends D minor pentatonic position one, however instead of the classic sounds of groups of 3 or 4 notes descending, we are going to use groups of 5 notes descending. The general concept of this lick is to descend 5 notes in the scale from a given note, in this case the 13th fret E string, once we reach the end of those notes we restart the same sequence from the next note down in the scale, in this case it’s the 10th fret E string etc. Because 5 is an odd number, it creates an odd rhythmic feel if played evenly over a straight 8th note beat. I would suggest using the word hippopotamus as a neat way of counting 1 – 2 – 3 - 4 – 5 when playing through this lick.
This lick is a lot more simple compared to our last lick, and so provides a nice breather before we head out to more adventurous areas in the solo. This long melodic phrase starts by playing the same melody that we can hear in the rhythm guitar part, only an octave higher. Here we use lots of micro bends here that give a very bluesy sound to this lick, we start with a semi tone bend between the 12th and 13th fret G string, and follow with a micro bend on the 10th fret G string before landing on the root note D on the D string 12th fret. Before we answer this phrase with a similar sequence an octave lower, we play a hammer on sequence between the 10th and 12 frets on the D string. Before I move onto the final lick of the first part of the solo, I would like to stress that it is important to follow this column with the video and downloadable tab!
This lick bridges the gap into the next part of the solo. We are going to be using strict alternate picking, meaning every note is picked with a down followed by an up stroke. Be sure to start practicing this lick slowly making sure your picking hand is relaxed and the notes are clear. We are going to be using a 3 note per string pattern, starting on the 8th fret low E string, ascending up following a repetitive sequence. The notes are taken from the D Dorian scale D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. As there are lots of notes in this lick, I recommend checking the tab and watching the video for the exact notes and explanation of the sequence.
This lick opens up our 2nd section of the solo, the rhythmic feel of the backing track is now half time and after having some fairly quick licks in the 1st section, I really wanted to draw out some of the notes, and hone in on Mark's Blues influences. This portion of the solo is heavily reliant on a classic form of Blues phrasing known as Question and Answer. Each phrase is related to each other, they all use the D Blues scale, and similar phrasing techniques such as sliding down to the next note, micro bends, vibrato, and hammer-ons. For example, if we look at the tab/video, we can see I play a sustained note followed by a hammer-on between 10 and 12 on the D string followed by the 10th fret G before ascending back down 12 and 10 on the D string. This phrase finishes up with quick slide between the 12th and 13th fret G string before moving onto its answer phrase which uses the same hammer on/pull off portion of the question phrase. The lick continues in this question and answer manner whilst moving down the octave.
Here is another alternate picking lick, very similar to our first alternate picking lick that bridged the gap between the first and second part of this solo. We are using the same D Dorian notes, and we are still using the 3 note per string method for playing these faster alternate picked runs. The same rules as lick 5 apply, start slow and practice nailing the rhythm of the lick. This phrase is being used as a device to get us to a higher portion of the fretboard as we will find out in our next lick.
After ascending our alternate picking run we move up the fretboard into a phrase which is exactly the same as the opening phrase in lick 6, however this time we are an octave higher. We are using the same question and answer phrasing however this time we answer the opening phrase with a lick which is a little more detached from the previous phrases rhythmically and technically. We play a micro bend on the B string 18th fret then ascend 15 and 16 highlighting the D Blues scale ‘blue note’ before re-bending the B string 18th fret and landing on the 15th fret B string. This is a very classic Blues phrase, don’t forget to add vibrato to the final note.
After playing our Bluesy influenced phrases in lick 8, we come to a lick which is the polar opposite stylistically and rhythmically. This is a descending legato phrase, which is very Satriani inspired, however, I feel in Mark Tremonti’s case it would have been more influenced by his admiration for Rusty Cooley’s playing. There are lots of notes in this lick, more than ever I would highly recommend checking the tab and the video for a more detailed explanation of the exact notes played. However, I can tell you that we are still using notes from the D Dorian scale using a 3 note per string pattern, and we are using legato technique exclusively. The lick is based around 3, 5 and 7 note legato rolls, for example, the first portion of the lick starts on the high E string and we ‘roll’ up and down 5 notes before moving onto the next string, which in this example is a roll of 7 notes etc. Be sure to practice this lick super slow at first, making sure all the hammer-ons and pull-offs are rhythmically even, and make sure each note is dynamically the same volume as the last note in order to create a smooth flowing phrase when played up to speed. One of the key aspects to nailing legato technique is relaxation and feeling the rhythm of the notes, good luck!
After our monster legato run we arrive in the 3rd and final section of our solo. Our legato run enabled us to move into a higher position on the fretboard, and over the course of the solo we have been slowly building higher and higher which is creating a feeling of movement throughout the solo. We landed on the 17th fret A string in our legato run, we now come back to some Bluesy question and answer phrasing which once again mimics the rhythm guitars in the backing track before ascending up the D minor pentatonic scale using slides and some string skips which really help emphasize the feeling of upward movement due to the wider intervals created by the string skipping. We end this building phrase with a huge tone wide bend on the high E string before moving into our next classic Blues Rock lick.
Here we have a phrase very similar to lick 2 at the start of our solo, once again it’s a cyclic pentatonic phrase this time on the high E string. We pick the first 3 notes on the 17th, 20th and 22nd frets before pull of back down the same notes to the 17th fret and then starting the short phrase again, we repeat this several times before ascending down a similarly performed phrase using notes from the D Blues scale. This lick ends when we hit the 19th fret G string and apply some very wide vibrato before move into our next Zakk Wylde style pentatonic speed lick.
This lick is a tough one to play at speed, so I highly recommend checking the tab and practicing this lick very slowly to start with. The general concept behind this Zakk Wylde style lick is to descend 6 notes of the D minor pentatonic before moving down a position and descending another 6 notes etc. Each phrase starts with a pull off on the G string before alternate picking the rest of the notes on D and A strings. Compared to our 3 note per string licks we encountered earlier in this solo, alternate picking 2 notes per string can feel strange at first as with any new speed lick or new concept, so as always start slow! We move down 4 positions of the D minor pentatonic scale, and end in a Bluesy phrase which mimics the backing track rhythm guitars once again before moving into our final lick.
This lick is very similar to the alternate picking lick we encountered in lick 5, if you are familiar with the picking sequence in lick 5, then this lick should come fairly easy with a bit of practice. Once again we are using strict alternate picking and 3 note per string patterns however this time we are taking notes from the D Aeolian scale, otherwise known as the D natural minor scale: D, E, F, G, A, Bb, and C. The picking sequence can be seen as a 12 note phrase which is moved up through the scale, when practicing the initial movements for this lick I would recommend splitting up the first 12 note pattern of this lick into two 6 note patterns. Check the tab to see what I mean. Once you have the initial 12 note sequence down, the rest of the lick should come fairly quickly. This lick is used as a device to get back up the fretboard to the final note of D on the G string 19th fret, the speed and ascending motion of the lick alongside the building of the backing track creates a real climax at the end of this solo. Speedy licks are great for building tension if used in the right places!
So that brings us to the end of this tech session on Mark Tremonti, hopefully the licks outlined in this session should give you plenty of neat ideas for creating your own speed licks, melodic phrases and ways of structuring solos for your own songs. Be sure to take all of these ideas slow at first, make sure that you can really hear the rhythm in each lick before trying to play it up to speed, rhythm is a very important aspect of soloing and sometimes it can easily be overlooked. Good luck and have fun with these Mark Tremonti style licks!