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Tech Session - Randy Rhoads

Issue #49

Randy was one of the first guitarists in the Neo-Classical genre, taking the ideas of Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth, and adding a harder edge, as well as more speed and precision.
Jamie Humphries

A true pioneer of Heavy Metal guitar, Randy Rhoads helped lay the foundations for Ozzy Osbourne’s career. His playing has inspired a generation of guitarists and continues to do so. In this special GI feature Jamie Humphries analyses Randy’s playing style for our exclusive stylistic Tech Session.

Randy Rhoads was very much a pioneer of Heavy Metal guitar. By the end of the late '70s Van Halen and Rhoads were the two 'must see’ guitarists on the LA circuit. Edward Van Halen had a very 'free' Blues based style, that fused in legato runs based around shapes as opposed to organised scale patterns, as well as his signature tapping arpeggios. Randy on the other hand was very old school, and although both were virtuosos in their own right, Randy’s playing was more structured and organised, as Eddie's was very improvised.

Randy was one of the first guitarists in the Neo-Classical genre, taking the ideas of Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth, and adding a harder edge, as well as more speed and precision. Randy had a fantastic knowledge of scales, and would mix up pentatonic, natural minor and harmonic minor runs. He also used arpeggios including traditional shapes and tapping ideas.

Randy was also an incredible rhythm guitarist and had a very unique approach to his riff. One of his signature sound was tight driving 1/16 note rhythms, often infused with accented triad chords. Check out such classic tracks as 'I don’t Know', 'Crazy Train' and 'Over the Mountain'.  Randy also borrowed harmony and harmonic movement from classical music, and is apparent in such stand out tracks as 'Mr Crowley' and 'Revelation Mother Earth'.

For our stylistic track I based the composition on 'I Don’t Know', 'Crazy Train' and 'Over The Mountain'. I’ve tried to include stand out elements of Randy’s riffs and composing, as well as including as many classic likes as possible.

Bars 1-4 include our opening riff, which features a single note idea based around the E Aeolian mode. This riff uses the open 6th string as a pedal tone, with the harmonic movement performed on the 5th string. When performing this really try to accent the notes on the 5th string so that they jump out. I would also suggest performing this section exclusively with down strokes for a driving rhythm.

Bars 5-12 features our verse riff, which is based around diad and triad chords performed against a fast palm muted open 5th string. This section is quite tricky as you need to keep a very tight, fast 1/16 note rhythm, which is interrupted by the chords. When performing this section use palm muting and strict alternate picking. The chords should be accented so they really stand out. I would suggest working on this section at a slower tempo and gradually building it up to speed.

Bars 13-14 illustrate our second time section that concludes the verse progression. This section concludes with a descending open string pull off figure that uses notes from A minor pentatonic.

Bars 15-30 show our chorus section, with the mood of the track lifting as we modulate a dominant sounding tonality based around the V, IV and I triads of C major performed G notes, the fifth degree of the scale, played by the bass. This section uses the chords of G5, F5 and C, performed using different shapes for colour and variation. The C/E chord is arpeggiated with palm muting and is embellished with a 6th string-bending figure.

Bars 31-34 re-introduce our intro riff, preparing us for the solo section.

Bars 35-38 see our solo kick off, with the track modulation to the key off F# minor, using the F# Aeolian mode. Our opening lick has its feet firmly planted in classic Rock/Blues territory with a fast repetitive bending figure using notes from F# minor pentatonic. The lick concludes with a searing bend, gradually raising from a tone to a tone and a half.

Bars 39-40 include one of Randy’s signature tapping arpeggio figures, shifting between the arpeggios of F# minor and D major. Randy played his arpeggios slightly differently to Eddie, as he included a double tap and pull off at the start of the figure.

Bars 41-42 conclude the first half of the solo with a descending F# minor lick that utilizes the F# blues scale and F# Aeolian; this section concludes with a held bend and tap phrase.

Bars 43-46 see use modulate back to A natural minor, and kick off with a fast pentatonic repetition figure. This figure is quite awkward so build up the speed gradually. This section concludes with a bluesy descending line and bending lick.

Bars 47-51 conclude our solo, with this section kicking off with an ascending A minor pentatonic run. The solo concludes with a demonstration of Randy’s classical flavoured licks, with a fast ascending diminished 7th figure performed on the top two strings. This lick features the same shape, and simply shifts in minor 3rd intervals.

The Sound

Randy had a very distinct tone, favouring a classic guitar and amp combination. He was a Marshall user, and favoured 100 Watt heads and full stacks. Guitars of choice included his famous white ‘74 Gibson Les Paul custom, seen in many photographs, as well as the limited amount of live footage of Randy. He also used “V” style guitars including Charvel Jackson “Vs”, and a custom build “Polka Dot” V built by Karl Sandorval. His on the board stomp boxes included mainly MXR effects such as a distortion+, an EQ, used for solo boost, and a flanger and a chorus. He also used an old Roland echo unit.

His tone was very crunchy, with the upper mid range exaggerated; this isn’t a modern scooped tone! For the GI session I used a Music Man Reflex, single cut guitar, into a Zakk Wylde MXR distortion. This was plugged into my Boogie Mark 1 Kingsnake combo. I set the amp so that it was just starting to break up, and pushed it into a rich saturation with the stomp box. I also added a healthy amount of mid range.


Issue #50

John Petrucci

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