Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #6
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
To celebrate our Shrapnel Records feature, and Jason Becker’s account of his career, Jamie Humphries presents a Shrapnel Jam session, featuring, the riffs, the licks and the style of some of Shrapnel’s masters of shred. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to shred till you drop!
For me, the artists at Shrapnel records recorded and produced some of the most inspiring guitar albums of the ‘80s. Guitarists such as Jason Becker, Marty Friedman, Yngwie Malmsteen, Paul Gilbert, Greg Howe and Richie Kotzen were at the forefront of the technical instrumental guitar movement, and produced ground breaking that defined the genre. This new era of guitarist made such techniques as alternate picking, sweep picking, economy picking, and tapping part of every day practice vocabulary for guitarists all over the world. They were also responsible for guitarists wanting to understand theory, and modes, and explore more exotic modes of the major scale, as well as Harmonic minor - and in the case of Jason and Marty, experiment with exotic Japanese scales. Then there were the guitars; colourful, pointy, and with fast flat necks for optimum shred capabilities! And of course there was Yngwie, although he played a Strat, the Stradivarius of the electric guitar as he called it, Yngwie scalloped his fret boards for ultimate speed, and a wide vibrato.
The track I have put together for this tech session, is pretty tricky, and although it only clocks in at 140bpm, it’s to be played with a double time feel, so the equivalent to 240bpm!
The track is divided into three sections; the first section, Section A, features a harmony E harmonic minor line, concluded with the B/D# chord performed with accents, with the bass and drums.
Section B, is our verse and is based around a series of two note chords performed on the A and the D strings against the muted low E string, while the bass guitar underpins the harmony with a driving E note through out. The two note chords are all diatonic to the G major scale, and out line chords VI, V, and IV, before concluding with the chords of G5, and D5/A. The tone for this should be pretty distorted, but cut some of the lower frequencies, so the sound is slightly thinner than more modern metal, and add a healthy does of stereo chorus. Checkout early Racer X, or Cacophony, for that mid ‘80s tone; think ADA MP1 preamp, and Alesis Midiverb chorus!
Section C is our chorus and is based around the A Aeolian mode, mode VI of the C major scale. For this section once again we pedal off of the root note, which for this section is the open A string. We imply the mode with the chords of A5, Am7, F/A and G5, which are accented against the tight driven root note.
Our first solo is over Section B, and kicks off with a Jason Becker inspired lick that is based around a Japanese Pentatonic scale based around E minor. This scale differs from a regular minor pentatonic, as it consists of the following intervallic structure; 1st, 2nd, b3rd, 5th and b6th. This symmetrical pattern crosses the neck and concludes with an E minor pentatonic phrase. Our next phrase is also based around our Japanese pentatonic scale. This lick makes use of wide intervals and is inspired by both Jason and Marty, and has a very exotic flavour.
Our next lick is Jason and Yngwie inspired fast picking sequence that covers a large portion of the neck. Pay attention to the bends that conclude this lick. Our next figure is pure Paul Gilbert, and includes a figure that uses Paul’s signature string skipping arpeggios. Our first solo concludes with some Yngwie inspired diminished 7th arpeggios that shift up the top three strings in minor thirds, and use sweep picking.
Our next solo is based around Section C, and sees us modulating to A minor. The solo kicks off with a simple stylistic phrase, that follows the chord changes, and its function is to add a little more melody, as opposed to being so lick based, and also to give you some breathing space! Our next lick is a cool Paul Gilbert Blues lick, which is a loop pattern, that is great for building speed, and is based around the A Blues scale. Our next phrase is a Richie Kotzen figure that demonstrates his fluid legato style and covers large sections of the neck. Our next lick includes some Yngwie inspired triad arpeggios based around Am and G major arpeggios. From this we conclude the chorus section with some larger Jason Becker inspired arpeggio’s that feature Jason’s slightly unorthodox fingerings, and wide stretches.
Our final solo is performed over the B section, and kicks off with a very large arpeggio based around Em9, and uses a mixture of sweep picking and legato, and also tapping. The lick is concluded with one of Richie’s signature bluesy unison bends. The necks lick is inspired by Richie Kotzen, Greg Howe and Jason Becker, and is a lick that crosses the E minor pentatonic scale using a barring technique. Our next lick is another Richie lick, and utilizes wide stretches based around E minor pentatonic, embellished with some tapping. The licks also shift positions, performing the same phrase an octave lower on the D and G strings. Our next lick is inspired by Michael Lee Firkins, and makes use of 6th intervals played on the top two strings, and performed with whammy bar scoops, as they ascend up the neck. Our neck lick is based on both Greg Howe and Darren Householder, and makes use of two G major arpeggios shapes based around the A and C shapes, performed with sweeps, then a series of taps and left hand hammer-ons. Our neck lick is another Paul Gilbert wide stretch pentatonic idea that uses string skipping and tapping, which concludes with a Greg Howe ascending and descending scale run that uses 3 note per-string ideas with tapping. The solo concludes with our intro figure performed and octave higher and concluded with some unison bends.