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Lesson Series

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Andy James - Mirrored String Skipping Arpeggios

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 21 **

Hey all and welcome to another Metal Edge. This month we'll be digging into a concept I like to call “Mirrored String Skipping Arpeggios” which will open up your options for playing arpeggios.

The basic idea is that there are a series of arpeggio shapes (minor and major 7 for example) where if we skip out some strings we're left with some patterns that “mirror”, so for example a major 3rd on the A, a semitone on the G and another major 3rd on the high E string. The result is a slightly less predictable sound than the typical up and down arpeggios you hear from sweep pickers like Yngwie Malmsteen or Jeff Loomis.

I should point out, I don't love this approach because it's in some way “better” than sweep picking, but as I've said over these columns, I tend to avoid sweep picking because I always found it harder than the alternatives. Paul Gilbert talked about this in great detail on his Intense Rock DVD where he demonstrates the melodic possibility of playing arpeggios using string skipping.

What it comes down to is that string skipping allows me to “sequence” my arpeggios a little better. What this means is that I don't have to play C E G B C E G B C as you might when sweeping because it's difficult to change direction mid way through an arpeggio. With this string skipping approach I could play C E G E G B C B G E G B C E G B G B C and so on. In the tab file I've demonstrated this on the second example.

Check out the tab file and you'll see a few examples transcribed of things I play in the lesson. The first exercise is just the arpeggios played moving down the neck, you'll often hear shapes like these in the playing of guys like Carl Verheyen and even Greg Howe so spend some time getting them under your fingers so you can build up speed.

The beauty of these shapes is that you can easily expand on them by sliding around, or even adding taps. In example 3 I've added a tapped note on top of the C major 7 pattern, but this could be added to any one of the arpeggios to cover more range.

In example 4 I've demonstrated some Richie Kotzen-esque phrases that use sweep picking and legato to get a more fluid sound. It was that fluid sound that pushed me down this arpeggio route because they just sound so much smoother than the more aggressive sounding sweep picking technique.

Another way to extend these ideas is to add a right hand tap giving you three notes on each string. This technique is a favourite of players like Greg Howe and Michael Romeo and when played side by side with sweep picking gives you a totally different, more slippery feel.

To finish up the lesson I've improvised a long line using this technique that you can practice using the tab. You may gain some benefit from learning what I played, but I would encourage you to take it in your own direction and some up with some of your own licks.

Next issue we'll lay off the technique side of things with a slice of bending and vibrato, so be prepared to really start making your playing sing.

Until then, stay metal!


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