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Andy James - Unpredictable Leaps

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 20 **

Hello all and welcome to another edition of my Metal Edge guitar lesson series. If you checked out my last guitar lesson on diminished sounds what you might have noticed is that the guitar licks I showed you were very linear in contour. By that I mean that every note played was usually followed by the next one in the scale, this is often called “conjuct” movement and at speed it creates long flowing lines with step wise movement. That's all well and good but sometimes it can be refreshing to break that old habit and add some less predictable leaps into your playing and a good starting point to add flavours like this to your solos is using octave leaps.

Now if you listen to players like John Petrucci or Steve Vai you'll hear ideas like this a lot and they really stand out when compared to someone like Paul Gilbert who doesn't go down this route. That's not to say that Paul is any less of a player, it just highlights how the soloing ideas you use can all come together to create your own unique voice on the instrument.

The basic idea here is to be able to play the pentatonic scale but each time you play a note you can jump up (or down) and play an octave of that note. So if I play the 15th fret of the high E string (G) I could jump down and play the 12th fret of the G string (G an octave lower) and then perhaps the 15th fret of the B string (D) and then the 12th fret of the D string (D an octave lower). This can be a real task to visualise, but if you take it slowly in each position you'll soon be able to see these shapes hidden inside the box patterns.

You could think of that previous approach as vertical in nature, because we're moving vertically from the higher to the lower strings, this is actually even more intervallic because you're moving from G down to D which is a leap itself (and you're adding more leaps because of the octaves), another approach would be to play horizontally on the neck which blends step motion and leaps together to create some great melodic ideas.

To play horizontally you might play the 12th fret of the G (G) then the 15th fret of the high E (G an octave higher) then back down to the 12th fret G (G) then slide down to the 9th fret G (E), up to the 12th fret on the E (E an octave higher), repeat the 9th fret on the G and slide down to the 7th fret on the G (D).

That's probably pretty confusing described in text form, so take a look at the tab file to see these ideas in a manner that'll be easier to follow. The first 9 notes for example are horizontal phrasing but then I switch into the more vertical approach. I like this way of playing because it keeps the listener guessing and is well worth playing with.

If you want to take this a step further you could toy around with other intervals as the source for intervallic leaps, both Petrucci and Vai apply similar ideas using 5ths a lot too and these in particular work great when playing horizontally, check out John's solo on the Dream Theater song Under A Glass Moon to hear them in full effect.

Take some time with the video this month, learn the example lick I teach but then go out and try and come up with some of your own ideas as soon as possible. You’ll never be able to play my licks as naturally as I do because these are what come naturally to me. Your own licks will always sound the most natural and they're always the most rewarding.

Next month we'll check out some string skipping ideas so until then, keep rocking!


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