** As featured in issue 31 **
Hi there and welcome to this month’s Modern Rock Techniques guitar lesson column, with the seventh part in our series looking at the legato guitar technique. This guitar tutorial we are going to take some of the main patterns that we’ve been developing as vertical guitar runs over the course of the series, and apply them horizontally - ascending the fretboard using the high two-string set (B and E strings).
Practising our patterns horizontally will help us to develop our visualisation of the scale as it ascends configured over a two-string set. This concept can be further applied to the middle D and G strings followed by the low E and A strings, and can be useful for breaking out of position and extending runs when improvising. A well used trademark in the styles of modern Rock virtuosos such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Richie Kotzen, this week’s routine features both half-roll and full-roll legato styles played using sextuplet, septuplet and quintuplet subdivisions.
This time I’ll be demonstrating the sextuplet and septuplet examples at 120bpm over the backing track ‘Hard Rocker’, with the quintuplets played at 160bpm over our other backing track ‘Full Roller’. Both of these tracks are based around a hard-rock feel in A Dorian, and are downloadable along with the tablature by following the link on the page.
Get the tone
To get a good modern Rock tone, set the gain on your amp to maximum, with the bass and treble set slightly boosted (1 o’clock), and the mid-range either slightly scooped (10 o’clock) for rhythm or boosted (1-2 o’clock) for lead. For the lesson, I used my Ibanez J Custom with Bare Knuckles VH II pick-ups, through an Axe-FX II - set up with the Brit Super amp (based on the Marshall AFD head), along with a tubescreamer style overdrive pedal and some stereo delay.
Our first example configures the notes of the A Dorian mode on the high B and E strings starting from the position 7 area, and using the half-roll sextuplet pattern that we focussed on in issue 26. The pattern ascends through the positions every two beats until it reaches the octave, where it finishes with a bend and vibrato from the b7th degree up to the root note.
Try to keep the hand position fairly square and dropped with plenty of space from the underside of the neck to the cup of the hand and with space between the individual digits. As you reach the 12th fret and ascend towards the finishing bend, the hand position should move into a slight forwards angle - with the thumb moving up into the upper-half of the neck, and finally clamping over once the bend is struck. The vibrato will come from a rotation of the forearm and wrist and with the fingers remaining rigid. Try to pick lightly, and reinforce the sextuplet feel by tapping your foot every six notes on the beat.
This second example features the septuplet pattern that we looked at in issue 27 - again applied this week to our A Dorian two-string framework. With seven notes per beat, this example has a slightly faster and more complex ‘full-roll’ sound in comparison to our previous half-roll sextuplet example.
With more stamina required, be sure to shake out your hands and arms as soon as you feel any tension or fatigue arise. Try taking smaller sections and working on two positions at a time - gradually building the whole idea shape by shape.
Hammer down hard and from a height at first, gradually refining as you apply speed over the weeks and months. Try to pull-off lightly and cleanly with no dissonant noises. Remember to mute the lower string above the one you are playing with the tip of the fretting hand first finger as well any higher strings underneath.
The example ascends the fretboard to the octave, before targeting a semitone bend on the high E string from the 9th degree to the b3rd and finishing with vibrato.
Our third example features the quintuplet pattern which we’ve been looking at recently - from issue 29 covering vertical runs, to last month’s solo study Full-Roller, which featured some quintuplet ideas.
This time, we’ll look at applying the pattern through our two-string framework in A Dorian. As you ascend position by position, try to tap your foot on the beat every five notes. On beats 2 and 4 of each bar, the accent will fall on the hammered fourth finger note, so be sure to coordinate your foot to reinforce this feel. Practice slowly until you have established the feel of the grouping and are able to repeat continuously with good timing and a consistent tone.
As this technique is known to induce rapidly escalating tension and fatigue, make sure you shake out your hands and arms frequently as it arises. After a week or so, your stamina will start to improve and the discomfort will become less as you gain familiarity with the technique.
After ascending the fretboard to the octave, the final phrase uses a hammer-on-from-nowhere on the B string - hitting down hard and from a height using the third finger. The phrase then moves to the high E string root, before quickly returning to the B string and targeting a bend from the b7th degree up to the resolving root note and finishing with slow-wide vibrato.
That’s all for this issue, thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next issue for the eighth part in our legato series, which will be looking at using slides to move through the positions