** As featured in issue 30 **
Welcome to this issue's Modern Rock Techniques guitar lesson, with the sixth part in our series looking at the legato guitar technique. This lesson features the solo study ‘Full Roller’, which follows on from the last issue’s guitar lesson on full-roll legato quintuplets. The guitar solo continues with our quintuplet-based legato theme, as well as integrating the sweeping and hammer-on-from-nowhere guitar techniques. Throughout the study there is also an emphasis on good timing and intonation with string bending and vibrato.
The track is based around the A Dorian mode, which is the second mode in the key of G major, and with a tempo of 160bpm. Included in the lesson is a downloadable extended backing track for you to try applying some of the ideas presented, and which we’ll be referring back to over the course of the series.
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 on the bridge position, through an Axe-FX II - set up with the Brit Super amp (based on the Marshall AFD head), along with a Tube Screamer style overdrive pedal and some stereo delay.
Rhythm Guitar Part
The track starts on the ‘and’ of beat 4 in anticipation to the first bar of the A section. Featuring a single-line idea using the A Dorian mode - with an added b5 borrowed from the Blues scale, the riff utilises slides and open strings to give a driving eighth-note feel reminiscent of players such as Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani.
With the bluesy b5 featured on the ‘and’ of beat 3, and with the 6th degree (F#) clashing with the open G string b7th - providing colour as we move into bar 2 - the riff is also punctuated with some two-string G and D power chords - voiced with the 5th degree as the lowest note.
To ensure good clean note separation, remember to mute off the open A string with the tip of the first finger already in place as you execute the 7th fret pull-off on the D string. The first finger is also responsible for keeping the higher treble strings muted by resting lightly across the strings.
After eight bars, the track moves into the B section which provides the backing for the lead solo. This section uses a C power chord alternating with a two-string G major voicing (R and 3rd) and is underpinned by an open A string riff played using palm-muted downstrokes.
Against the root note and tonal centre of A, the superimposed C power chord gives us an A minor 7 sound, and the 3rd degree of the G major voicing (B) gives us the colourful 9th degree - extending our minor 7 sound to minor 9.
On the ‘and’ of beat 4 in the second bar, an open D power chord is played - sustaining through to beat 4 of the third bar where a muted stroke sets up the open G power chord - again played in anticipation on the ‘and’ of beat 4 leading into the fourth bar.
From a single line at the end of the fourth bar played on the A string, the riff then repeats. In the second set of four bars, a second time variation in bars 7 and 8 features some C and D power chords, along with the final open G power chord - this time played on the beat. This whole 8-bar arrangement then repeats once more as the solo continues, resolving with an A power chord to finish.
Lead Guitar Solo
Following on from the A-section riff, the solo starts in bar 9 with some lightly played downstrokes outlining the position 1 A minor blues scale, and with the descending melody on the G string played with pinch harmonics and wide vibrato reminiscent of players such as George Lynch.
Our first lick then continues up in the position 3 A minor pentatonic area, with a slide into the 9th fret on the G string and a pedal tone idea which uses a semitone bend from the 12th fret B string. In bar 12, the idea then quickly shifts back to position 1 for a hammer-on, followed by a first finger barre and bend at the 5th fret - giving a Van Halen-esque quality. To execute this finishing phrase, you’ll need to roll the first finger-pad across the B and G strings with enough finger tip left to grip onto the top of the G string and pull it downwards for the bend and subsequent wide vibrato.
Throughout this first lick, the fretting hand position should be fairly angled with the thumb placed in the upper-half of the back of the neck. When bending and using the wide vibrato style, pivot from the thumb clamped over the neck and the first finger - with the motion coming from a rotation of the forearm and wrist similar in feel to the action of turning a key in a lock.
In bars 13 and 14 we have lick 2, which starts with a semitone bend and release on the G string - pulling the string slightly downwards and continuing with a descending A minor pentatonic line which slides back on the A string using the third finger. The same pull-down nuance also occurs on the 2nd fret of the A string (9th degree) leading to the finishing root note played as a pinch harmonic and again pulling downwards for the wide vibrato.
In bar 15 we have a quintuplet legato run which we spent the last issue developing, and which ascends in position 7 (relative to our 3-notes-per-string system), before moving up an octave and repeating in bar 16. With an incomplete quintuplet on the final beat of the bar, the phrase rolls back on the high E string and targets the root note on the B string at the 10th fret - pushing the string upwards for the wide vibrato.
In bar 17, the lick finishes with a classic-rock inspired pentatonic phrase, with the root and 5th on the high E and B strings up at the 17th fret setting up a bend from the b7th up to the root note on the B string, and finishing with vibrato.
Our third lick covers bars 18 to 20. This idea features a superimposed arpeggio progression which ascends a C major 7 arpeggio (giving us the b3rd, 5th, b7th and 9th degrees when viewed against the A root note); before descending as a D dominant 7 (giving us the root, 5th, 11th and 13th degrees). This is then followed by an ascending A minor 7 arpeggio which descends as a B minor 7 (giving us the root, 9th, 11th and 13th degrees). This colourful cascade of superimposed arpeggios extends our basic minor 7 harmony and creates melodic tension. Arpeggio-based ideas like this provide an effective way to bring a sense of motion to static rock solo sections.
Technically, this third lick uses the sweeping technique to ascend the arpeggios up to the high E string, extended with three consecutive scale degrees using the legato technique and a tap. For the sweep stroke - drop the pick through the strings in a single motion using the arm from the elbow. If slowed right down you should see the pick actually rest momentarily on the next string down - building pressure on the string and then pushing through - similar to the motion of dragging a stick through park railings.
Follow the fingerings on the notation and be aware of the fourth finger hammer-on just before the second tap, as this is crucial to a successful transition from the ascending C major 7 to the descending D dominant arpeggio. When descending using the hammer-on-from-nowhere technique, hit down hard and from a height. The first finger will more than likely be weak and so try to get a good confident hit. Once the first finger has hammered down, it remains fairly flat so as to mute off the higher treble strings as you are descending.
Break down and work your way through the sequence two beats at a time until memorised before finding your base speed of around 60bpm for sixteenth-notes or 120bpm as eighth-notes, which may feel more stable. Stay on this speed for a week or so until the lick is even in timing and tone, and you are able to repeat continuously to a metronome. After a week of daily practice, try to increase the click and find your new speed.
From the last hammer-on-from-nowhere of the arpeggio section in bar 20 and moving into bar 21, stretch out with the thumb in the middle of the neck and play the 10th fret on the A string with your first finger. This note is played like a grace note - hammering on quickly to the root at the 12th fret. The lick then continues with an A minor pentatonic phrase which moves from position 3 to position 4, using a third finger slide on the last two sixteenth-notes of bar 21.
Our final lick played over bars 23 and 24 features another quintuplet-based legato pattern starting on the G string and ascending to the high E string. The notes then roll back - pulling-off, and the lick descends through the positions on a single string, with the pick using a downstroke per beat to help articulate the groupings. Once back in the position 7 area in the third beat of bar 24 (relative to our 3-notes-per-string framework), there is a hammer-on-from-nowhere on the B string (b7th degree), before a downstroke on the high E root note and then a return to the B string for another downstroke targeting the final bend from the b7 up to the root note and finishing with wide vibrato.
That’s all for this issue, enjoy the solo and backing track and I’ll be back next issue for the first in a series of columns looking at developing the legato technique.