** As featured in issue 27 **
Hi there and welcome to this month’s Modern Rock Techniques guitar lesson column, with the second part in our series developing the legato guitar technique. This time we are going to look at ideas based around the septuplet subdivision, which involves playing 7 notes per beat using a full-roll hammer-on and pull-off technique. Popular with the legato guitar players of the mid to late 1980s such as Joe Satriani, Vai, Richie Kotzen and Greg Howe, this type of legato guitar playing provides a faster and more complex sound than the half-roll style, and can be useful for building intensity during guitar solos and improvisation.
Following on from the last issue, we’ll be using our A Dorian backing track, originally taken from the Issue 25 solo study `Hard Rocker’ and with a tempo of 120bpm. Follow the link on the page to download the tabs and backing track.
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 solo and lesson, I used my Ibanez J CRG-2 TB with Bare Knuckles VH II pick-ups, through a Fractal 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.
Using a similar structure to our previous lesson, we’ll start off with a repetition exercise, ascending the whole position 7 A Dorian shape, and finish with a ‘stop’ note on the high E-string. After memorising the idea with equal spacing between each note, and playing through slowly with good accuracy and tone, start the metronome at 40bpm and spend a week practising the exercise every day for 5 minutes until the timing is completely stable.
After a week or so, the fatigue will get a lot less and you may be able to increase the click by 10bpm or so. Try to spend a minimum of one week on a certain speed before increasing, and remember that speed is the by-product of highly accurate timing which comes through regular practice.
For you to get the most benefit from practising repetitions in small, highly efficient timeframes like 5 minutes, the exercise firstly has to be perfected to an immaculate, almost machine-perfect standard, so concentrate on good muting, tone and timing before increasing the speed. Once the first position is memorised, apply through all the remaining scale shapes.
When you reach the 120bpm target, play through all 7 shapes for 2 minutes each, making up an efficient, advanced level 14 minute ‘maintenance routine,’ great for warming up and keeping the technique ready for action!
Here we’ll go to our next step and look at how we can turn our repetition exercise into a killer Rock lick! Again, following the template from our previous lesson, we can lead the run up into an ‘exit’ or finishing note, usually a bend and/or vibrato note. This example finishes with a B-string bend from the b7 up to the root note. From here we can carry on improvising by visualising the familiar underlying Am pentatonic position 1 shape, and mixing in some more traditional Rock phrases for contrast
We could also apply our ‘3 master shapes’ concept from the last lesson and ascend through position 2 (Phrygian shape), targeting the semi-tone bend on the B-string from the 9th to the b3. We could then apply the idea to position 4 (Mixolydian shape), targeting the 15th fret B-string with a bend from the 4th to the 5th. In all cases, try to visualise the underlying Am pentatonic scale when you hit the exit bend, adding complimentary rock phrasing to expand the idea.
Staying within the position 7 shape, we can also explore a variety of chord tone related target or exit notes. This example rolls up to the high E-string and finishes with a semi-tone bend on the 7th fret from the 9th up to the b3rd. On the high B and E strings, this type of idea can also be played using the first, second and third fingers, so try developing both approaches.
As you ascend, the fretting hand position should start to slightly angle as you reach the high strings, with the thumb moving over the top of the neck to form a pivot with the first finger just above the knuckle. From the pivot, and with the fingers remaining rigid, the bending and vibrato motion should come from a rotation of the wrist and forearm.
For the more modern Rock sound, hold the bend momentarily for one beat before introducing the vibrato, keeping the vibrato in time with three slow, semi-tone wide pulses based around the most appropriate subdivision (in our example the tempo lends itself well to an eighth-note based vibrato pulse dipping in anticipation and felt from the first peak staring on beat 2).
We can also apply the same type of exit by finishing with a semi-tone bend from the 6th to the b7 on the B-string. Throughout all of these examples, remember to be aware of any string noise and if any occurs, find out what caused it and try to eliminate it. Follow our previous lesson's guidance on muting, with the fretting hand positioned square and dropped, and with the first finger set to mute the lower (bass) string above as well as all higher (treble) strings underneath the note being played. The picking hand then mutes off any lower strings unattended by the fretting hand.
Try transposing this example to A Dorian position 3 (Lydian shape), finishing on the 12th fret B-string with a semi-tone bend from the 9th to the b3rd, followed by the position 5 (Aeolian shape), resolving on the 15th fret B-string with a bend from the 4th degree to the 5th.
Finally, we have another septuplet run starting in position 7 and ascending over the first four strings with an exit on the G-string, targeting the b3rd. Although you can play this finishing note using the fretting hand second finger, I’d also advise trying with the first finger. This will place you inside the Am pentatonic position 1 box pattern, setting you up to carry on improvising using more traditional rock phrasing, and which will work well as a contrast to the fast fluid legato run.
Try this example out using our ‘3 master shapes’ concept. Playing through the position 2 A Dorian form (Phrygian shape) will give us the 5th when exiting in the same way on the G-string. Position 4 (Mixolydian shape) will give us the b7 and we can also add the position 5 form (Aeolian shape) to exit on the root note.
When finishing on the G-string, pull the string downwards for the vibrato. The hand should be fairly angled, with the thumb moving up and over the neck to form a pivot with the first finger just above the knuckle. From here, keep the fingers bunched together in support of each other and let the motion come from a rotation of the wrist and forearm.
That’s all for this issue, thanks for joining me and I’ll see you next time for the third part in our legato series, which will be looking at extending some of our legato ideas using the tapping technique.