** As featured in issue 20 **
Hello everyone, Sam Bell here again for the second installment in my extended range guitar series. Last issue we introduced the 8-string guitar and talked about tunings, scale lengths and tone and I took you through a few of my riffs to give you a basic idea of how the 8-string can be used. In this month's issue I want to take you through one big riff I wrote for one of Rick Graham's YouTube competitions a few years ago. I was lucky enough to get in the top five, and ever since it has opened my mind to even more possibilities on the 8-string guitar. This riff uses a lot of chord inversions, tapping, syncopation, and it is based around one main theme. In technical and progressive music it is easy to get lost in the technical side of things, however I strongly feel that having a theme and a clear harmony in mind can really help make your riffs catchy, moving and interesting. I am going to split today’s riff into four sections, much the same way as I did when I wrote it. Let’s break it down and see what we get!
When writing this tune I started with a chord progression. This first section is based around F#m7, Dmaj7 and Bm9. We start of with an open low F# followed by a 4 note melody which outlines an F#m7 chord in its 1st inversion (lowest note being the 3rd of the chord). We then repeat the same figure but follow it with a Dmaj7 1st inversion ascending pattern which leads us nicely into the Dmaj7 part of our chord progression. We then play an arpeggio pattern based around the root inversion of the Dmaj7, descending down to a B5 chord followed by a sequenced Bm9 arpeggio starting on the 9th, ascending up to the 7th and skipping up to the b3rd and descending the arpeggio down to the 5th leading into the 2nd section.
I decided to add a slight twist to the chord progression for the second section, we keep the theme of the open F# and descending arpeggio, however the tonality has changed from Minor 7 to dominant 7th. We follow on with another low open F# and 3rd inversion arpeggio sequence following the same pattern as we had in section 1 with the Bm9 arpeggio. We then follow on with a Dmaj7#11 with the root on the E string descending down to a Gmaj6 tonality arpeggio theme using hammer ons with the left hand and tapping and sliding with the right hand. The reason why I call this a theme separately is that a similar style idea happens in section 3 which follows the same technique and rhythmic focus.
In this section we are back to our section 1 chord progression, however we are using tapping and very wide intervals to make it seem there is two parts happening at the same time. We start off with our open F# followed by a tapping motif, be sure to keep string noise to a minimum by keeping the palm and flat of the picking hand above the strings not being played. After the open F# and the tapping figure we repeat the same idea except this time we play A on the 15th fret low F# string which is the b3rd with a slight micro bend pulling off to an open F# and follow on with the same tapping motif but with a tap slide at the end, which continues our micro theme from the end of section 2. This creates continuity in the parts, and a sense of development and flow. We then round up section 3 with the same round up as section 1, however this time we have a slightly differently voiced arpeggio figure which still outlines our Bm9 tonality.
So far I have aimed to make each section build into each other, after the wide spaced intervals and sparse rhythmic arrangement of section 3 I felt it was time to get some more straightforward chord stabs into section 4. We start our open F# followed by a 1st inversion F#7 played 3 times, followed by another open F# and a 3rd inversion F#7 played to the same rhythm. This creates a building sensation in the harmony, and I have emphasised the core rhythm with the drums in order to build to the ending which follows our same Dmaj7 and Bm9 movement but this time with just power chords, leaving the overall tonality of the harmony to the string section.
So there it is my big and hopefully epic riff for this month. Have fun with it, try coming up with your own variations and ideas using chord inversions, wide interval tapping and themes. Start simple, as you can see here, I have broken the riff down into four core parts, which all interrelate to each other and share different motifs between sections. All of these ideas started as smaller ideas which I spent time squeezing variations from until I had all the parts together. Hopefully you can also see how I have used the range of the 8-string not only for the lower notes, but in a positional way to get wide intervals and interweaving parts. Next month we will look at ways of using the range to create big arpeggios that can be used as a tool to write your own music, understand the 8-string fret board and to shred! Until then, have fun, and keep creative.