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Lesson Series

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Sam Bell - Extended Range Guitar Part 11: Endeavour, Phrygian Riff

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 29 **

Hello there Extended Range Guitar Lovers! I am back with the next instalment of our look at Extended Range Guitar playing. In this guitar lesson we are going to take a look at a metal guitar riff that is featured on my band Mask of Judas’s old EP ‘Axis’ - the riff is the main verse guitar riff from the song Endeavour. This 7 string guitar riff was very inspired by some chords I heard fusion/flamenco virtuoso Al Di Meola using on one of his solo albums. The chords sound very dark and dramatic due to the use of notes from the Phrygian mode of the Diatonic Major scale. I used chords that highlight the sound of that mode in order to create a heavy metal guitar riff that had some interesting harmonic context within it.

For this riff I am using my 7-string in standard tuning: B, E, A, D, G, B, E. The riff is based on a triplet feel open low B note motif followed by a chord stab. This little triplet motif features throughout the riff and should be played with alternate picking. The featured chord in this section is a Bm11b9, it requires quite a stretch and does look a bit strange however it helps me to visualise this chord as a B5 power chord with a root on the low E string that is played with fingers 2, 3, and 4 whilst the first finger bars across the top three strings at the 5th fret in order to get the b9, 11 and b7th of the chord. Due to the repetitive nature of this first motif and the accuracy that is needed to play it with good delivery I would spend time practicing going between the single note low B triplet patterns followed by the larger strumming of the Bm11b9 chord. Start slowly and make sure you know where you are going before you attempt to build up the speed.

This first motif repeats around twice before I use a transfer lick that smoothly brings us up to the next set of chord stabs. The notes in the transfer lick are taken from B Phrygian and use slides, octaves and string skipping in order to create a flowing modern effect. This lick slides from the root to the b9 on the E string and then with the little finger I aim for the b6 sliding down to the 5th on the A before hitting the octave of the root on the D string with another slide up on the same string to the b9 and hitting the next octave up of the root note on the B string. This lick uses 8th note triplets, be sure to practice this one slowly as well, making sure the slides are articulate and in the pocket rhythmically. I use alternate picking on the string changes, sometimes I like to play this riff using my middle finger on the right hand to hybrid pick the B string 12th fret so the note “pops” out and gives the triplet 8th note phrase a little more rhythmic emphasis.

The original low B string triplet motif then repeats once again however this time we are moving to a different set of chords. The first chord is a Cmaj7 and the second chord could be called an Am13. The Cmaj7 chord is based around a C shape with the root and the major 3rd on the A and D strings respectively. Using the 3rd and 4th fingers on the fretting hand to access those notes leaving my first finger free to bar over the top three strings to highlight the 5th, major 7th and another major 3rd. The second chord is based around an Am bar chord shape at the 12th fret with the root on the A string however we take away our 4th finger on what would usually be the 14th fret G string and place it on the 14th fret high E string so the major 6th (13th) is highlighted and now the bar with the first finger at the 12 fret is now sounding out the b7 interval in the chord. These two chords are played sequentially using the same rhythmic motif we used for the Bm11b9 chord. The riff then goes back to the original motif before we reach the ending phrase…

The ending phrase uses the same kind of concept that we find in the middle transfer lick however this time we are using the top three strings and we holding down certain notes to create dissonance between certain intervals. We slide on the B string from the 10th to the 12th fret with our little finger, highlighting the b7 resolving to the root intervals. We then hit the 8th fret high E string to hit the b9 interval with our first finger whilst still holding down the B string note and descending down a B5 power chord shape that crosses the B, G and D strings. We then move to a counter melody which uses slides around the root, b9, b6 and 5th intervals. We slide from 13 down to 12 on the B string with the 4th finger followed by a slide from 9 to 10 on the D string with the first finger. We then hit the 12 fret G string with the 3rd finger and slide down to 11. Be sure to check out the tab to make sure you have the right frets and phrasing. As with the last riff, practice this in sections and make sure you retain the triplet 8th note feel. Congratulations you have completed the riff!

I hope this riff gives you some inspiration and ideas to go into your own writing and playing. I think it’s really important to base ideas of themes and use repetition in creative ways in order to create a coherent and melodically interesting riff. Maybe try this idea and re-harmonise the notes and chords so they fit around a different tonality, just imagine how it would sound in a Lydian context, or better still twisting it a step more to make it fit around a Lydian Dominant context. The choice is yours to make!

Have fun and I shall see you next issue!

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