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Sam Bell - Extended Range Guitar Part 7: Gravity Riff

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 25 **

Welcome to the 7th part in my extended range metal guitar lesson series, I hope you have been enjoying the in depth look at the different possibilities of the seven and eight string guitar so far. If you haven’t checked out my previous columns I highly recommend you do so! This seventh column marks the start of the second half of my look at ERG guitar playing (extended range guitar) and in this guitar lesson I have my trusty 7 string guitar with me to show you a Michael Jackson inspired metal riff from my song ‘Gravity’ which you can see a full live performance of on the Lick Library YouTube channel.

I am a big fan of Michael Jackson’s music, I love the songwriting, melodies, arrangements and awesome production. So it's no surprise to me that I get a lot of inspiration from his music. I think it’s very important to listen to lots of different styles of music, there are many different ways that fresh music can inspire you, especially when writing for a style of music that is totally different than the ones you are listening to. Whilst it’s good to listen to the style of music you are composing, it’s good to listen to others as they may highlight areas of arrangement, melody, harmony, production that you might not frequently get in the style you are focusing on composing.

Today’s riff was inspired by Michael Jackson’s funky guitar and horn section arrangements that can be found in a lot of his music, particularly from his album Bad which features a song called Speed Demon. The song features lots of funky chords and fluid bass/horn runs based around 7th chords and pentatonic scales. I wanted to re-create something like this but in a heavy context and on one instrument, so that’s where the inspiration for this issues riff came from!

The riff is in seven string standard tuning B,E,A,D,G,B,E and based around a B7 tonality. We start off with an open B string rhythm that uses a combination of open and palm muted notes to create the rhythmic accents that give this riff a cool syncopated feel. I talked in depth about this in last issue's column on picking hand dynamics and how to create different tones from the string, if you missed that, check that column out! After the syncopated open B motif we play a three note cluster based around a B7 chord but with the b7 at the low end of the voicing with the major 3rd in the middle, this is a classic staircase style shape that highlights a tri tone interval within the B7 chord. We slide this up a tone to highlight the root note and a b5 before sliding rapidly back to the first b7 inversion of the chord.

This movement and the voicing create a nice dissonant texture that stands out in the riff, almost like a horn section chord ‘stab’ that funk bands use. We then return to the open low B string syncopated riff before playing an ascending riff on the B, E and A strings that uses open notes to create a wide interval sound that combined with palm mutes and open chugs sounds nice and syncopated. The notes highlighted are still based around B7 but this time with the 11th degree of the chord played on the E string 12th fret. We then return to our syncopated open low B string riff before launching into a string skipping tapped arpeggio flurry.

I have always wanted to incorporate lead technique and speedy runs into my rhythm riff playing. It's something that I hear lots of Jazz and Funk musicians do with saxophone and keyboard riffs, so I thought I should try it on the guitar in my riffs. This whole tapping arpeggio run is based around B7 and is based around string skipping, I use a 2 and 1 approach. This means I play two notes in the left hand and one note with a tap with the right hand. There is a lot of rolling technique within this run, which means we are playing three notes on each string but we are rolling up and down using hammer-ons and pull-offs before skipping strings to reach the next note in the arpeggio. I use slides in order to reach the next octave of the arpeggio, it’s important to make sure the slide is articulate in order to really make the notes ‘bubble’ as you rip through this run.

String skipping tapping is not the easiest of techniques to get used right away if you are new to it, especially on a seven string guitar! But I have a couple of very valuable tips that have helped me in my tapping quest. The first would be to isolate each string roll, practice making each note smooth into each other, whilst keeping both hands relaxed, once you feel comfortable you can introduce the string skip. This involves a slightly different technique where we have to hammer-on from nowhere with the left hand index finger. This can take a bit of getting used to, but slow practice and perseverance will get you there in no time at all!

The most important thing about tapping is keeping the rhythm even and smooth throughout, so slow practice with a metronome or drum machine will help aid this evenness that is required for a fluid tapping/legato technique. My other tip would be to listen and watch out for extra string noise, skipping strings whilst tapping can prove hazardous for muting as the right hand is nowhere near the strings to keep them in check. So the left hand index finger has even more work cut out for it, you must keep the lower half of the index finger flat over the higher strings in order to keep them in check. Then you must watch out for the lower strings with the underside of your tapping hand palm. I prefer to tap with my middle and ring finger this leaves me free to hold the pick between my index and thumb, whilst also resting the fleshy thumb side edge of my palm on the lower strings. Be sure to check the tab and the video for the exact sequence I execute here. In the video I teach the basic pattern I am visualising to create the arpeggio, I highly recommend learning this pattern and applying your own sequences and arpeggios to its formula. After the tapped arpeggio run the riff repeats once again before moving into the next section.

So that brings us to the end of this issue's look at extended range guitar, I hope you have enjoyed it. As always be sure to apply these ideas to your own writing and see how far you can take the seven and eight string. Until next time, happy shredding!


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