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Lesson Series

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Sam Bell - Extended Range Guitar Part 10: The Ascension - Riff

Lesson Notes

Hi Sam Bell here, welcome to this issue's instalment of extended range guitar! I hope you've been enjoying the 7 & 8 string guitar lessons so far and you are getting plenty out of them. If you haven’t checked out my previous metal guitar tutorials then what are you waiting for? Go check them out! In this lesson we are going to be taking a look at an 8-string guitar riff that uses all of the strings on the 8-string guitar, this riff was one of the first technical 8-string riffs I wrote for my band Mask of Judas and the song can be found on the ‘Axis’ EP.

The song is called The Ascension and the riff comes in after the first chorus, the 8-string is tuned standard and I am using lots of different techniques within one riff. Which is why I thought it would be interesting to break it down for you in this column. Even if you don’t want to learn the riff note for note, you should still be able to get plenty of ideas and concepts happening in your riff writing.

The Ascension is based on a theme that starts in the verse riff before the section we are looking at today. The theme is based on a rhythmic lower string motif that uses palm muting and slides in order to get a unique percussive sound from the lower strings. We start with a slide down from the 7th fret B string before hitting the open F# twice quickly in succession. With a microscope, these two open low F# notes are played palm muted then open so we end up with two of the same note that sounds textually different creating a syncopated effect. We then slide back up to the 7th fret B string and then hit the 8th fret A string, which gives us a Major 7th interval before returning to the 7th fret B. Major 7th intervals are being used a lot more in modern metal recently, due to its semi tone gap from the route interval it can create a bit of tension if used in this kind of context.

We then move into another area of the riff where I perform a sliding motif that slides from the 7th fret to 5th fret A string before sliding up from 7 to 9 on the E and then 7 to 5 on the B. Watch for the fingering here as it is easy to get your fingers tied up on the string changes, the emphasis on this riff should be each starting note of the 3 slides and the slides themselves of course. If you watch a skater moving at speed across ice you will see they place one foot in front of the other before sliding outwards the other foot comes in and lands in the same position as the last foot left. I imagine this concept working for the fingering on this part of the riff. I slide down with my index on the A leaving space for my third finger to hit the first note on the E which slides up leaving my index finger ready to slide down on the B. If you are unsure of the fingering check out the video for this lesson to see me performing it. If you are still unsure see if you can come up with your own fingering that lets you play the notes clearly and accurately.

Straight after the slide motif we have some economy picking through a D major 7th arpeggio, the arpeggio starts on the G string and uses a 2 1 2 pattern, meaning there are two notes on one string followed by 1 note on the next etc. This is a concept used in economy picking a lot as it sets up the pick strokes for the most effective movement. We start on the 7th fret G and descend the arpeggio to the route note on the A string before ascending once again, except we skip the major 7th on the way up using a rolling bar motion with the middle finger before descending the arpeggio from the 7th fret G string once again. Be sure to check the downloadable tab to see exactly what I mean if you are unsure. The tricky bit about this section of the riff is the rolling bar motion with the middle finger, if you are finding it troublesome then isolate that area of the line and repeat until things start to feel more comfortable, aim for separation and good timing.

The riff then moves to a chord idea where we go from a Dadd9 to a Badd9 chord. These are large stretchy chord voicings so be sure not to hurt your wrist if you are not used to the stretches, be sure to try the chord elsewhere higher up on the neck once you learn the pattern to get used to the shape then start moving downwards to increase the stretch. The rhythmic pattern alternates between the chords. This is easier to see in the transcription than to explain here in the write up. When writing this riff I just felt the rhythm and went with it rather than trying to manufacture something.

We then end the first pass of the riff with another slide phrase that is a slight echo of the previous slide phrase in the riff except this time it's more harmonically involved and higher on the strings. We slide down from 10 to 7 with the index finger on the high E, we hold that 7th fret E with that finger and hit the 10th fret B with the little finger, we leave that there (so the notes are ringing out) before hitting the 9th fret G with the third finger pulling off to the 8th fret G, we then re-pick the E and B strings to sound the new mini chord. It’s based around a Bm11 moving to a B7 tonality. I love these kind of ideas in Metal as you can imply more harmony when thinking of lines this way rather than static one note grooves!

The whole riff basically repeats again except we finish with a different variation on the final slide riff. This time it’s a slide with the little finger from 9 to 11 on the D before hitting the 7th fret G with the first finger and then the 10th fret B with the 3rd finger, re-pick the D string and then bar with the first finger so the 7th fret high E is fretted and hit that string before picking back down the chord. This all happens whilst keeping the notes sounding legato and ringing out into each other. This idea is based around a Bm9 chord, keeping with the theme of the last variation of the ending.

So there we have it, the middle riff to my song The Ascension which can be found on the Mask of Judas EP ‘Axis’. As we can see we have gone from low end riffing, slides, chords, palm mutes, economy picking and all within one riff. I would highly encourage you to try using some of your favourite techniques to add spice and variation into your own riff writing!

Good luck with the riff, be sure to check the video out alongside the tabs and I shall see you next issue for some more ERG goodness!

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