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Alfred Potter is a solo progressive metal lead guitarist. He has released two albums "Argonaut" and "Splendor of Sands" and sells a range of ebook PDF courses and instructional videos through his website www.AlfredPotter.com. He is endorsed by Kahler bridges and Hawk Picks.
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The neutral-pickslanted single-string tremolo is the most fundamental pre-requisite I teach for fast and impressive multi-string alternate picking. Getting this up to a fast tempo and high level of reliability is vital. Only once it is mastered can a student move on to pickslanting and multi-string picking. Forget unsightly, tense, and exhausting elbow spasm picking; It's as the saying goes: "It's all in the wrist"!
STEP 1: "Tabletop Test Tremolo"
The very first task is to experience exactly how the wrist yaw picking motion feels and to gauge how fast you can already do it:
- Lay your hand and arm on a desk/tabletop
- Keep your thenar and hypothenar in contact with the surface at all times (see hand image below for the palm anatomy I'm referring to)
- Twitch your hand side-to-side at the wrist as fast as you can (see animation GIF below)
- You may notice that the forearm moves side to side as well (It naturally does this sympathetically in response to wrist motion. This is fine! This is not elbow picking)
STEP 2: The "Hoisted Grip"
The "Hoisted Grip" will allow and encourage your hand to lay flat on the strings. Achieve it like so:
- Rest the pick on the first segment of the curled-in index finger
- Bring the thumb to meet it
STEP 3: The Tremolo
Begin picking a string (G-string as an example) as shown in the animation below:
- Yaw side-to-side at the wrist
- Bring the pick to rest up against the next higher and lower strings, like a wrestler bouncing off the ropes
- Do not allow the index finger or thumb to contact any of the strings at any point during this motion (see above)
These three tips will guarantee that you are indeed wrist yaw picking side-to-side with a neutral pickslant.
(NOTE: the resting up against the neighboring strings, AKA: "Rest Strokes", will naturally disappear as you speed up and your motions become smaller, but definitely do use them during the learning phase, these are your 'training wheels')
I imagine you are wondering what the purpose of this is?
Well, once the neutral-pickslanted tremolo has been established and developed to a fast tempo (150bpm to 200bpm 16th notes), you are then ready to move onto Downward pickslanting (DWPS)/Upward pickslanting (UWPS) and eventually 2-way pickslanting (both).
It will please you to know that the picking motion never changes - it's always this side to side wrist yaw you've developed.
In fact, the only difference between neutral pickslanting and DWPS/UWPS is the slight clockwise or counter-clockwise forearm twist respectively.
This is why I push students so hard to develop the neutral-pickslanted tremolo.
It is worth saying, that although this is the method I use and teach (and have come to recognize as the best and most effective), there are certainly other ways to pick! For instance, I used to use the Yngwie-style "Forearm Rotational" technique, and had huge success with it (apart from the fact it can't be used to play UWPS). While I urge you to implement the above technique, I more so urge you to find what works best for you as an individual.
If you want help with technique, join my Discord and get chatting with me and everyone else:
Have you ever wondered how the professionals manage to produce such impressive rhythm guitar recordings? In this tutorial I will teach you how to record these rich, full, and professional-sounding rhythm guitars by "Double-Tracking" and creating an auditory illusion ("Haas Effect") that we, as sound engineers, can use to trick the human brain into experiencing that sought-after width and thickness.
Record your riff into an audio track.
As you can see, I record in Ableton, but this can be done in any recording program.
Duplicate this track. Doing so allows you to copy over any EQ or other settings you may have already applied to your rhythm guitar.
Delete the audio on the duplicated track. Why?
Because you should never double-track and/or apply the Haas Effect with an exact copy & pasted clone of your audio.
It will sound very strange, robotic, and metallic.
Record the riff again, this time on the duplicated track.
Get it as close to the original as you possibly can.
Using the pan controls, pan one track all the way to the left and the other all the way to the right, like so:
As you can now see, track 1 is panned 50L and track 2 is panned 50R (making up the whole stereo spectrum of 100):
Apply a track delay to one of the tracks. I chose the second track, although it doesn't matter which one you choose.
I typically set a track delay of -7.00ms.
I have found that this is the sweet spot for me.
If you set it much closer to zero there will be too little delay. Conversely, set it too high and the tracks will be too much out of sync.
Listen to that sound! So thick and full; so much presence.
Well done, you have successfully double-tracked and applied the Haas Effect to your rhythm guitar recording.
The effect explained:
So, how does this all work?
We have two (near) identical riff takes.
One is playing through the left ear/channel.
The other through the right ear/channel.
But... one of the tracks is delayed by a miniscule -7.00ms.
This is where the auditory illusion and brain manipulation takes place!
Because one ear hears the riff a fraction of a second after the other ear, the brain interprets it as echoing off a distant surface,
meaning that the sound must be very wide and vast. Our brain has evolved to make assumptions like this, and so this is how we hack it.
It's through this auditory illusion that we create full, professional rhythm guitars.
The shoulder and elbow are responsible for a lot more than you may think when it comes to guitar technique. In lead guitar, it is essential that we learn and master control over these joints to put them to work immediately. If you aren't using shoulder and elbow mechanics yet - this may be the eye-opener you've been needing! Let's now explore, with animations (see bottom of page), precisely how these joints perform a variety of motions.
Arm String Tracking (animation #1)
"String Tracking" is the term used to describe how the picking hand moves from string to string. Both my sweep picking technique and scalar picking technique rely on the arm to achieve this. By pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow, observe how a slightly positive, piston-like, diagonal, push/pull path is sliced out across the strings, moving gradually up towards the neck pickup and back again.
Wrist Yaw Picking (animation #2)
If you are familiar with my works, you'll already be aware that my pickstrokes are generated by the side-to-side yawing of the wrist, otherwise known anatomically as "wrist deviation". Observe the animation and notice how the motion comes entirely from the wrist.
Elbow Picking (BAD) (animation #3)
Sometimes it's worth including an example of how NOT to do something. Avoid locking the wrist joint and spasming at the elbow. Sure, the strength of the elbow is mighty, and at first it may seem like it's a great way to pick (because of the undeniable and instant speed one can achieve), but there are many reasons why this is a bad idea:
- Spasming at the elbow will eventually lead to injury.
- Moving the mass of the entire forearm + hand assembly about the elbow fulcrum takes a lot of energy.
- It only seems to work cleanly for neutral pickslanting and upward pickslanting.
Elbow Accents (animation #4)
You don't have to rule elbow picking completely out of your picking technique, however. I, and many wrist pickers like me, use the elbow to assist with accenting. See the animation below where a loop of four pickstrokes is being played. The wrist is loose and yaws the whole time, but observe how the elbow lifts the forearm up on every other upstroke and then smacks down hard on that first note (ONE...two...three...four...):
- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstokes. (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).
The sheer speed and tightness you can get with elbow accenting is phenomenal.
Wrist Yaw Picking 6S (animation #5)
This animation demonstrates how to combine wrist yaw picking and string tracking to traverse 6 strings. If done correctly, the hand will feel like it's picking just one string the whole time. In reality, the string is simply changing underneath the picking hand. In a downward pickslant:
- Wrist yaw pick the first 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow.
- Wrist yaw pick another 4 strokes (one...two...three...four)
- String track the distance of one string by pivoting at the shoulder and flexing/extending the elbow again.
and so on across the remaining strings.
Elbow Accents 6S (animation #6)
Finally, try combining the elbow accenting mechanic with string tracking across 6 strings. In a downward pickslant again:
- With a loose and yawing wrist, slam the forearm down using the elbow to accent the first pickstroke (ONE...).
- Wrist yaw pick the next two pickstrokes (two...three...)
- With a loose and yawing wrist, raise the forearm up using the elbow to perform the final stoke of four, in preparation for the hard downward forearm accent again (four...).
- String track the distance of one string.
Repeat across the strings.
"Picking from the elbow", "elbow picking", and "arm picking" are some terms for what is considered by most lead guitar players to be taboo when it comes to picking technique.
So why do so many beginners automatically start picking from the elbow when they attempt to increase their picking speed? Simply put, the brain and body work together to find the easiest and quickest way to produce results. Usually this is fantastic! But unfortunately in this case, elbow picking turns out to be the quickest and fastest way for a beginner to start tremolo picking. They get results and the bad habit is reinforced. This article will explain why you should avoid locked wrist elbow picking, but then surprisingly it will explore how a combination of wrist and elbow is actually a very synergistic method.
On the left you can observe what I refer to as "side-to-side wrist" picking in my popular ebook PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology", and on the right you can see how "elbow picking" works. When pivoting from the wrist, the side-to-side motion is very precise, efficient, and easy to do. Very little mass is being thrown about the fulcrum (wrist).
Compare this with pivoting from the elbow, where the entire mass of the forearm has to rapidly move about the fulcrum.
The case against strict elbow picking
Locking the wrist and pivoting purely from the elbow is a disaster for many reasons:
First, elbow picking genuinely risks tendon injury later in life.
One could assert "[insert guitarist here] picks from the elbow and he/she has never had an injury!"
In response one could argue that "[insert person here] drank and smoked all their life and lived to 100!"
Individual exceptions can and will occur, but on the whole, elbow pickers are putting themselves at risk.
Secondly, it breeds tension and is pure overkill. Why? Because firing large muscles in order to move an entire forelimb back and forth is wasted energy. It actually takes very little force to pick a note. Using the arm to pick is overkill, akin to attempting to sign your name on a document using a house painting brush.
Third of all, elbow picking lacks the precision of the wrist.
One could argue "[insert guitarst here] picks super fast and with complexity!"
I have seen these guitarists' picking hands up close in slow motion and I can tell you that they aren't as clean as you'd think. Strings are often sloppily clipped by the pick as it travels over during string crosses - something I make a huge effort to avoid for the sake of purity. The challenges of pickslanting are very troublesome when approached with a locked wrist and pivoting elbow.
The secret synergy
Although I fervently try to stick to pure "side-to-side wrist" picking for the sake of purity and "good form", continuing to elbow pick but also freeing up the wrist creates a synergistic relationship which many famous players use with great success to shred like mad! Have you ever noticed how players like John Petrucci play with the wrist up to a certain speed, and then inject elbow motion to take it to the next level? Let's take a look:
The wrist is freely picking side-to-side, but now the elbow picking creeps in, too. They both work together to execute the pickstokes. The reason these motions complement each other in such a way is because both "side-to-side wrist" picking and "elbow picking" operate along the same axis. They both move the pick along the same line through space. Energy provided from one fulcrum feeds the other, and vice versa. Rest your arm on a table and pivot at the elbow. You will notice that if the wrist is relaxed, it will pivot passively in response. That's evidence of this wrist and elbow synergy.
Don't pick purely from the elbow with a locked wrist. I recommend you use the "side-to-side wrist" picking method outlined in my ebook PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology" as default. I can pick with pure wrist at about 240bpm 16th notes. Which in all fairness is about the fastest I've ever needed to play. With elbow assist I can get up to 280 - 300bpm. Because of the strength of the muscles involved, you will always play fastest with an elbow pivot assist. This is just a fact. Nevertheless I must urge you to resist the temptation for as long as possible.
Purchase and download my ebook PDF right now for just $15USD! Check out the trailer and description in this promo video to see if it's for you:
Here's some advice that I've learned from observing my own practice sessions over the years regarding how to achieve the perfect pickstroke. What do you think of when you imagine the perfect picking technique? Fast picking runs? Small and visually effortless motions? Long tremolos of near-endless and seemingly frictionless stamina? I have three rules to share with you which if followed, will allow you to achieve a pickstroke capable of producing such results.
It doesn't matter which of the two methods you use to generate your pickstrokes:
Nor does it matter which pickslant you happen to be using at any given time:
Instead, the focus of this article is on developing a fast, accurate, reliable, and effortless pickstroke time after time. Every time. Here are the three rules!
1. Use tiny pickstrokes
The larger your pickstrokes' breadth, the less control you will have over how much of the pick contacts the string for each pickstroke. As such, the resistance the pick encounters at the point of contact with the string (pick/string resistance) will be wildy unpredictable. That means that tiny pickstrokes and picking depth are directly related to each other. In addition, large pickstrokes will slow you down as the pick has a greater distance to travel through the air after/before every pickstroke. Attempting to increase speed without reduction in picking breadth results in tension. Tension results in failure. Keep those pickstrokes tiny!
2. Use just the tip of the pick
Only the tip of the pick is needed. The more plastic you have to muscle over a string, the greater the pick/string resistance will be, and the tenser and slower you will be. Beginners tend to use a lot of the pick because they are subconsciously afraid of missing the string altogether. But as you progress you must move away from this. Only use the tip. Don't even think of it as "picking" the strings. Think of it as "tickling" the tops of the strings.
Wait. This isn't just some carelessly spouted nonsense. It's absolutely necessary, I promise! Like my brother Gus the drummer says: "tense muscles are slow muscles". If you are tense, even just a little bit, your muscles will fight each other to some degree. For example: If you are doing a downstroke but your muscles are already tensing up preparing for the upstroke, your downstroke has been tainted by tension - ruined! Relaxation is something that needs to be practiced just like everything else. You must be consciously aware of it.
Combine these tips
Next time you're practicing an exercise or picking pattern, make a point of checking for the above three tips. Consciously ask yourself:
1. Could my pickstrokes be smaller?
2. Could I use less of the pick?
3. Can I relax any further? (without literally dropping the pick and collapsing)
I do this quick tri-check every practice session of every day. I hope it will help you like it has helped me.
Check out my PDF "Lead Guitar Practice Methodology" if you want more hardcore scrutiny like this!
The following is an interview between a student and myself for a college assignment of theirs where they had to question somebody working in the music industry. Hopefully you will enjoy learning a little bit more about me and perhaps give you a glimpse into what it's like starting out as an online teacher/musician.
1. What is your age, and family background in music?
"I am 30 years old. As far as I know, my father (Fred Potter) and brother (Gus Potter) are my only other musical family members. My 26-year-old brother was at some point the best pipe band side drummer in the North Island of New Zealand. While he no longer competes, he is still mindblowingly good. My father is an accomplished jazz pianist and has played all his life. What's interesting is that my father regularly encouraged us to take up multiple musical instruments throughout our childhood, but we outright refused! It wasn't until our teenage years that both my brother and I (independently) turned to music".
2. Do you have any formal qualifications?
"Not at all. I didn't even finish my last year of high school. This was the year I began electric guitar. Coincidence? I did try my hand at university and completed half a history degree but abandoned it in order to practice full-time".
3. How did you get into the music industry? Specifically how did you start your YouTube career?
"Being self-taught, I turned to YouTube for my music tuition. I scoured the search results in hope of finding helpful videos which would point me in the right direction and teach me how to play correctly. What I got was hugely disappointing. All the videos were just endless talking... or the opposite: playing and showing off! There were no teachers on YouTube (or anywhere else online) who simply taught licks with TABs or explained techniques in as few words as necessary. When I eventually got around to making a YouTube channel, I remembered this absence of quality videos and decided to fill the niche myself.
I began making videos, trying to keep them as short as possible. Always providing a TAB. People really appreciated this format, and so it grew from there".
4. Please describe what it is that you do.
"I work online as a guitar teacher. My main platform is YouTube where I create lick lesson videos (+ onscreen TABs), technique tutorial videos, technical exercise videos, jam tracks, Q&A videos, and music of my own. I also sell my own ebook PDFs and lick bundle video packages through my website. Through my Facebook business I offer and conduct private tuition by correspondence with dozens of students around the world. When I have any free time left over I practice constantly and try to record my music (Instrumental progressive metal)."
5. What skills would you say are needed to perform your job, and how long was the process to obtain these skills?
"This is a huge question. I will just start listing what comes to mind if that's okay: Being able to use a DAW recording program to create, mix, and master music, video editing to create videos, photoshop skills to create diagrams and art for videos and products, web developing skills for editing/updating website(s), time management skills, anti-procrastination skills, knowing how to explain things concisely and clearly (especially to foreign students who may not be too confident with English), knowing how to market a completed product using the internet, lead guitar techniques, lead guitar maintenance, music theory, and so on. In terms of how long it took to obtain these skills, I'll say they varied. Video editing and photoshop can be learned to a satisfactory degree in not very long at all, whereas learning just ONE lead guitar technique, sweep picking for example, took me around 6 years (keep in mind I was self-taught. I have taught others in far less time than this). And learning how to record, mix, and master music is ongoing - I still continue to learn more about that every week".
6. Do you think it is possible for musicians to be greatly invested in the industry, and maintain a disposable income?
"From what I can tell, there are three possible outcomes:
The third category is usually reserved for people who have commercial success because they make pop music and/or know people in high places. That or they know how to market themselves extremely well.
There doesn't seem to be a middleground between option 2 and 3, sadly".
7. How did you get into this job?
"It just gradually happened over the last 9 years of putting out content. Nice streamlined videos with no unnecessary chit-chat which get straight to the point and provide TABs. I started getting more viewers as time went on. The day I got my first paycheck from Google it really made me think: "Hmm, can I actually make a living doing this?"
9. How often does your job require you to interact with others, and what experiences have you had with these interactions?
"On a daily basis. On the whole they are overwhelmingly positive. It's so pleasing to hear how I've helped people. That's why I do what I do! I look forward to waking up and checking my comments and messages. My fans bring me happiness every day. And all I have to do is help them with their technique. A fair trade, I'd say".
10. Do you find passion in what you do?
"Most people don't believe me when I say this. But I don't enjoy guitar or making music. 99% of the time it's stress, hard work, and failure. Day after day after day.
But the sense of accomplishment and purpose it gives me is unlike anything else.
Believe me when I say I am passionate about what I do! I just don't enjoy it at the time".
Reading and writing guitar tablature (TABs) is essential for learning other people’s music and for keeping a record of your own creations. I would even argue that it’s more practical than standard music notation as TABs dictate the exact and intended way in which a passage of notes should be played. How/where we play our notes is a vital aspect of lead guitar playing – there can be no ambiguity or confusion! TABs make everything crystal clear. Their only downfall is that timing isn’t represented very well (if at all) but if a video accompanies the TAB then it’s not a problem in the slightest.
While it won’t include absolutely everything, this article will at least teach you the majority of info related to TABs - certainly everything you’ll need to know to read my TABs in particular.
Which string is which?
The first task is to understand how the strings of the guitar are visually represented by the horizontal lines on the TAB. Observe the image below: the top line corresponds with the high e string (thinnest string) and the very bottom line corresponds with the low E string (thickest).
Now that the relation between TAB lines and strings has been established, notes can be dropped into the TAB. See below how a number “4” has been written onto the b string’s line? That simply tells you to play the 4th fret of the b string. At this point it doesn’t specify any further regarding how to execute the note (downstroke, upstroke, hammer-on etc) so play it however you wish.
NOTE: When you encounter a “0”, read it as an instruction to not fret anything (play an open string):
Chords are expressed any time you encounter vertically stacked numbers in a TAB. The fact that they’re vertically stacked tells you that the notes are played simultaneously. See below an example of a “diad” (double-stop) and a C chord:
Chords are most commonly strummed. Their strum direction (downwards or upwards strum) can be specified in the TAB by adding either an upward pointing arrow for a downward strum or a downward pointing arrow for an upward strum. While the arrow directions may seem incorrect, opposing or nonsensical at a glance, you’ll find they do actually make sense when applied physically.
For example: A strum from the thinner strings to the thicker strings would be considered an upward strum. A downward pointing arrow represents this perfectly as it shows the strum originating from the thinner strings and traveling towards the thicker strings.
Passages of notes
TABs read from left to right. The provided example instructs you to play the 2nd, 4th, and 5th frets on the D string, followed by the same fret numbers on the g string – all in order. See the image below for further clarification.
As lead guitar players we use picks (plectrums) as our super precise surgical tools of choice. How something is picked is extremely important and must be conveyed in the TAB. The “V” symbol is an instruction to perform an upstroke, the half-square symbol tells you to perform the opposite (a downstroke). These symbols accompany the notes directly underneath the TAB. Observe the previous 6 notes updated to include picking instructions:
Legato (use of hammer-ons and pull-offs) is represented by archs over or under the notes being affected. The arch is written underneath the notes if they are on any of the three lower strings, and written above the notes if they are on any of the three thinner strings.
In the example below you are instructed to: Play a downstroke to sound the 2nd fret of the D string, then use legato to hammer-on to the 4th fret and then again on the 5th. Then repeat the same idea and execution on the g string.
While these examples aren’t complicated, it’s still a good idea to mention that fingering instructions for the fretting hand must sometimes be provided to further specify how a passage of notes should be played. Numbers will appear underneath the TAB to assign certain fingers to certain notes. “1” is the index finger, “2” is the middle finger, “3” is the ring finger”, and “4” is the little finger.
Tapped notes with the picking hand can easily be introduced and tie in with legato well. The tapped note gets a capital “T” above it to notify the reader that a note in the legato chain is to be played with the picking hand.
Bends are represented by curved arrows directly on the TAB to the right of the note being affected. Accompanying the arrow will be a “½”, “full”, “1 ½”, “2” and perhaps beyond though I don’t have the courage to bend beyond 1 1/2! A “½” is a half-step bend where you raise the pitch by one semi-tone, a “full” is a full step bend where you raise the pitch by a whole tone, and so on. See in the example image, the first note is bent upwards a half-step, the second is bent a whole step, the third is a full bend and release, and the fourth is a full prebend and release.
Shift slides and legato slides
There are two ways to perform slides: the “shift slide” and the more common “legato slide”. Most people don’t know the difference so I am very pleased to be writing a short section on these to set the record straight.
When you fret a note, pick it, and then move to another note on that string without unfretting, picking the next note upon arrival, that’s a “shift slide” and is represented very plainly with a sloped line connecting the two notes.
When you fret a note, pick it and slide to another note on that string but DON’T pick again upon arrival, as in you just allow the string to keep ringing from the slide, that’s a “legato slide”. While it too is represented with a sloped connecting line, it also requires a legato arch to tell the reader that it’s the latter type of slide.
Whammy bar note contouring
Dives are represented by straight lines directed down and away from the note being affected. Dips are represented by jagged Vs under and next to the note being abused. Pre-dip and releases are represented by a flat broken line rising up. Notice the “-1” accompanying all three examples? This lets you know to lower the pitch by a whole step.
Pickslant change instructions
This may be confusing to most players. In order to execute complex/advanced licks or passages, 2-way pickslanting is often required. In my TABs I chose to indicate where a change in pickslant occurs with an exclamation mark “!” above the note. For example, to strictly alternate pick the following tab in a looping fashion you’d need to change pickslant on the indicated notes to prevent the pick from getting trapped behind or in front of any string at any point. In the following TAB you’d need to use upward pickslanting on the D string and downward pickslanting on the g string. The “!” simply tells you where to change slant.
Let's take a look at how a few famous pro guitarists execute 3-string sweep arpeggios. We'll compare the techniques of Rusty Cooley, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Andy James. Players tend to stick to one sweep picking style for their entire musical careers without even considering alternatives. It is my hope that this article will open your eyes to the other methods of sweeping. I wish you great success with them!
Method #1: Rusty Cooley
First up is Rusty's technique. He uses the classic/traditional style which is the most true to economy and sweep picking in that he 2-way slants his pick in the direction of travel and executes his direction changes with inside picking. Check out the image below! Slant the pick upwards/towards yourself and pick the 17 on the high e. The pick should immediately come to rest up against the B string. Leave it there while you go on to pull-off with the pinky to fret 13. Now pick through the b string allowing the pick to rest once again on the next string - the G string. Now it's very important that you don't play through the G string and rest on the D string. Instead you play the G string with a curved "Crosspicked" or forearm rotational movement. This will achieve two things: It will lift your pick up into the air, and it will change the slant of your pick so that it is now slanting downward away from you. Without playing the G string a second time, fly back over the top of it and play the b string, making sure to rest the pick up against the high e string. Now do a second forearm rotational "Crosspicked" stroke to play fret 13 on the high e and change the slant. Now with an upward pick slant, upstroke the 17 on the high e to complete the loop. Players who are either unfamiliar with 2-way pickslanting or do not wish to learn may want to stay away from this method of 3-string sweeping. This technique extends perfectly onto 4-string sweeps.
Method #2: Yngwie Malmsteen
This second method seems to be more popular than the traditional. Probably because it is slightly easier. No 2-way pickslanting is required! Maintain a downward pickslant thoughout. Upstroke the 17 on the high e string. Pull-off to the 13. Upstroke the b string fret 15. The pick will hop over to the far side of the G string. Now it's just three downstrokes to the finish. Make sure to rest the pick on the next string while doing those downstrokes. This is a very effective and easy method when it comes to 3-string sweeps. Though it doesn't extend well on to 4-string arpeggios.
Method #3: Andy James
Andy James circumvented the problem that is 3-string sweeps. He did this in a very clever way indeed: by using a hammer-on during the return direction of the sweep. This makes the technique even easier than the Yngwie method. As before, downward pickslant the whole time through this. Upstroke the 17 on the high e string. The pick will slowly make its way over both the b and G string as the next two notes are performed. Pull-off to the 13 high e. Hammer-on to the 15 on the b. Now execute the same three downstrokes as you did with the Yngwie method. It may take a bit of work to get the hammer-on to sound as strong as the picked notes, and this technique doesn't work at all with finger roll shapes where notes are barred on the high e and b strings. But other than that it is an amazingly easy and effective technique.
All three of these techniques are fantastic. Pure and simple. Though I will mention which techniques I use and when. The Rusty/traditional method is the best "all-rounder" and if enough time and effort is invested into developing the technique, it can be used to play literally any sweep picking pattern. It is the hardest of the three techniques. This is the technique I use for top speed sweeps.
The Yngwie method is slightly easier than the traditional method as no 2-way pickslanting is required. The trade-off is that it doesn't extend to 4-string arpeggios and beyond very well. I typically use this for slower sweeps and sweep melodies.
The Andy James approach is the easiest by far. I use this when I'm nervous playing in front of people or if I've had a few drinks and I'm concerned that my accuracy may be impaired. So it's a safer technique for sure. There are many trade-offs though. The first is that some players may consider it as cheating. And I do understand this viewpoint. After all, we are sweeping just one direction of the arpeggio and using legato for the other. Also, as I mentioned, it is impossible to use for finger roll arpeggios as we can't barre and hammer-on at the same time. You'll find that it doesn't really work well when extended to 4-string arpeggios and beyond as those hammer-ons become weaker and more noticeable. I will say that I enjoy briefly switching to this technique at the top of 5/6-string arpeggios as it gives my picking hand a fraction of a second to rest.
Welcome to the second lesson on two-hand tapped arpeggios! Last time we covered the fundamentals such as: muting, string transitions, and a small 2-string example arpeggio to begin with. Now it's time to delve further into the technique and learn some larger arpeggio shapes. This lesson will teach you the tapped arpeggios for the four 7th chords of the major scale: The Maj7, the Dom7, the Min7, and the Min7b5 arpeggio. I will provide you with a TAB and also a fingering diagram (where the blue notes are the tapped notes) for each arpeggio.
NOTE: Use your picking hand's middle finger to execute the tapped notes for the following 4 arpeggios. Using the ring finger for tapped notes on the high e string is optional.
As always, check out the video below for a more in-depth lesson and to see/hear these arpeggios in action!
What are scale sequences?
A sequence is a repeated and ordered pattern applied to the notes of a scale or arpeggio.
Imagine walking in a straight line for 8 steps. You could go ahead one step at a time like you normally would or you could decide to mix it up. For instance, you could step forward 3 times and step back once. You could step forward 4 times and step back twice. You could even leap forward a distance of 2 steps and then take a step back. All of these would be different ways in which you could walk ahead 8 steps. They are different patterns. They are different sequences.
Why learn them?
From the moment you learn a scale, it is your duty as a musician to convert it into music. Playing scales up and down the same way forever simply won’t cut it. And so the use of scale sequences is the answer. Sequences are an essential part of fretboard freedom and musical freedom. The more you master, the more interesting and creative sounds you can make with scales. Using sequences can change the way in which your guitar leadwork affects a track/song/jam. For instance, simply playing up through the notes of a scale produces a rather bland and straightforward result, represented below by a straight line. Whereas by applying something powerfully intervallic like the second example in this article: the "Pentatonic 4ths" sequence, you can produce a far more jagged and melodic sound to the ear, represented below by the jagged rising line.
How to use them
Play through the examples. Alternate pick everything. Apply them to different positions/scales/modes/keys. Familiarise yourself with the different sound of each sequence. Next time you jam, make sure to incorporate them into your leads. Perhaps between licks, melodies or scale runs you already know. Remember to mix it up: play examples as 16th notes (4 notes per beat) but also try them as 8th note triplets (3 notes per beat). Different notes of the sequence will land on different beats and can change the sound. You may be very pleased with what you discover! Pay very close attention to the fretting fingering instructions under some ambiguous tabs. Play examples exactly as specified to avoid unnecessary difficulty and confusion.
Example #1: "Linear Fours" in C Major
Here is the first of four examples. Instead of playing the C major 3-notes-per-string (3NPS) scale up and down, we apply a sequence called "Linear Fours". The pattern goes like this: Forward 4 notes, back 1 note. When you step back that one note, the sequence begins again. Give it a go!
Example #2: "Pentatonic 4ths" in A minor
Now we will try out a pentatonic idea. This one is trickier as it requires you to employ finger rolling to hit adjacent notes. In other words, you'll need to rock a small barre back and forth with a fretting finger to play notes which have the same fret number but a different string. Go really slowly to ensure a clean sound. And make sure you follow the fingering instructions under the tab.
Example #3: "Skipped 3rds" Diminished Arpeggio
This example shows that sequences aren't limited to scales - they can be applied to arpeggios as well. Starting on the D note on the low E string we play through the 4 notes of the diminished arpeggio (Root, Min3, b5 & 6 AKA bb7). But we don't play them in order. Instead we play the first note, then jump over the second to play the third (Hence "Skipped 3rds") and then we step back a note to play the second. And from that note we skip up a third, then step back one, and so on it goes. Once again, pay attention to the fingering instructions below the tab. Love this sound!
Example #4: "Root, 7th & 5th Triads" E Lydian
This is the most complex example by far, and sounds amazing! I'll try to explain this one as simply as possible. We are basically sequencing an E Lydian scale by building triads of root, 7th and 5th off every note of an EMaj7 chord. But don't get too caught up with the technical aspects of this if you don't want to, just follow the fingering instructions (Slowly!) and enjoy this beautiful sound.
Check out the video lesson!
This is a lesson on how to play passages of notes in
a perfectly clean and intelligible way. You must eliminate silence between notes
to create a seamless stream of sound. Picture your notes as a brick wall. You
want to lay the bricks so tightly that there are no spaces in between them.
When a guitarist first begins learning, every movement is very deliberate and
conscious. When they play single notes one after another they have to stop,
find the next note, move their fingers there, and prepare to pluck the string.
All of these conscious actions lead to a period of silence/shuffling around
while they prepare to play the next note. And so a satisfying flow of notes is
The solution to technical problems is always to tackle the problem directly and with a targeted
exercise which is as small as possible so as to reduce the workload on the
brain and fingers and to ensure faster results.
Ex #1 - Basic single string clarity:
Let’s achieve a loop of two perfect notes on a single string. On the high e string, the thinnest,
pluck the 12th fret. Let it sound for a moment. Now press the string
against the 15th fret with your pinkie, and the MOMENT you do, as in
instantaneously, pick the string. If you did this correctly you should have
heard the first note stop and the second note begin almost seamlessly. The only
sound in between should be the gentle percussive click of the pick striking the
string. Now lift your finger back off the 15th fret and immediately
pick again to return to the 12th fret. Again the notes should
transition seamlessly. Go back and forth between these two notes slowly and
perfectly. Remember to palm mute the other 5 strings to kill string noise.
Ex #2 – The “See Saw” exercise. AKA “The Siren”:
This exercise is exactly the same as Ex #1 except that the second note is on the b string
instead of the high e. The purpose of this exercise is to keep the same clean flow
of notes going even while crossing strings. Keep both index finger and pinkie
touching the strings at all times. Never lift either finger off its string. To
fret a note simply press down gently and then pick. The other finger will be
gently resting on/muting the other string but NOT fretting it. To play the
other note simply reverse roles. So put simply, both fingers will be touching
the strings at all times but only one will ever be fretting at any given
moment. When the b string is being played, your palm should be muting the 4
lowest strings. When the high e string is being played, your palm should be
muting all 5 lower strings. Loop this.
Ex #3 – Pentatonic scale section:
You are now ready to apply your one and two string transitions to a scale fragment. Very slowly play
through the three highest strings of the E minor pentatonic scale. Focus
diligently on starting the next note as soon as the previous begins. Build that
perfect wall of notes. No space in between the bricks. Go in one direction.
Have a rest. And then return.
Check out the video lesson:
I proudly present an in-depth technical guide to basic multi-string two-hand tapping arpeggios. Learn how to tap, how to cross strings and how to perform a basic 2-string, string skipped diminished arpeggio on the g and e strings. From there you are free to branch out to bigger shapes and more exciting opportunities on your own and with the help of my lick videos.
However before we proceed, make sure that you've seen my video below on string muting. Keeping your playing free of unwanted string noise is essential!
Single String Tapping Recap
Now that your muting has been addressed, let's apply it to some single string tapping before moving on to multi-string tapping. See the tab below. We're going to do some simple back and forth legato and tapping. With your index finger on the 10th fret of the G string, make sure that the underside of the finger rests flat across the b and high e strings - muting them. Use your palm mute to keep the D, A & E strings quiet. Zero in on that G string and make it the only one ringing out. Tap with the middle finger of your picking hand to the 16th fret, tapped pull-off to the pinkie on the 13th fret, pull-off to the index finger on the 10th fret, hammer-on back to the pinkie, and then tap the 16th fret again to loop.
String Crossing Exercise: "Seesaw"
Tapping is rather straightforward on a single string. But things get tricky as soon as you attempt to cross strings i.e multi-string tapping. But never fear, I have created a basic 2 note exercise to tackle these challenging string transitions. Introducing the "Seesaw" exercise:
Start by tapping the 16th fret of the G string as before. Let it ring for a moment and then when you're ready, hammer-on to the 10th fret of the high e string with your index finger. The moment you do, unfret the tapped note on the G string. That doesn't mean pull-off. It means raise up the tapping finger so that the string separates from the fret and is silenced by the tapping finger. Your tapped finger is now safe to leave the string.
To return, simply do it in reverse. Tap back onto the 16th fret of the G string. And as soon as you do, unfret the high e string. Go back and forth between these two notes very slowly. Focus on perfect note separation. As soon as one note ends, the next one starts. And with that let's move onto multi string tapping.
2-String Diminished Tapped Arpeggio
The reason I chose this arpeggio is that the shape is nice and symmetrical and easy to remember. The fret numbers and fingers are the same so we can focus more on the technique than on the actual arpeggio shape.
Start out the same as the single string example: tap, pull-off x2, hammer-on, tap. And then execute the string cross maneuver to get you to the 10th fret on the high e string. Now at this point you will need to move up your picking hand mute/palm mute a bit so that every string except the high e is silenced by your picking hand. From here, pinkie hammer-on to the 13th fret and then tap onto the 16th fret. You may use the same tapping finger or do what I do, which is to utilise the ring finger. Now just pull-off to the 13th fret and again to the 10th.
Do the string cross maneuver once again to return to the G string. Careful of string noise here: Keep your fretting hand low and vigilant as it ducks back to the G string to end the tapped arpeggio by doing a tapped pull-off to the pinkie on the 13th fret and then pull-off to the 10th fret.
I hope this helps!
Check out my video walkthrough below:
Get exotic with the Japanese Pentatonic scale! Like the standard pentatonic scale, the Japanese pentatonic also has 5 box positions. This lesson also includes diagonal picking patterns to aid your horizontal playing and fretboard vision. This lesson will be in the key of A Japanese Pentatonic.
Box Shape 1
This is the first box shape for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. You should note that it is actually the exact same scale as the A Natural Minor. The only difference is that the minor thirds and flat sevens have been removed (grey notes).
This means that you can use the A Japanese Pentatonic scale over a standard A minor progression!
So starting on the 5th fret play the black notes up and back down again.
Box Shape 2
Here is the second position. Play this on the second note of the previous position, the 7th fret. The tricky part with this position is the pinky finger roll you have to perform when crossing between the G and B strings.
Box Shape 3
Carry on playing through the box positions. Begin this third shape on the second note of the second shape. Start with your second finger followed by the pinky to make the change to the A string easier.
Box Shape 4
This second-to-last box position is otherwise known as the "In Sen" scale. Starting here on the E, the 12th fret, play this scale instead of E Phrygian for an instant exotic sound.
Box Shape 5
And this is the fifth and final box position for the A Japanese Pentatonic scale. Now let's step it up a notch with some diagonal picking patterns!
Diagonal Picking Pattern 1
Starting back on the root note, the A (5th fret), we take the first two strings of the first box position and repeat the pair diagonally to slice right across three box positions. It's a great way to get around the neck and is an easy pattern to remember.
Diagonal Picking Pattern 2
This next diagonal picking patterns begins where the second box position is. This one is a bit of a wide stretch but the pattern is interesting and covers 11 frets of space. This slices right across and up to the fifth position. And again we have a pattern on a string pair which is repeated and moved up diagonally. Easy to remember.
Diagonal Picking Pattern 3
Here's that "In Sen" scale again. This pattern spans a big 11 frets like the previous and slices up to the top of the second box position of the next octave.
I hope you enjoyed this lesson.
Check out the video below to see and hear the patterns being demonstrated
The diminished scale is another very interesting scale. It's a neverending repeating pattern of whole tone, half tone, whole tone, half tone etc. For this reason there are only two main scale positions, as opposed to the 5 positions of the pentatonic scale or the 7 positions of the major scale. It also sounds terrifying in a heavy metal solo and is great for working all 4 fretting fingers as you will see. I will now take you through the 2 main scale positions, and then I will show you 3 of my favorite diagonal shapes.
Whole-Half Diminished Scale
Starting on the 7th fret, try out the Whole-Half diminished scale. It's called this because from the root note, in this case B, we play a whole step ahead (2 frets) followed by a half step (1 fret) after that. This pattern repeats endlessly.
Half-Whole Diminished Scale
This is the second position and therefore starts on the second note of the first scale shape, the C#. This is the same idea as before but flipped around so that we begin with the root note, followed by a half step, followed by a whole step, and so on.
Because of the repetitive nature of the diminished scale, you can arrange your fingerings into really interesting diagonal shapes like this. This one is exclusively the "Whole-Half" fingering.
This one is exactly the same as before except instead of using the "Whole-Half" fingering on the B (7th fret), we will be using the "Half-Whole" fingering on the C# (9th fret)
Wide 2-nps Custom Diagonal
Here is a custom, wide, diagonal position which is a favorite of mine. It begins on the B (7th fret), skips the whole step and the half step to land on the fourth note. I then shift this pattern up and across diagonally. Wow what a sound!
Be sure to bust out these evil scales next time you encounter a heavy open E riffing breakdown!
Check out the video lesson below for the playthrough
Alternate picking for the lead guitar is where the picking hand executes alternating pickstrokes to play passages of notes. This down, up, down, up pattern is kept constant no matter what pattern the fretting hand is fingering or how many strings may be involved. This technique, while very tricky to master, can lead to a powerful sound and blistering high speed playing.
But a high level of picking hand accuracy must be established and synchronisation must be developed so that the two hands work together perfectly in time.
Work on these five looping exercises and begin developing your alternate picking technique right now!
Exercise 1: "PHI (Picking Hand Isolation) skipped all strings"
This works purely on the picking hand accuracy. Mute the strings by gently resting your fretting hand fingers across the strings. Rest your picking hand near the bridge and begin picking through the skipped pattern. This may be tricky at first and you may accidently hit the wrong strings as you skip. Slowly work on it until it is clean and you no longer make mistakes.
Exercise 2: "Back n Forth 2-string combination"
This is an absolute favourite of mine. It contains ascending and descending groups of six with parts changing direction. So many useful movements are encountered in this exercise.
Exercise 3: "Nimble Fingers single string sync"
This goes back and forth on one string bouncing between finger pairs to really get your hands synchronised together. Remember to give this a go on other strings too, not just the one string shown here.
Exercise 4: "Fmaj7 fractured 4 finger arpeggio"
Take this one very slowly. It’s an absolute minefield of potential mistakes. But that’s good, because once you get comfortable with it… that means you have improved! This is all string crosses and skips. If you can develop skill with this then most other exercises will seem much easier by comparison.
Exercise 5: "F6 skipped arpeggio"
This outlines an F6 chord. Apart from sounding cool, this forces you to cross to a string, then back, then skip over a string. All one after another. And will further improve your accuracy and string crosses.
Check out the video to see and hear these exercises in action!
This lesson is a no-frills study of how sweep picking is performed. Always start with the basics when learning a new technique. Nailing them and creating a strong foundation is essential for making good, quick progress. Do not dive right into large 5 and 6 string sweep shapes/passages - This is a huge and very common mistake!
The Picking Motion
-Mute the strings by covering them with your fretting hand.
-Now using your wrist (or forearm if you would prefer - both methods work) begin by downpicking the G string. The trick here is not to pick like you would usually, but to pick through the G string and let your pick land up against the next string, in this case, the B string. So, you play the string and the pick immediately falls through and lands on the next.
-Now play the B string with another downstroke and immediately land on the high e string.
-Downpick the high e and get ready to turn around.
-Pick the high e with an upstroke this time and let the pick immediately land up against the B string.
-Upstroke the B string and land against the G string.
-Upstroke the G string, do not land against the D string, turn around again to repeat the exercise.
-Let that pick fall through the strings!
That same part of your hand that you use to mute riffs is the same you use to mute lower strings that have just been swept. Try this open string muting exercise to get a feel for palm muting in a sweep picking context.
-Place your palm mute on the strings near the bridge. Get it so that the D string is muted by your palm but the G string is not.
-Pick the G string and let your pick fall and land against the B string.
-Now pick the B string and let the pick fall and land against the high e string. At the exact same time as you do this, you want to shift your palm mute up to mute the G string.
-Now pick the high e string and again, instantly move your mute up to mute the B string.
-The palm mute chases the notes you just swept and silences them when a higher string is played. That is its purpose.
-If you can execute this exercise with 3 distinct and separate notes sounding out then you are muting well.
Clean Note Transitions
You also need to make sure that your fretting hand is transitioning between notes cleanly. This aided with a good palm mute is what creates a clean sweeping technique.
-Fret the 12th fret on the high e with the index finger and play with a downstroke.
-Now all at the same time you want to: unfret the 12th fret but do not take your finger off the string, fret the 13 fret (with middle finger) on the B string and upstroke it.
-Next, all at the same time, unfret the 13th (do not take your finger off the string though) and palm mute it, fret the 12th fret on the high e and downstroke it.
-Keep going back and forth between these two notes, fretting one and instantly unfretting the other, always keeping both of your fingers in contact with the strings. And whenever you return to the high e then your palm mute should catch the B string.
2-string and 3-string sweep examples
Use the picking motion, the palm mute, and the clean note transitions to play your first 2 string and 3 string sweep arpeggio shapes. Remember what you have learned and follow the picking instructions provided.
If any of this has been unclear then check out my video lesson below!
Last time I showed you how a Cmaj7 arpeggio could be arranged into useful picking patterns. Now, staying in the key of C major/A minor, we will be moving on to the Amin7 arpeggio. The notes and intervals contained in the following two picking shapes make up the arpeggio:
A, C, E & G.
R, m3, 5th & b7
A root, minor 3rd, 5th and flat 7 makes up a minor 7 chord/arpeggio.
Here's a bonus - because Dmin7 and Emin7 chords are both in the key of C major/A minor, you can play the exact same patterns for those arpeggios as well. This fact makes the arpeggio picking shapes extra useful.
Here is a descending run which I created by blending the Dmin7 and the Emin7 shapes together:
To hear these shapes in action (+ some bonus music theory) check out the video I made for this lesson:
Here I have arranged the notes of a Cmaj7 chord into some seriously handy scale-like shapes. Pick through these, work them into your own soloing and get ready to jam with a whole new sound.
While using every note in any given scale is surely effective, by choosing and limiting which notes you play you can discover a whole new realm of sounds, licks and opportunities.
And so the idea I present today is how you can arrange the notes of a Cmaj7 chord/arpeggio (B, C, E & G) into playable scale-like shapes. Use the following shapes in the key of C Major (AKA A Minor):
Work these ideas into your own style. Blend them with your current favourite licks. Enjoy utilising the fresh sound that is the major 7 arpeggio.
To see and hear these shapes in action (+ a music theory breakdown) check out my video lesson below!
Blast through your scale runs and create subtle texture differences in sound by mixing picking and legato. While there's little more satisfying than a perfectly executed alternate picking run, I'm a huge fan of injecting legato into the mix. Why? I believe there are two reasons:
Play faster sooner
I realised as a beginner (and struggling with alternate picking) that I could drastically increase my scale run speed by picking some notes and using hammerons & pulloffs to hit others. It gave my picking hand just enough of a rest during the legato sections to keep up.
It sounds great
I also realised that the mixture of percussive, picked notes and fluid smooth notes created a subtle yet pleasing sound difference throughout scale runs. See what I mean by giving this quick scale section a go, ascending and descending in C Major:
As abstract as this comparison is, I would compare the mixing of legato and picking to how a sparrow flies. If you've ever seen one flying overhead you may have noticed that they flap for a second or two and then tuck in their wings and fall for a moment, and then flap again, and fall again.
This is how picking + legato feels for me.
It makes me feel like a sparrow =|
Here's a brutal Jeff Loomis style shred lick using the technique!