April 2017 Guitar Player Lesson Bonus Content

March 9, 2017
  •  PHOTO: Cindy Moorhead
    The TAB and audio files provided in the lessons below are bonus content for the April 2017 issue of Guitar Player. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar Player Online Store.
    Finger Lickin’ Good: Utilizing Hybrid Picking for Lead Playing
    By David Brewster

    Hybrid picking—using a pick in conjunction with your available pick-hand fingers to pluck the strings—is an interesting and often highly useful alternative to traditional plectrum-based guitar playing, one that can facilitate the performance of licks and phrases that would be more difficult, if not impossible, to play using the pick alone. This lesson explores a specific application of hybrid picking, for lead work, with a survey of techniques and stylistically diverse approaches that can be found in the playing of countless guitar legends— everyone from Chet Atkins, Billy Gibbons, and Warren Haynes, to Eric Johnson and Buckethead.

    As you begin to notice various applications of hybrid picking in the music of these and other artists and the sounds, melodies, and textures it can be used to create, you’ll discover that different players will typically adopt their own personalized approach to the technique. For those who are new to hybrid picking, it involves clasping your pick between your thumb and index finger, as you would ordinarily do for picking single notes or strumming, and picking downstrokes while alternately or simultaneously plucking higher strings with your available bare fingers, most often the middle finger, with the ring finger sometimes brought into play for double-stops, and the pinky occasionally employed to pluck chords.

    Many blues, rock, and metal guitarists who employ hybrid picking commonly use only one finger, typically the middle, but you’ll find plenty of country and bluegrass players blazing hybrid-picked licks using various combinations of pick-hand fingers. The unique combination of plectrum-picked lower strings and fingerpicked higher strings creates an interesting tonal contrast between your pick and fingers, and these varying articulations can create plenty of variations in the volume and dynamic attack of what you’re playing, which can sound exciting, lively and very musical. You can also produce strong note accents by pulling a string away from the fretboard as you pluck it with a bare finger and allowing it to snap back as you let go of it. In contrast, you could also brush the strings gently with your fingers, helping to create a wide, pronounced variance in your volume range.

    To get started hybrid picking, play through Examples 1a and 1b, with Ex. 1a presenting a basic single-note E minor pentatonic-based phrase played in 12th position using hybrid picking, and Ex. 1b fusing the same lick with a pair of double-stops, plucked with the middle and ring fingers together.
    Ex. 1A

    Ex. 1B
    Our next two examples reveal a common hybrid-picked E7 lick idea, with a basic primer exercise shown in Ex. 2a, and its development into a standard blues turnaround phrase depicted in Ex. 2b. Notice how the use of hybrid picking here makes all the string skipping so much easier to do than if you were to try and flatpick all the notes!
    Ex. 2A

    Ex. 2B

    Examples 3a and 3b demonstrate how to perform another common blues turnaround, this time covering two different fretboard positions and quickly shifting to another location on the neck. Ex.3a features a very common E7 turnaround in open position, while Ex.3b relocates this idea an octave higher, creating a slinky turnaround phrase that would sound at home in blues music, but could also be used in rock, country, jazz, and a variety of other styles. Notice the exceptionally wide intervals created by pulling off to the open high E string from so high up on the neck. There are plenty of guitarists that have incorporated this technique into their playing style and vocabulary, and you can find licks like these in the music of such greats as Albert Lee, Robben Ford, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and country legend Willie Nelson.
    Ex. 3A

    Ex. 3B
    Ex. 4 presents a stock hybrid-picked lead phrase that brings to mind an abundance of licks that you’ll hear coming from blues-rock masters like Billy Gibbons, Joe Bonamassa, Slash, Warren Haynes, and countless others. Experiment with “snapping” the hybrid picked notes as this lick unfolds, giving the phrase an aggressive, heavily accented sound.

    You can apply hybrid picking to just about any style of music, and the abundance of licks, phrases and ideas that you’ll discover and invent while researching and experimenting with this technique is a worthwhile study that should be eagerly explored.
    Ex. 4

    To move things into more of a rock/shred direction, Ex. 5 features an interesting way of performing an E minor arpeggio, utilizing hybrid picking to facilitate an intervallic arpeggio idea that incorporates frequent string crosses and changes in melodic direction, with only one of two notes played on each string before switching to another one. This example is demonstrative of licks and phrases coming from hard-rocking shred virtuosos Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Zakk Wylde and the masked guitar wizard, Buckethead. As you play through this example, be sure to alternate between your pick and middle finer as each two-note string-group moves along the strings.
    Ex. 5

    Examples 6a and 6b offer insight into the origin and execution of a famous and very cool hybrid-picked lick, one performed by Eric Johnson during the intro to his classic instrumental, “Cliffs of Dover,” which is based on a classical-style pedal-point phrase borrowed from the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Ex. 6a reveals how to perform an ascending E major scale-based run using hybrid picking to greatly facilitate the alternation between climbing notes on the fourth, third and second strings and a recurring high E root note on the first string. Ex. 6b reveals a descending variation on this pedal-point idea, similar to Johnson’s lick. These two runs are challenging to execute cleanly, so be sure to take your time moving through the notes of each phrase until the string skipping and hybrid-picking techniques are blended together seamlessly.
    Ex. 6A

    Ex. 6B

    Our final offering, Ex. 7, presents an advanced hybrid-picked string-skipping run that’s inspired by the playing of shred masters Steve Morse and John Petrucci, as well as country-shred monsters Brent Mason and Johnny Hiland. Take your time learning and playing through this wicked run, and experiment with snapping the higher accented notes, plucked with the middle finger. Strive for a balance between the burry, chromatic legato lines and the accented plucking as this busy, challenging lick unfolds.
    Ex. 7

    In your quest to expand your musical and guitar playing horizons, try to incorporate some of the ideas and sounds presented in this lesson into your own playing, and be sure to spend plenty of time experimenting with hybrid picking and its numerous uses. The dynamic and tonal variations that can be achieved between the pick and fingers can be harnessed to craft very expressive, interesting licks and phrases, so spend plenty of time practicing the technique and its various applications in the creation of your own licks.

    Name That Tune! A Primer on Melodic Ear Training
    By Jesse Gress
    A blessing or a curse? Whatever your attitude on the subject, there’s something truly remarkable about the ability to hear music in your head at any time and in any situation, from dead silence to noisy cacophony. Equally amazing is the ability to slip into a realm of consciousness wherein the brain translates natural or man-made sounds into rhythmic, melodic, and/or harmonic musical events—bumps in the road, bird songs, washing machines, traffic jams, dueling chainsaws (one of my favorites!), or a text ping perfectly in time and tune with a song or soundscape of the moment. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m sure I’m not alone, but if you haven’t ever been experienced, it takes time and hard work to develop big ears. Here’s how to get started.

    Melodic ear training begins with interval recognition. To measure physical distance, a foot is divided into 12 inches. Similarly, a musical octave is divided into 12 half-step increments. The half step is the unit of measurement used to define a musical interval, which is the distance between any two notes. Intervals are the building blocks of melody and harmony. A melodic interval measures the distance between two separate notes, while a harmonic interval measures the distance between two notes played simultaneously. Chords contain three or more notes, so there are compound intervals within chords. When one chord moves to another, the root motion is measured in intervals. Because intervals provide a way to measure and communicate relative aural distances within music, any melodic or harmonic structure can be verbally described in terms of its intervallic design.
    The object of ear training is to gain the ability to recognize and identify all 12 intervals in your mind’s ear, and to equate them with their physical shapes on the fretboard. The good news is you already know how they sound via familiar melodies—you just have to learn how to identify them by name.

    Ex. 1 illustrates and names all 12 intervals measured from a C root on the fifth string to form a chromatic scale. Spend some time playing each interval and singing along to the best of your abilities until you hit the octave—“root-b2, root-2, root-b3, root-3, root-4”, etc.—and see if you can recognize the opening notes of any familiar melodies along the way. If not, don’t worry— we’ll get there.

    Ex. 1

    The major scale and its relative modes are formed by extracting different intervallic formulas from the chromatic scale. Ex. 2a details a C major scale (a.k.a. the C Ionian mode), its intervallic structure (root-2-34-5-6-7-root), and its scale-step formula (whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step), along with two suggested fingerings: one on a single string, and one across adjacent strings. Examples 2b through 2g follow suit with the six remaining relative modes derived from the same C major scale with each successive mode beginning on the next scale step. This process shifts the root and alters the scale-step formula to produce six different scales, or modes.

    Ex. 2A

    Begin by internalizing the major scale and its seven major and perfect intervals. Play through both fingerings a few times, then give yourself the starting note (C) and see how far you can get by singing each scale step rather than playing it. Once you can sing the C major scale without playing along, re-designate its second scale step (D) as the root and play the D Dorian mode in Ex. 2b until you can sing it without accompaniment. Repeat this process for each successive mode—Phrygian starting on E, Lydian starting on F, Mixolydian starting on G, Aeolian starting on A, and Locrian starting on B—until you come full circle back to C. (Tip: Think of the whole process as a seven-note sequence starting on each note of the major scale.) Why do this? The major scale comprises only major and perfect intervals, while its modes contain various amounts of the five missing minor and altered intervals found in the chromatic scale—the b2, the b3, the #4/b5, the #5/b6, and the b7. Learning to sing the modes in sequence will attune your ears to all of these intervals in various settings.

    Ex. 2B

    Ex. 2C

    Ex. 2D

    Ex. 2E

    Ex. 2F

    Ex. 2G

    If you’re having trouble singing the modes, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. There is a way to indelibly drill every interval into your head, starting with the major and perfect intervals. Just diligently follow these four easy steps every day for a few weeks and you’ll be amazed at the results: 1) Play the major scale from its root up to a designated interval; 2) Play the same thing while simultaneously singing the scale steps; 3) Eliminate the in-between notes and sing the root to the chosen interval without accompaniment; 4) Double-check your last step by singing and playing the root to the chosen interval. That’s it. The long-term goal is to eventually eliminate the accompaniment and be able to find each interval by hearing it in your mind’s ear.

    We’re skipping major seconds, which simply span one whole step (equal to two half steps, or two frets; think of the first two notes of “Silent Night” or “Norwegian Wood”), so follow the four-step drill to work your way through each remaining interval. Ex. 3’s major thirds span two whole steps, or four frets (think “When the Saints Go Marching In” or “Can’t Buy Me Love”), Ex. 4’s perfect fourths cover two and one half steps, or five frets (“Here Comes the Bride” or “Amazing Grace”), Ex. 5’s perfect fifths encompass three and one half steps, or seven frets (“My Favorite Things” or the theme from “Star Wars”), Ex. 6’s major sixths equal four and one half steps, or nine frets (“It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” or the NBC Network chimes), Ex. 7’s major sevenths span five and one half steps, or 11 frets (the first and third notes of “Over the Rainbow,” “Bali Hai,” or “Immigrant Song”), and Ex. 8’s octaves cover six whole steps, or 12 frets (the first two notes of “Over the Rainbow,” “Bali Hai,” or “Immigrant Song”). Visualizing intervals on the fingerboard while singing them, and filling in your own musical examples whenever possible, will greatly increase your retention and mental recall of each interval.

    Ex. 3

    Ex. 4

    Ex. 5

    Ex. 6

    Ex. 7

    Ex. 8

    The same four-step method can be applied to each of the remaining modes and used to cement your recognition of the five intervals not present in the major scale— minor seconds (one half step, or one fret), minor thirds (one and one half steps, or three frets), sharp fourths/flatted fifths (three whole steps, or six frets), minor sixths (four whole steps, or eight frets), and minor sevenths (five whole steps, or 10 frets). Play each of the following examples as written, and then apply the previous drill to continue through the octave. Examples 9 and 10 utilize the D Dorian mode to respectively illustrate b3s (Think “Hello Dolly” and “A Day in the Life”) and b7s (“Star Trek” original TV theme and “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”), while Ex. 11 gives us a taste of the b2 (“White Christmas” and the shark theme from “Jaws”) and b3 inherent to the E Phrygian mode. Ex. 12 demonstrates the F Lydian mode’s unique #4 (“Maria” from West Side Story and the first and third notes of “Blue Jay Way”). You can experience G Mixolydian’s b7 on your own, simply by replacing either a G major scale’s 7 (F#) with a b7 (F), or the G Dorian mode’s b3 (Bb) with a 3 (B). Ex. 13’s A Aeolian-mode/natural-minorscale formula includes both a b3 and a b6 (“Because” and “She’s a Woman”). We conclude with Ex. 14’s B-Locrian-based b5, which neighbors its b2, b3, 4, b6, and b7.

    Be sure to transpose all of the previous examples to all keys. You can also apply the same drill to the five-note pentatonic major and minor scales (root-2-3-5-6, and root-2-b3-4-5-b7), as well as the six-note blues scale (root-2-b3-4-b5-5-b7).

    Ex. 9

    Ex. 10

    Ex. 11

    Ex. 12

    Ex. 13

    Ex. 14

    Every ascending interval has a corresponding descending version. To hear, practice, and internalize descending intervals, play and sing all of the previous examples in reverse from high to low. Here are some descending reference melodies to get you started: b2 = “I Am the Walrus”; 2 = “Yesterday”; b3 = “Hey Jude”; 3 = “Summertime”; 4 = “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”; #4/b5 = British police siren (a la Jimi); 5 = “Feelings”; b6 = Theme from Love Story; 6 = “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”; b7 = “Willow Weep for Me (first and third notes); 7 = “I Love You” (Cole Porter); and octave = “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (chorus).

    Melodic ear training is only one aspect of developing your mind’s ear. There’s also rhythmic ear training and harmonic ear training to be considered, not to mention using your imagination to translate natural and industrial sounds into the language of music. We’ve only scratched the surface here, but it’s a good place to start. Do the work and you’ll not only become a better guitarist, you’ll be a better musician.

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