January 20, 2006
The first place to start is with a partial chromatic scale [Ex. 1]. This fluid fingering is easy to burn on and yields exciting flurries of notes with minimal effort. Next, you’ll want to expand from chromatic licks to tonal licks—licks that involve scale tones such as those of a four-note-per-string E natural minor scale [Ex. 2] that stretches from the 19th down to the 3rd fret.
Whichever scale you choose, playing it with a four-notes-per-string fingering allows you to strike eight pitches on two strings with just one string skip [Ex. 3], making things easier on your picking hand. The other technical advantage of this approach is that your down-up-down-up picking attack remains the same on both strings.
Due to wider stretches, position shifts, and unique fingerings on nearly every string, the four-notes-per-string E minor scale is trickier to master than the partial chromatic scale, but it sure is a smokin’ sound once you do. A nice gateway to this scale is to ascend and descend just the highest two strings of it, which covers a complete octave of E natural minor from B to B. Play it fast, and create an amazing whip effect you can’t get any other way. Then, try patterns such this descending rollercoaster ride down the scale [Ex. 4]. Before long you’ll have the notes nailed.