Ricocheting Octaves and Beyond Pt. 1 A Fast, Funky, Full-Contact Sixteenth-Note Smackdown

March 22, 2011

IF THERE ARE, AS THEY SAY, an infinite number of ways to play one note, just imagine how many ways there must be to play two. You can probably already demonstrate several two-note tactics, but don’t stop there. Let’s check out a thrilling mode of attack you can use on as few as a pair of pitches that you may not have tried.

We’ll start with the two E’s (separated by an octave) in Ex. 1. Then, through a series of simple stages, we’ll evolve our attack until we arrive at a high-adrenaline, high-impact, harmonic-happy approach that works in every key and most time signatures—a fast, fun technique I call “ricocheting sixteenths.”

Let’s get things rolling by picking our two E’s, playing them at a modest tempo, as eighth-notes separated by eighth-rests (Ex. 2). Next, in Ex. 3, loop the same bar, but immediately after you pick each upper E, follow it with a hammered lower E. (Yes, the picked lower E immediately follows note you just hammered.) Then, in Ex. 4, add one more hammered note to our pattern: After each picked lower E, hammer the upper E before it is again picked.

Now, we’re ready to ricochet. The main thing we have to do, though, is switch from eighth-notes to sixteenths. That simply means that instead of hitting two notes per down beat (“one-and-two-and…”), we have to shift gears and sound four notes per downbeat (“one-ee-and-a, two-ee-anda…”). Plus, for extra adrenaline, we’re going to jack the tempo range up to as fast as 160bpm. All of these changes have been implemented in the most important example in this lesson, Ex. 5. Before we hot-rod Ex. 5’s basic ricocheting approach in several cool ways, though, make sure you have it down solidly. Here are some tips to help make it come alive:

“Ricocheting” licks sound equally great with clean or distorted tones.

This technique should be easy to play on any electric or acoustic that is set up properly.

Employing fretting-hand string muting to deaden unused strings is helpful. This liberates your picking hand to strike the strings more freely, allowing for a more powerful, loose, and natural attack.

For a nimble, tasteful timbre, rest the heel of your picking hand on the bridge to palm mute the lower strings. This lick sounds killer with the higher picked note struck hard and unmuted, and the lower one played more softly and palm-muted.

Got the general feel down? Does your performance have a relaxed, cruising, firing- on-all-cylinders sound? Great. Now you’re ready to customize this move in several cool ways.

For instance, who says we have to restrict ourselves to an octave? We can do exciting, fast-tempo power fifth intervals that expand to minor sixths (Ex. 6). Or, brighten things with major harmony, as we do Ex. 7.

That’s just the beginning. Stay tuned for even more ricocheting riffery next month.

Jude Gold is the Director of GIT, the Guitar Program at Musicians Institute, and GP’s Los Angeles editor.

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