GIT IS AN INTERESTING PLACE to study guitar, particularly because you never know which special guest instructor or clinician might show up. Lately, fresh on the heels of Paul Gilbert, Joe Bonamassa, Jim Campilongo, Tommy Emmanuel, Kevin Eubanks, and other great players, it has been prog/shred phenom Shane Gibson making the scene and dropping some knowledge.
Gibson has done well for himself since first earning a spot in GP for the elaborate tapping riff he shared in the December 2005 “Reader’s Challenge.” He now has an innovative new prog/shred project with drummer Thomas Lang called Stork, throws down brutally creative guitar parts for performance- metal posse Schwarzenator, and tours the world regularly with Korn.
Perhaps one reason Gibson enjoys teaching at Musicians Institute is that it reminds him of his own years at music school. “My roommate in college was a super intense drum corps guy named Jeremy Miller,” says Gibson. “He’d always be going through books of rudiments, practicing them for hours on his drum pad while watching TV. Truthfully, it annoyed the hell out of me.”
Then, one day, Gibson had a revelation: “Jeremy was phenomenal, and I started to realize that it might be great to apply some of the ideas in his rhythm books to guitar. Drummers are very accustomed to using accents and dynamics, but these are aspects of music that many guitarists never really take into consideration. But if you learn this language—how to really own every subdivision of the bar—you can create some very interesting guitar parts.”
Since then, Gibson’s ability to emphasize different pulses in each measure has evolved into a monstrous skill for creating compelling riffs. Combined with his penchant for heavy distortion and his love of 7-string guitars, these phrases often retain a pummel-you-inthe- chest feel while having a refreshingly “odd meter” sound. With many of these riffs, though, Gibson never actually leaves 4/4.
“It’s all about the accents,” says Gibson. “Take, for example, four bars of eighth-notes alternate-picked on the lowest string,” says Gibson, playing Ex. 1. “We’re using upstrokes and downstrokes. However, we are accentuating certain notes as indicated by the accent marks. Play those notes dramatically louder than the others. We’re in straight 4/4, but putting emphasis on select notes with our picking hand.”
While this first example is very simple, its concept can be harnessed to generate thousands of variations—a pursuit Gibson encourages. “The next approach involves palm muting,” says the guitarist, getting a solid chug sound from strummed chords by damping the strings slightly with the heel of his picking hand. “Here [Ex. 2], the accents are the ones that are not palm-muted. We’re strumming sixteenth-notes using all downstrokes, but by muting the low-E notes and not the E5 power chords, the power chords become the accented pulses.”
Another way to bring out accents, as we see in Ex. 3, is with the fretting hand. “This example has us strumming every sixteenth- note using alternating picking,” says Gibson. “The unaccented pulses are the Xed out muted chords—chords muted by lifting our fingers off the fretboard just enough to deaden the strings. The accented pulses are the fretted chords.”
As with most rhythmic approaches, the ultimate goal with all this business is to combine it with melodic motion, as Gibson does with the mercilessly crushing lick he wrote for Stork’s “Loki” [Ex. 4]. The riff gets extra rumble by being played on the lowest three strings of Gibson’s 7-string Carvin guitar. (Tip: While it won’t have the same thumpitude sounded up a fourth on a standard guitar, playing it on a 6-string is as simple as reading the tablature staff as if the lowest three strings were the sixth, fifth, and fourth strings.)
“‘Loki’ is a very mathematical song, and, like Ex. 2, it uses accents in the form of notes that are not palm-muted,” says Gibson. “It’s all alternate-picked. The snare drum accents the non-muted notes. This is the intro riff, and if you analyze it, you’ll find it morphs several different ways, including being played backwards and inverted. See if you can find the pattern.”