Master Class(2)

Hot Doggin’ - A Lesson in Flashy Fretwork with Brent Mason By Andy Ellis Enclosed in a soundproofed vocal booth, Travis Tritt shuts his eyes and rears back from his mic to belt out a high note. As his gritty, soulful voice booms out through Emerald Studio’s control room monitors, seven of Nashville’s f

Hot Doggin’ - A Lesson in Flashy Fretwork with Brent Mason

By Andy Ellis

Enclosed in a soundproofed vocal booth, Travis Tritt shuts his eyes and rears back from his mic to belt out a high note. As his gritty, soulful voice booms out through Emerald Studio’s control room monitors, seven of Nashville’s finest session players lay down a swampy groove in the adjacent studio. Arrayed in a circle, the seasoned hitmakers layer the sound of two electric guitars, flat-top, Dobro, organ, bass, and drums into a tight, dynamic arrangement that owes more to Muscle Shoals than Music Row. Sitting among the musicians, producer Billy Joe Walker taps his foot to the greasy backbeat and smiles.

Brent Mason takes the solo: Armed with a souped-up ’68 Fender Telecaster—the guitar he has used on hundreds of hits—he picks a handful of blistering phrases and then releases a stuttering bend against the percolating Hammond chords. Three passes later, Walker signals his satisfaction, and the musicians troop into the control room to hear the playback.

After the session, Mason pours a cup of coffee, grabs a spare Tele, and prepares to field our questions about his snappy fingerstyle techniques. He has been playing for hours—it’s the second day of a week-long tracking marathon—but that doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm for sharing his 6-string secrets and 14 flashy examples

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EZ Street: Pull-Off Power
By Andy Ellis

Now that we’ve explored hammer-ons (“How to Nail Hammer-Ons,” April ’04 GP), it’s time to investigate the flip side of the coin, which is the pull-off. Like hammer-ons, pull-offs let us select and attack a note with the fretting hand. Plus, the beauty of pull-offs is they allow you to play fancy phrases with minimum effort.

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Rock Guru Steve Morse: Major Breakthroughs
As told to Jude Gold

The major scale—or Ionian mode—can teach you a whole lot more than simply how to play “do re mi fa so la ti” on the fretboard. Burn it into your fingers and you’ll learn many common whole- and half-step groupings that not only exist in other modes, but also in most genres of modern music.

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Jazz Guru Charlie Hunter - Stock Options
As told to Jude Gold

While the notes in the examples of this lesson are exactly the same, the fingerings (as shown in the tablature) are very different in each example. That’s because you can usually play the identical phrase about a zillion different ways on the guitar. Some will say this is one of the instrument’s weaknesses. But, while it’s true that this aspect of being a guitarist can be a drag when you’re sight-reading a giant piece of music (which, personally, I’ve never been particularly great at), I think of this mountain of options not as a weakness, but as a distinct advantage.

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Metal Guru Rusty Cooley: Blazing on a Single String
As told to Jude Gold

Last month I showed you how to get a captivating, unpredictable sound by racing up and down six-string scales using a repeating seven-note pattern. Well, guess what: As Yngwie Malmsteen and other stellar shredders have proven, you can also apply patterns—or sequences—to single strings as well. And when you remain on one string, sequences are even easier to pick quickly, because there are no string skips involved.

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How to play like... Jeff Watson
By Jude Gold

“There was probably another guy in a room somewhere doing eight-finger hammer-ons,” says Jeff Watson. “I was just the first guy fortunate enough to get it on MTV”—which is exactly what Watson did with the video for Night Ranger’s hit song “(You Can Still) Rock in America.” It was 1984—arguably the peak of the most technique-obsessed era in electric guitar history—and when Watson’s mind-boggling solo hit television screens worldwide, it quickly established the Northern California guitarist as the unofficial king of tapping.

“The idea actually came out of a piano lick that I was trying to cop on the guitar,” says Watson. “But on guitar, the lick required too much picking. It seemed more natural to play it all legato on one string, tapping the high notes with all four fingers of my picking hand.”

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Acoustic Guru Kaki King - From Folk to Funk
As told to Jude Gold

The tuning I use most on my debut album, Everybody Loves You [Velour] is C, G, D, G, A, D, low to high. El McMeen is probably the first guitarist I met who used this tuning. It’s great for inspiring riffs you might not think of—or perhaps even be able to play—in standard tuning.

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House of Pain - Dave Creamer’s “Blues for Alice”
By Jude Gold

You never forget a great guitar lesson. I was 17 when I decided that it was time to learn the hipster comping practice of plucking chords while maintaining a walking bass line. I couldn’t have consulted a better mentor for this topic than my teacher at the time, Dave Creamer—the veteran Bay Area guitarist who has worked with Miles Davis, Mel Tormé, John Abercrombie, and other jazz legends. (For more on Creamer, check out his Masters Series feature on 12-tone improvisation in the June ’89 GP, or his Web site, In response to my query, Creamer showed me his timeless bass-and-chords interpretation of Charlie Parker’s “Blues for Alice” changes, as shown in this lesson.

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