BONELESS CHICKEN PICKIN’
To many players, there’s only one thing to do with a string bent up a whole-step: release it. These guitarists forget that as they release that string, the bent note passes through another “Western” note a half-step below before returning to its unbent state. Why not visit that in-between pitch once in a while? In fact, for a warped bent-string riff that stops on the ’tweener pitch, try the greasy chicken pickin’ maneuver notated above. Pluck the second string at the 10th fret, bend it up a whole-step from A to B, and hold it (end of pickup measure); leave it ringing while sounding the D at the 10th fret of the first string (downbeat of the complete bar); pluck the bent second string again (second sixteenth of complete bar); pluck the 9th-fret C# on the first string (third sixteenth); release the second string only a half-step to Bb and pluck it (last sixteenth of beat one); and then play the final five notes as written. You’ll hear two descending lines a third apart. The limp, lazy sound of the bent notes releasing is what makes this savory “poultry pickin’” lick recipe sound like the primary ingredient is boneless chicken.
THE “HOW DID YOU DO THAT?” CASCADE
I was knocked out by this cascading line the first time I heard it played by the great Bay Area guitarist Nina Gerber. She got it from Steve Trovato at GIT, one of the masters of this sort of thing. Start with a 1st-finger slide and then follow the pattern of 1st finger on the 3rd fret, 4th finger on the 6th fret of the next lowest string, and then an open string. Repeat it on the next lowest pair of strings, and so on. Arch your fretting-hand fingers so they don’t bump into any open strings, and let it all ring as long as possible. This works either fingerstyle or with hybrid picking. I tend to pick every note on the 3rd fret, hammer every 6th fret note with my pinky, and catch every open string with my middle finger, but experiment. If you get this down, it will sound like you just dragged your pick across a 17-string guitar. You never want to play anything just because it will impress people in a music store, but man—this lick really impresses people in music stores!
ANDY’S HANDY DANDY TURNAROUND
This is a variation on a killer turnaround that I originally stole from an Andy Ellis GP lesson entitled “25 Blues Licks You Must Know” back in the ’90s. Dig into the contrary motion slides and let the two high notes (the 7th and 5th of the chord) bleed together on the E and D chords. It feels as good as it sounds. Bust this out on your next blues jam and you’ll see—it works every time.
SMART POP VOICINGS
The following chords are my favorite way of navigating a simple D-G-C progression. You get tasty minor seconds thanks to the F# and G that rub together in each bar. The pull off in bar 3 is the gateway to really expanding this concept. Experiment with fingerpicking these voicings (in almost any pattern) and throw in that pull off on the G string whenever it feels right. You’ll start to hear a ton of pianistic patterns that can be played at absolutely breakneck speeds, although they sound great slow too. Bonus! You can do these exact same moves in the fifth position (key of F), seventh position (key of G), ninth (key of A), and twelfth (key of C).
ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK
Take a look at the first two bar phrase here. It’s a really simple pattern of “up one, down two” that’s a staple of warm-up exercises and etudes. If we apply that exact same concept to wider intervals, however, we can get some pretty out there sounds that don’t resemble that rather predictable line at all. Check out the next twobar phrase. As you can see in the photo, this is a big stretch, from your 1st finger at the 15th fret all the way up to your pinky at the 21st fret, but it’s the same moves that we saw in the first example (save for a little extra flourish at the end). The big stretch creates some wacky chromaticism before settling on the 5 of our A7. In the final two measures, we get the same trip with a straight A7 arpeggio. Feel free to mess with the timing, throwing rests, sixteenth-notes, or whatever, and don’t be afraid to continue it into lower octaves. Once you start on this concept, it’s a blast to see how many different patterns you can use it on.