Joe Satriani’s Top 10 Tips to Build Virtuoso Chops

Joe Satriani sits down to teach 10 tips that can help you build your chops—everything from bending to building fret-hand strength to breaking out of boxes and improving your dexterity.
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In this video, Joe Satriani sits down to teach 10 tips that can help you build your chops—everything from bending to building fret-hand strength to breaking out of boxes and improving your dexterity.

Joe takes you through each step of the process, with advice to help you with every technique shown.

In addition, each tip has accompanying TAB, which you can find below.

FIGURE 1 (:20)

Joe’s first tip is all about bending in tune. It’s really simple: you hit a note, drop down two frets and bend that note up to the first one. Do it first without vibrato. Then try it on other strings, in different areas of the neck and in various degrees of pitch change (half step, one and a half steps, and so on).

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FIGURE 2 (1:20)

Building fret-hand strength, flexibility and endurance is key. One exercise you can use to work on these facets is to anchor your first finger at the 1st fret and then trill (rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs) notes from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th frets.

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FIGURE 3 (2:00)

This tip takes the stretching exercise from FIGURE 2 one step further, adding ascending and descending legato elements to it. Here, again using the 1st-fret F note as an anchor, ascend and descend in legato fashion, using every possible fingering combination. Try it on other strings and at other fretboard locations. too.

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FIGURE 4 (2:30)

This tip combines hammer-ons and stretches in an exercise to build endurance and facility for three-notes-per-string licks and patterns. Work your way up and down the fretboard one half step at a time, and strive for an evenness of attack and volume.

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FIGURE 5 (2:52)

This is a short example of how to combine all the techniques and approaches discussed this far. Try to build your own licks using the various finger patterns and attacks shown here.

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FIGURE 6 (3:09)

This is a great warm-up exercise using all four fret-hand fingers on four separate strings on four different frets. Use all three string sets (6–3, 5–2, 4–1) and cover the entire fretboard. Strive for economy of movement, moving your fret-hand fingers as little as possible to get each grip.

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FIGURE 7 (3:45)
This takes the concept shown in FIGURE 6 and applies it to diminished-chord inversions. You can also try this with major and minor triads, 7th chords, and so on.

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FIGURE 8 (4:10)
This is an alternate picking warm-up that Satch learned from a jazz guitarist named Billy Bauer. It offers a pattern that’s not part of the idiomatic rock style. When you play this exercise on different strings, it takes on a whole new technique of its own—you have to lift your fingers differently, depending on the thickness of the string and the spacing of the frets. It really teaches you that there are a lot of ways of getting fingerings to work out, even if they appear awkward at first.

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FIGURE 9 (5:37)
This exerericse will help you break out of common scale boxes. Satch learned this exercise from Lennie Tristano, who told him not to worry about timing when playing scales but rather to try to cover the entire neck. There are several four-notes-per-string patterns you can use to cover the neck. But the idea is to be able to look at the neck and see every key clearly laid out in any number of paths, all of which are available to you.

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FIGURE 10 (6:08)

Finally, building on FIGURE 9, FIGURE 10 explores the neck with various scale types all against a drone (here, an E major scale—E F# G# A B C# D#—against a low E drone). While you’re doing this, try to find two- or three-note patterns that occur in several locations on the fretboard and tie them together in your improvisation.

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