Kiko Loureiro on Cross-Picked and Hybrid-Picked Arpeggios

Megadeth's guitarist dishes on how he cleverly applies arpeggios in his tunes.
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Brazilian guitar start Kiko Loureiro was first profiled in GP back in the 11/07 issue, where we described him as a player with uncommon facility not just in rock and shred, which he was known for at the time, but also jazz, fusion, and traditional Brazilian and Bossa Nova music. At the 2014 NAMM show, Loureiro sat for a private lesson and discussed some of his monster techniques, including the clever application of arpeggios in his tunes.

“In my song ‘Gray Stone Gateway’ off my latest album Sounds of Innocence,” he explains, “I wanted to use the clave rhythm with some Steve Morse-, Eric Johnson-style open triads.” As he launches into Ex. 1, he’s quick to point out that it’s played with strict alternate picking. “For me it’s very difficult to play, but it’s all alternate picking. From the Em, it goes up to the Am, then to the dominant,” he says, as he walks diatonically through the Em, F#m, G#m7b5, B7, and B7b9 triads.

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When it comes time to descend from Em to D#, D, C, and B (“A very Spanish, flamenco kind of thing.”), Loureiro does break into hybrid picking for some of the arpeggios in Ex. 2. “It shouldn’t be, but it just happened,” he laughs. “It’s easier somehow.” The moral of this story is, treat this line as a great exercise for alternate picking, hybrid picking, fingerpicking, string skipping, open-voiced triads, diatonic harmony, or all of the above.

Speaking of hybrid picking, the tune “Twisted Horizon” off the same album is a great showcase of Loureiro’s command of that technique. “This song has very ‘happy’ harmony,” he says as he lays out the D-ABm- G-F#m-A progression that makes up Ex. 3. As he gets to the F#m, he breaks into a pentatonic minor scale for that chord and then a hip, pseudo-pentatonic major run for the A that swaps the 2 for the 4, making for a super guitar-friendly shape. When he reprises the harmony in Ex. 4, Loureiro inserts a IIm-V turnaround that features blazing arpeggiated runs over the Em before wrapping it up with the Amaj figure from before.

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Although he plays this piece at breakneck speed, the fact is it sounds great at slow tempos too. If you’re not hip to the Johnsonian approach to open-voiced triads and their inversions, this is a great way to learn them. If you are, consider this a righteous tune-up. Try it with every picking technique you can, and watch how your fluidity and accuracy with the shapes and the string skipping improve.