The 13th Fret

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Hello HMS-ers! Welcome to November’s dose of The 13th Fret! This time around we’ll look at my solo in the PRISMIND song, “Dagger”. I feel that there are some interesting ideas/phrases here that you can apply to your own playing and solo construction. So, let’s get to it!

To start out, I must mention that one of the main inspirations for this solo was John Petrucci’s solo in Dream Theater’s “Under A Glass Moon”. The ideas here don’t really sound like John’s work in that solo, but it was how he touched upon many different styles and influences every few bars that I thought was so clever and cool. That’s what I took from “Glass Moon” and attempted to bring to “Dagger”.

The solo starts off with fairly bluesy phrase in bars 1-2. Beginning with an opening bend and a run that combines the blues scale and chromatic passing tones, this phrase eases things in with something home-y and familiar sounding. The more ear-tweaking ideas will soon arrive! I play this phrase with alternate picking beginning on an upstroke, as it launches from the second 16th note of the beat. Of course, the first 16th note would generally be struck with a downstroke. Since that note is not present, the picking order resumes from what would logically follow; an upstroke. Steve Morse’s (Dixie Dregs/Deep Purple) playing was the inspiration here.

The next lick in bars 3-4 could be seen as a form of “tension and release”. The angular and intervallic slides in bar 3 dart in several directions, like the ricochet of a rubber ball in a small room. This is answered by a flowing legato line that tames the line down to the b9 (“D” in the key of C#m).

Bars 5-6 start out with a rhythmical sputtering line that’s set up with the use of C# minor pentatonic (C#,E,F#,G#,B), before descending using a hybrid of C# blues scale and C# Phrygian. This hybrid scale is essentially the blues scale (C#,E,F#,G,G#,B) with the addition of the b9 (D). Since D is found regularly in the underlying rhythm riff, I wanted to strengthen the tie between the licks and the rhythm part by including it. This phrase ends with a slide into a couple of double-stops (two notes sounding together), which lends a strong ear-catching break from the single-note barrage.

The tumbling legato line in bars 7-8 uses a rather simple pattern (the motif being the first 6 notes). Falling from the 1st to the 5th string, it bounces back up to rest on “E” on the third string and treated to vibrato. Lines like this are very commonly heard in the playing of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Petrucci, etc., and very effective when deployed at the right time.

At this point, the solo modulates to the key of E minor, which despite being a “minor” key, still has an uplifting feel having come from C# minor (in this case, the PARALLEL relative minor of E). Bars 9-10 feature a sprawling single string idea that employs the E Half/Whole diminished scale that we looked at in a previous column (E,F,G,G#,Bb,B,C#,D). Also note the use of open strings as the vehicle to carry this idea through strings E,B and G.

Click here to download the sheet music for Kelly's tutorial!

“One of the main inspirations for this solo was John Petrucci’s solo in Dream Theater’s 'Under A Glass Moon' ”

Following that is a tense 3-note cluster around the root note “E”, that gets carried up through 3 octaves. Surrounding E with its immediate neighbours D# and F, definitely ramps up the tension level. This idea can be traced back to the playing of legendary Gypsy jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt, as well as the aforementioned Mr. Petrucci and many others. The sound somewhat resembles the buzz of a bee.

Finally we have the alternate picked/string skipping run using the E half/whole diminished scale once again. This spiralling corkscrew of a lick seems quite fitting, as my bandmates Justin Faragher (bass) and Mike Harshaw (drums) signal the solo’s exit with heightened dynamics, bass runs, and drum fills. Although the position shifts are a tad tricky if you’re not used to them, take comfort in knowing that the pattern established in bars 13-14 is essentially repeated in bars 15-16, a few frets higher.

The groups of 5 here is quite a natural rhythm to express this idea in. No wonder players like Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci and others rely on this concept so frequently. My turn…..thanks, guys! ;) The finishing run in bar 16 is a straight up E Phrygian mode with a Bb passing tone directly before the bend to B.

Attached is the full song link to “Dagger”. The solo begins at 3:50. Check it out and drop me a line with any questions or comments, and I’ll see you next month! \m/

As always, if you have any questions about this piece, contact Kelly through his Facebook page.

Kelly Kereliuk, HMS

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