The 13th Fret

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Happy August, HMS-ers! After some consideration, I’ve decided to postpone the sequel to last month’s topic (Attack Formations Pt. 1), at least for this month. That particular concept focused on practical uses of interesting picking sequences, which can be quite demanding on one’s alternate picking technique. Due to that fact, instead let’s take this time to look at a few exercises that REALLY focus on common weaknesses; effectively amassing our own "picking gym”!

These licks/ideas will likely force you to pay closer attention to your technique (and perhaps occasionally curse excessively). Let’s get to it!

FIGURE 1a is a short, repeatable lick inspired by Al Di Meola’s conga-like picked phrases. Many of his lines have a certain “burst” to them, that occurs seemingly at will. The phrase in question is essentially NINE notes long before it repeats, AND contains a triplet burst. Two challenges arise in getting this lick to sound right:

1- aiming for a smooth and seamless transition between the 16th note and 16th-note triplet, without stumbling or “ramping” up or down.

2- Due to the odd number of notes, you’ll be starting every other pass of the lick with and UPSTROKE, while trying to maintain the integrity of the rhythmic nuances. This means the burst will likely feel weird on the upstroke pass too.

Figure 1b is the same pattern with a string skip, just to compound the difficulty. This one makes an excellent warmup!

FIGURE 2 is an intervallic workout based on a common progression in Aminor (Am, G, F, E7). This contains repeated melodic groupings of five using alternate picking. Spread out over several strings (including string skips), each chord is expressed with a dispersement of the notes in a keyboard-like manner. One non-chord tone is used in each instance as well (the 4th note). The final four notes over the E7 chord hint at an E7b9 (with the inclusion of “F”), and serves as the transition to restarting the lick.

As with the last example, every second repetition will start with an upstroke. Navigating through the string skips will feel a bit trickier because of this.

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

"These licks/ideas will likely force you to pay closer attention to your technique (and perhaps occasionally curse excessively)."

FIGURE 3 is actually a continuation of the piece presented in my very first column (Warming Up: Designing Your Own And Targeting Weaknesses). Written several years after the part presented in that column, this part is at once shorter, yet significantly more difficult.

Unlike the first part, this section breaks the pattern of “arpeggio twice/descending scale” that dominated before. With a progression of Dm, Am, Bm7b5, and E7, it burrows itself nicely against the return of the Am section. With it’s abundance of string crosses and skips (and the odd position shift), don’t be surprised to find this section slower going than the it’s predecessor!

The idea with these examples, is to use them as a means of EXAGGERATING the difficulties found in regular pick-based playing. There’s a very good chance that these will highlight at least a couple of weaknesses in your playing, which prevent you from playing them as fast as you may want. That’s the whole point; like running around the block a few times with one leg…..then noticing how much easier it is when the other leg is reintroduced!

As always, if you have any questions about this piece, drop me a line at my Facebook page.

Stick with these a while and I guarantee you’ll notice results. See you next time! \m/

Kelly Kereliuk, HMS

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