Jan 19, 2013
This is my first ever guitar column so welcome, everyone!
In this column we will be going through some licks from my forthcoming instrumental rock EP Break Through Consciousness. We will look into how they were created and work on how you could go about creating your own unique licks, runs or riffs using similar concepts. There’s something for players of all skill levels – aside from the main lick, I’ll include a simplified section which will help you develop the technique required to execute the phrase. So here we go!
This is the intro from the track entitled Ocean Nebula. This lick was written on my 7 string which was tuned to drop Bb at the time. It was just one shape over 3 strings, and really started off as an exercise I used to warm up. One day, however, I instantly heard the rhythm guitars in my head and recorded it right away. Don’t worry – I might have come up with it on a 7 string, but these licks are all 6 string friendly!
A quick word on theory – I use a lot of theory in my playing, but if it sounds alien to you at first do not be discouraged, theory is not necessarily something you need to be concerned with to make music, it’s really more about using your ears and letting them lead the way. I started off with no idea of what theory was and followed what I heard in my head, and it worked out fine! Theory does of course open you up to some new possibilities, and so during the course of these lessons, I’ll try and slowly incorporate some theory, but for now let’s focus on some cool sounding licks.
The opening lick uses the C Dorian and D Phrygian scale shape over an Eb and F Major chord progression, making the lick a Lydian and Mixolydian scale respectively. The line basically ascends and descends the scale.
Here is the intro lick, slowed down:
Let’s compare the intro run to the C Dorian Scale. This example will give you an idea of how to create your own licks. By removing notes from an otherwise stock-standard run up and down the scale, we can create something interesting and cool. This approach has been used on a higher level by guitarists like Jason Becker and Marty Friedman to discover exotic scales and create their own distinctive sounds.
If we look at the intro lick, it has one note missing compared to the C Dorian scale and that is the note on the D string (4th String) 3rd fret.
In the “Slow Burn” section of each column, we’ll run through a simplified version of the concepts above for the theory averse (thesamurai says, “Hah, like me!”) and beginners. The licks we run through here will help you build the foundations of your knowledge and technical ability to be able to play the more involved passages.
Ascending the scale
This is a basic Major scale. I use this scale and the shape in particular because it helps build strength in all four fingers as they are all being utilized. This shape can be moved all over the fretboard so try memorizing the shape of the scale and then move it up and down the low E string.
Descending the scale
Now put them both together
This exercise is the building block for licks like the Ocean Nebula intro. Once you have mastered this, try experimenting with removing one note from the scale. Change the note you remove until you come up with something that sounds good to you. You can also just play a portion of the scale instead of the whole thing – your imagination is the limit.
Across the universe (actually, just the fretboard)
A Major across the fretboard – this exercise will help you travel across more of the fretboard and get you out of that box shape playing.
Play these exercises slow at first – focusing on playing them cleanly and use down and up picking (alternate picking). Once you get these into your muscle memory you can then begin to slowly increase the speed to your heart’s content.
Here are two click tracks that you can use to practice the slow and fast tempo versions of these licks.
I hope you all get something from my column and we will see you next month, thanks for checking it out! Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comment section and I will get back to you with a reply as soon as possible.