Gear talk for the GAS-afflicted.

Lessons with Brandon Reihana – Odd Groupings and Alternate Picking

Lessons with Brandon Reihana – Odd Groupings and Alternate Picking

Jun 18, 2013

2011 Profile Pic

Brandon Reihana is an Ibanez endorsed guitarist who is perhaps best known for his contribution to the band Blindspott, as part of the line-up that produced the certified Platinum album End The Silence. He has toured and played alongside internationally acclaimed acts such as Metallica, Linkin Park, Tool and Deftones. Previously a part of critically acclaimed metal band New Way Home (who were recently signed by Warner Music), Brandon recently broke away to focus on his true passion – instrumental guitar rock, following in the footsteps of his influences like Joe Satriani,  Steve Vai and Jason Becker.
These days, Brandon can be found slinging his Ibanez guitars as an integral member of the instrumental metal/shred outfit The Heavy Metal Ninjas, bringing his punishing riffing style and technical wizardry into what was already a highly-skilled line-up. He is also currently working on his solo debut, a five track EP called Break Through Consciousness which will be released in 2013.


Welcome back guitar lovers! Hope you all enjoyed the April interview with Richie Allan and myself – The Heavy Metal Ninjas had a great show, and talking about it helped get rid of those first show jitters, haha!

This month is all about you guys!! I asked for some suggestions on what YOU want to learn on my Facebook page recently, and got some great responses! Of course we can’t cover all of them in one week, but we’ll try and get through a few. Hopefully you all will find some value in them.

The Mission

Joe Kawana wanted 5 notes per beat and 6 notes per beat runs which could be combined into a long up and down hammer on and pull off lick without too much struggle.

ThePrussian LeadFarmer  wanted to learn some alternate picking exercises to develop synchronization of the left and right hand.

Let’s see if I can help out.

Fives and Sixes

Using different note divisions and groupings can help make your playing sound more interesting. This is something that Jason Becker, Marty Friedman etc does with great skill. Here is a lick that I came up with based on Joe’s request – it’s based on a repetitive sequence of notes that alternate between 5 and 6 notes per beat. The rhythmic sequence would be  5, 6, 5, 6 etc. Joe wanted a fluid legato run up and down the fretboard and below is my interpretation, check it out.


May - 5 and 6 Legato


(My face just melted. ~thesamurai)

5s and 6s – Slow Burn

We are in the key of D minor/F Major. Jam this over a D min or D min 7 chord for that natural minor scale coolness or jam it over a A minor 7 to get that A Dorian love happening!


Alternate Picking 101

Alternate picking is a technique where you alternate between a  down and an upstroke continuously. There are many ways to practice this. One way is to practice the exercises in this lesson over and over, which works, BUT it can get boring at the same time. Another way of practicing this technique is that once you have the basics mastered, find songs that you enjoy which feature the technique, and learn them – whether it is metal, rock or instrumental stuff, find an artist that moves you and see what they do for inspiration.

I hold my pick using my thumb and index finger and my wrist does all the movement. Some players use their forearm to generate speed unfortunately this type of playing can lead to RSI and other injuries so use this method at your own risk.

So, here’s a quick summary:

* Master the basics

* Practice to a metronome (increase speed once you have mastered playing to a certain tempo). Make sure all the notes are played evenly (dynamically) and executed cleanly at slower tempos before moving on to the quicker tempos. Otherwise you risk learning bad habits and muscle memory, once learnt, is difficult to unlearn.

* Get inspiration from your guitar heroes.

Let’s jump in. This exercise is in the key of D minor/F Major. Jam this over a D min or D min 7 chord for that natural minor scale coolness or jam it over a A minor 7 to get that A Dorian happening!

May - Alternate picking SB


Let’s try something a little bit trickier. This is something that Paul Gilbert does often – playing a string of three ascending notes, one on the next string, and then back down with the three original notes. Let’s take that a little further and introduce a little “skip” over the adjacent string to the next one down just for a challenge!

May - Alternate picking 102


Now let’s try that slowly:


That’s all we’ve got time for this time! Big thank you to those of you who check this column out, and a special shout out to Dan Anderson who was asking when the column would be out – it’s great to see people excited about it, and I appreciate your support!

I’m tossing up doing a lesson on tapped arpeggios next time, or delving into the Salvation solo – which one do you think we should do?

Also, I’m sure you guys are all keen to have a central place to chat and talk about guitars, music and anything under the sun – if so, please check out the newly launched Six-String Samurai forum! Come join and be part of the community.



  1. […] However, it is a pretty cool one as he continues fielding some reader requests as he did last time on Six-String Samurai. This time, it’s a special request from me! I’ve always wanted to […]

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