Lead

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

Do you ever find your­self ac­ci­den­tally stum­bling upon a cool lick or con­cept in­tu­itively, then fig­ur­ing out later what the hell it is you’ve just done? It hap­pens to me all the time. When you think about it, that’s gotta be how mu­sic the­ory started in the first place: “How can we de­scribe this stuff so that we can com­mu­ni­cate it to other mu­si­cians?”

One of the things that’s been hap­pen­ing pretty or­gan­i­cally for me lately is break­ing up chords for lead gui­tar parts, but not in the usual Yng­wie-style arpeg­gios of doom.

Fig­ure #1 is an ex­am­ple, and it came about be­cause I was mess­ing around with open chord shapes trans­posed up an oc­tave. A lot of us are re­ally in the habit of play­ing arpeg­gios as some com­bi­na­tion of ham­mer-ons and pull-offs, but this method is more about al­ter­nate pick­ing. All I’m do­ing here is play­ing sim­ple ‘cow­boy chords’ up an oc­tave and break­ing them up into four in­di­vid­ual notes be­fore chang­ing chords. In fact, if you were to play th­ese in an open po­si­tion, and maybe put a bit of a triplet f eel on it, it would sound like a pretty stan­dard acous­tic fin­ger­pick­ing rhythm part (as you’ll be able to note in Fig­ure #2).

There’s a sort of a Drop­kick Mur­phys feel to the sec­ond ver­sion, but if you play them both at the same time, it turns into some­thing akin to Steve Morse’s HighTen­sion

Wires al­bum. An­other thing I stum­bled across and can’t seem to stop play­ing is the idea of tak­ing sim­ple triad shapes and mov­ing around the neck, think­ing of them as melodic rather than har­monic en­ti­ties (a bunch of notes rather than just a sin­gle chord bro­ken up).

Fig­ure #3 is one I do so of ten that I’m kind of try­ing to stop do­ing it. If you look closely, you’ll see that it’s com­posed of some pretty stan­dard ma­jor and mi­nor triad shapes. I like to slip and slide around the fret­board a lit­tle more slinkily, though, so some­times I’ll play it like you can see in Fig­ure #4. What I like most about this ap­proach is that it al­lows you to re­ally quickly dream up all sorts of com­plex-sound­ing, speedy melodies with­out hav­ing to think too far ahead. If you know where you want to start and where you want to end, the mid­dle kind of fills it­self in.

I guess what this comes down to is, when I re­alised how easy it was to do the Kirk Ham­mett style of arpeggio, I fig­ured I’d leave it to guys like Kirk (I love that guy’s play­ing, by the way – this isn’t a jab at his style) and try to find some­thing that felt a lit­tle bit more... Me. At the same time, I think it’s im­por­tant to study stuff that you may not nec­es­sar­ily want to do in your own play­ing, be­cause you never know when you might stum­ble upon a vari­a­tion that works for you, and says what you want to say about your­self through your mu­sic.

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