Cre­ative Rock

Shaun Bax­ter shows how tri­adic arpeg­gios can be used to cre­ate stun­ning so­los.

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

Over the next few is­sues we are go­ing to study the stylis­tic el­e­ments in neo-clas­si­cal rock, start­ing with tri­adic arpeg­gios. A triad com­prises three notes (stacked 3rds), and is one of the fun­da­men­tal build­ing blocks of Western mu­sic. There are four main tri­ads: di­min­ished, mi­nor, ma­jor and aug­mented. Di­a­gram 1 shows three com­mon shapes for ma­jor and mi­nor tri­ads. A ma­jor: A C# E A mi­nor: AC E 13 5 1 b3 5 Di­min­ished and aug­mented tri­ads have not been in­cluded be­cause they don’t fea­ture in neo-clas­si­cal rock (oc­ca­sion­ally you will hear dim 7th, but that’s a four-note ar­peg­gio, not a triad, and we will be cov­er­ing that in a fol­low­ing les­son). It’s not to say you shouldn’t ex­per­i­ment with these tri­ads. Prac­tise by shift­ing the 3rds and 5ths of each of the shapes in Di­a­gram 1 (lower the 5th of mi­nor to get di­min­ished; raise the 5th of ma­jor to get aug­mented) from A di­min­ished (1, b3, b5) to A mi­nor (1, b3, 5) to A ma­jor (1, 3, 5) to A aug­mented (1, 3, #5). Keep the changed notes on the same string as the orig­i­nal!

This is ex­cel­lent for in­ter­val recog­ni­tion as it ham­mers home where to find the 3rds and 5ths. Tri­ads are also a good ref­er­ence point for other in­ter­vals: if you want to find the 6th, it’s a tone up from the 5th: a lot eas­ier than work­ing up from the root.

Be­cause the tri­adic arpeg­gios in Di­a­gram 1 of­ten just have one note on each string, they lend them­selves to be­ing sweep picked in or­der to be played at speed. Sweep pick­ing is where you play more than one note with a sin­gle pick-stroke when trav­el­ling from string to string - ef­fec­tively it’s a con­trolled strum.

In this month’s ar­peg­gio work­out, you will see many con­sec­u­tive pick strokes in the same di­rec­tion. When this hap­pens, you should play all the strokes shown as one con­tin­u­ous stroke, not lots of sep­a­rate ones. When do­ing this, only one note is sup­posed to be held down at a time by the fret­ting hand: this en­sures that all the notes are heard separately (as sin­gle notes). If con­sec­u­tive notes on ad­ja­cent strings oc­cupy dif­fer­ent frets, this is rel­a­tively easy; how­ever, some­times the con­sec­u­tive notes are played on ad­ja­cent strings within the same fret, and this is when we need to use a barré roll which in­volves lay­ing a fin­ger of the fret­ting hand flat across two or more strings, and the weight of the fin­ger­print part is re­dis­tributed from string to string (note to note), so that only one note is held down at a time. This is achieved us­ing an arm and wrist ac­tion rather than dis­tort­ing the shape of the fin­ger, which should re­main straight but slightly arched through­out. Sweep­ing only sounds good when played in time (in other words, when there is an equal dis­tance be­tween each note, so that it doesn’t sound lumpy when played at speed). Some play­ers think of a sweep as a suc­ces­sion of clas­si­cal-style ‘rest’ strokes whereby, upon pick­ing a string, the pick fol­lows through and comes to rest upon the neigh­bour­ing string. The pres­sure is then in­creased upon the pick, in or­der to force it through this sec­ond string, to rest on the third, and so forth. This keeps the pick mov­ing in­ex­orably for­ward.

Show a small amount of plec­trum to the string when pick­ing (about 2mm). Then, when sweep­ing a large ar­peg­gio the fin­gers and thumb can act like sta­bilis­ers, al­low­ing you to lean on the fin­ger­nails dur­ing down­sweeps and on the side of thumb dur­ing up-sweeps. This helps to an­gle the pick cor­rectly. If you show too much pick to the strings, the change of an­gle be­tween down and up-strokes will be­come too pro­nounced.

Fi­nally, when sweep­ing across sev­eral strings, use a wrist ac­tion wher­ever pos­si­ble, be­cause the aim is to in­te­grate it nat­u­rally in to the rest of your pick­ing.

Tri­ads form the ba­sic ref­er­ence point for most in­ter­vals.

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