Shred­ded Metal

Australian Guitar - - Contents -


Asim­ple, yet cool sound­ing tech­nique com­monly used in metal gui­tar so­los is to take a lick and ap­ply it chro­mat­i­cally up (or down) the fret­board.

In case you’re un­fa­mil­iar with the term ‘chro­matic’, a chro­matic scale in western mu­sic con­sists of all twelve tones played con­sec­u­tively, with each note be­ing a semi­tone (one fret) above or be­low the pre­vi­ous pitch. Chro­mati­cism in mu­sic refers to sec­tions where parts of the chro­matic scale are used, and as such, will in­clude notes that aren’t di­a­tonic (be­long­ing) to the over­all scale or key that the song is in.

So, what I mean by play­ing a lick chro­mat­i­cally is that you just take the lick and move it across the neck one fret at a time. In do­ing so, you’ll be play­ing a lot of notes that are tech­ni­cally ‘wrong’. How­ever, to make this work, you just need to re­solve the chro­mati­cism with a strong chord tone (such as the root or the fifth) or a ‘safer’ lick from the over­all key.

Two well-known ex­am­ples of this tech­nique in­clude the clos­ing pas­sage of Kirk Ham­met’s “Whiplash” solo, as well as the end­ing of Dave Mus­taine’s fre­netic solo in “Holy Wars… The Pun­ish­ment Due”. A more ob­scure solo that also comes to mind is Alek Skol­nick’s es­ca­lat­ing chro­matic lick in the track “Envy Life”, from Tes­ta­ment’s Prac­ticeWhatYou

Preach al­bum. As you’ll hear, this tech­nique is a great way to build ten­sion in a solo and bring it to a cli­max. I’ve come up with a few licks to fur­ther demon­strate this idea. All of the fol­low­ing ex­er­cises use 16th note triplets in the over­all key of E mi­nor.


Sim­i­lar to the afore­men­tioned “Whiplash” solo, this lick starts in the 12th po­si­tion and moves up chro­mat­i­cally, whilst con­tin­u­ing to play an open E pedal note in-be­tween. It re­solves with a bend to the high E. You can hear all of these licks by go­ing

toaus­tralian­gui­tar­ – I’ve recorded them at 120bpm (beats per minute), then played them at 60bpm.


This lick takes a ba­sic E Do­rian fin­ger­ing on the top two strings, and as­cends chro­mat­i­cally us­ing al­ter­nate pick­ing. Once again, it re­solves to the high E note. Play­ing chro­matic licks like this quickly also helps to dis­guise the fact that you’re play­ing out of key.


Although mu­si­cally quite bizarre, di­min­ished sev­enth arpeg­gios sound pretty cool when played chro­mat­i­cally – as this sweep-picked lick­demon­strates. Chro­mat­ic­style licks work best over a static riff be­long­ing to an over­all key, re­gard­less of whether that riff is di­a­tonic or chro­matic in na­ture.


This ex­am­ple takes a ba­sic sweep-picked E mi­nor arpeg­gio and moves it down chro­mat­i­cally, dou­bling up each shape. This leads nicely to an E bend on the sec­ond string to re­solve.


You can get as ex­treme with this con­cept as you like. This is a tonal lick is sim­i­lar to a sec­tion from Steve Vai’s “The At­ti­tude Song”. Us­ing sweep pick­ing on the top three strings, it criss-crosses up and then down the neck chro­mat­i­cally, fin­ish­ing on the E note where it be­gan. Trust me, it’s a real fin­ger-twis­ter!

This tech­nique can be used with any sort of lick across the fret­board, and as long as you start and end on a strong chord tone, it will work. These licks are not just lim­ited to heavy metal, but they def­i­nitely lend them­selves nicely to the dark and ag­gres­sive na­ture of heavy mu­sic.





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