Hopefully last month’s column hasn’t mangled too many fingers and you’ve been practicing hard. Let’s continue looking at advanced legato techniques.
Exercise 1 features a lick that’s based on the whole tone scale. You can picture the shape we’re using here if you think of the five side of a die. The key to playing this kind of lick is allowing your fingers to smoothly move from position to position – picture it as you play up through a shape, change position and come back down, change position and play up again and so on. Because the whole tone is a symmetrical scale, there’s no root note – you can continue this lick as far up the neck as you like. Once you get the rolling motion down, you can mess with the rhythms and really fly over the neck with it.
Exercise 2 is an up-tempo slap lick that combines hammer-ons with slaps and pops to create a continuous row of 16th notes. Make sure you keep those 16ths tight in the second bar and let the last four notes ring together to create a nice bass chord at the end of the phrase. It goes without saying, but keep this one funky: i f you play it fast and it doesn’t groove, you score no points, play without honour and are generally a second-class human being.
Exercise 3 is a simple two-string lick that mixes up legato playing with a little raking. The lick features a three-note legato idea on the D string, which sustains the last note while playing a note on the G string. These notes form a double-stop that is only a tone apart. Be brave – if played with conviction, little dissonances like this can sound very cool. If you play it with fear in your heart, people will know and you will be beaten without mercy.
Exercise 4 is a lick that uses some nice open string pull-off ideas. It is originally inspired by Nashville country guitar licks: I simply didn’t see why they should have all the fun. It uses fingers one and four, and is based solely on the G minor pentatonic scale, so the nuts and bolts of it are pretty straightforward. What’s more difficult is making this lick sound smooth, allowing all of the notes to ring clearly and blending the open strings in so that the lick sounds fluid without becoming a mush. I love to play it with a pick so that you can really spank it. If you listen to the way country guitarists play this sort of run, they really hit it – so dig in and really try to pull those accents out.
Exercise 5 is a little variation – it uses a very similar idea, but the rhythms created are slightly different. This one may feel a little trickier to control as it mixes in a bit more open string action, so I’ve made the second bar much simpler. Again, dig in hard and if you can, hit it with a pick. (It doesn’t mean you’re a wannabe guitarist…. unless you are, in which case, it does.)
Dave Marks’s playing and recording credits span a wide range of bands and artists. His time is spread between the Rick Parfitt Jnr band, his ‘RhythmMatters’ masterclasses and Thriller Live at the West End.