Presto Excerpt

As you may have seen in the news, we’re in the middle of a brutal heat wave out here in California, making it pretty unpleasant to work or play guitar or do much of anything besides languish in front of a cool fan with a cold drink.

That said, we are still on track to release the next book in our Master the Classics! Series. Presto takes the classic Bach piece from the Violin Sonata #1 in Gm (BWV 1001), and works it every which way. The book will feature musical analysis of every part of the piece, and it is tabbed in two octaves, with plenty of great melodic shapes to learn and apply to your own playing. Best of all, there are dozens of exercises based on the music, featuring classic shredder techniques such as sweep picking, string skipping, pedal point, and more!

Whether you’re a novice player looking for tips on building technique, or an experienced shredder looking for more and better practice material, Presto will have something for players of all styles and skill levels.

So while we’re finishing up editing, formatting, and cover art, here’s another excerpt from the book:

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The diagram below shows the G harmonic minor scale notes (other than open strings) from the 1st through the 12th frets:

G Harmonic Minor 01

Carefully observe how the scale lies across the fretboard, and see how you can create various useful fingerings for this scale, using any number of strings (including just one string). Here’s the tab for a standard six-string fingering at the 3rd position:

4a

Here’s an alternate fingering that’s great for working up the neck quickly:

4b

Use the suggested fingerings and slides, take it slow at first, and you should be ripping it up in no time.

A lot of the counterpoint and melodic motion in the Presto takes place within a single octave of the G harmonic minor, so these next few exercises will focus on a snapshot of the fretboard:

G Harmonic Minor 02

Here’s the tab:

4c

Even though the shift to the B string is two frets, it should not be too difficult to handle. Run it back and forth until it’s fast, clean, and smooth. Since all four fingers are used at some point or other, it makes an effective warm-up exercise as well.

Now what if we start this scale sequence one scale degree down, like this?

4d

Since it’s starting from the 7th degree of the scale, this is considered the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scale. It is commonly known as the Ultralocrian. Where the Locrian mode (seventh mode of the major scale) is spelled out (relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-4-b5-b6-b7, the Ultralocrian spells out (again, relative to major scale) R-b2-b3-b4-b5-b6-bb7; every note other than the root is flattened, and the 7th degree is diminished (flattened twice).

The harmonic minor scale and the Ultralocrian mode each have their own distinctive “flavor” that works well over certain types of progressions. It’s definitely worth the effort to get familiar with these scales.

Let’s run this up and back in thirds, along the D-G-B strings:

4e

There are some twists and turns in there, so take it slow and use the recommended fingering. There’s a balance of one-string and two-string third intervals throughout, demonstrating the importance of learning intervals every way possible.

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Hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Presto will be available on Amazon July 4th, and we’ll kick off the release with free downloads all weekend (July 4-7)! Stay tuned, and check in as this week moves along, as we’ll have an excerpt from the other forthcoming book as well.

Presto Change-o

The next two PTG books for Kindle are scheduled for release on July 4, with free downloads available for that entire weekend (July 4-7). One of the books is based on the Presto movement of J.S. Bach’s Violin Sonata #1 in G minor.

This one is going to be a shredder’s paradise — the piece itself is technically and musically complex and rewarding, and the book also includes dozens of exercises derived from the work. These exercises range from sweep and economy picking to pedal point to developing melodic contour. This book is ambitious in scope, and will give you tons of technique and theory knowledge while you play. And even after the free download weekend, it will be priced at only $2.99, far less than the price of a single professional lesson.

And I promise you, this one book contains months, perhaps years of valuable knowledge that you can apply to your own playing right away.

So I’d like to give you a preview of what you can expect from the Presto book in a couple of weeks.

Let’s take a look at the first few bars of the piece:

Presto-Intro

The Presto starts off with some nice arpeggio work. You can see we have this tabbed for economy and sweep picking, but initially you should run through it with strict down-up alternate picking until you have the forms and fingerings down.

Check out the sweep arpeggio fingerings tabbed below for G minor and G major:

Presto-ex1

You can pick the hammered notes if you prefer, but if your hammering technique is tight, it will actually sound smoother and cleaner as you set up to sweep through the rest of the arpeggio. This is a great introductory exercise to sweep arpeggios, and one that you can break down into its component parts, and incorporate into your soloing and melodic playing.

We’ll have more excerpts in the weeks to come, so play hard and stay tuned!

Fingerstyle Playing: Giuliani Studies 1-12

Fingerstyle playing is a valuable part of any guitarist’s repertoire, no matter what your regular style happens to be. Once mostly associated with classical or country styles, rock and metal have gained depth and dimension by incorporating the dynamics found in fingerstyle playing.

The most useful studies in gaining picking-hand finger independence are in classical and country music. Classical especially has a large canon of works, developed over hundreds of years by many master teachers. So it makes sense to take a look at what is universally recognized as one of the most important works of the classical guitar canon, Mauro Giuliani’s 120 Right Hand Studies. This collection of short (just two bars each) melodic pieces gets progressively more difficult in general, and will train each of the picking-hand fingers.

Let’s take a look at the first twelve of these studies, as shown in the PDF and sound files below:

120studies-for-right-hand(pdf)   120 Right Hand Studies(wav)

(Please e-mail or let me know in comments if either or both of the files have any issues loading.)

As you’ll see, each study simply shows a technique, going between two chords, C in the first bar and G7 in the second bar. Especially in the first few studies, the G7 chord uses the third, B, as the bass note. Once you have the studies and techniques mastered, definitely start using other open chords and sequences, and combine them in ways that sound good to you.

We’ll put up photos and video soon so you can see a visual demonstration of proper picking-hand technique, but in the meantime, the basic position of readiness is to have your hand slightly cupped over the strings over the soundhole, hovering just above (1/8″ to 1/4″) the strings. Your thumb should be in position to strike the E or A strings, and the next three fingers over the D,G, and B strings respectively. The pinky is used, but rarely; until you get into more advanced classical guitar concepts such as tremolo, focus mostly on getting the thumb and first three fingers dialed in.

The tab is in the PDF just to make things easier to sight read, but definitely check the picking hand indications in the standard notation as you read along. The indications are as follows:  “p”=thumb, “I”=index, “m”=middle, “a”=ring, and “c”=pinky.

While these can be played on electric guitar, definitely work them on a nylon-string classical if you can, or a steel-string acoustic if you have one. The strings are spaced slightly more on classical and acoustic guitars, and thus will train your picking hand properly.

It’s also important to achieve a good, solid tone with each of your fingers as they strike the strings. Think of the midpoint between the 3rd and 4th (G and D) strings as your center, and each of your picking-hand fingers is striking slightly toward that center. So your thumb will strike downward as it plays root notes on the E, A, and D strings, while the other fingers will pull just slightly upward toward that center when playing the G, B, and E’ strings. (An exception is when the thumb is playing a bass note on the G string, in which case you strike downward, like you would on the lower strings.) Each finger should strike its string clear and smooth, and produce a tone that rings out and can be held for duration.

Shifting from C to G7 will be tricky at first, because in the full G7 chord form, you will need to use your ring finger for the low G note, which will appear in many of the studies. Use the index finger to fret the F note on the high E string, the pinky for the D note on the B string, and the middle finger for the B bass note on the A string.

Economy of motion for both hands should be a priority in developing any technique, but will be especially important here, as your picking hand will now be doing more than just picking up or down as a group of fingers, requiring attention to both hands as you play. Work on mastering the fretting of the chord forms first, especially since they’re the same in each study, then concentrate on what each finger of the picking hand is doing in a given study.

Here’s a quick breakdown of each of the twelve studies covered here:

#1 — The first study introduces the basic chord forms, with the thumb cycling through the first three notes of each chord as roots. Take it slow at first, and get a feel for shifting between the two chord forms. Notice that for three of the four beats on the G7 chord (beats 1, 2, and 4), there is no G note, making the tonality implied.

#2 — This is just the first study, but with the notes played one at a time. Keep a nice, slow, rolling triplet rhythm, count or tap along while you get your picking-hand fingers used to the independent motion, then use a metronome.

#3 — This reverses the order of the notes played on the B and E’ strings, so the middle finger will strike before the index finger (p-m-I instead of p-I-m).

#4 — Going back to the p-I-m sequence, but now “rolling across” the neck before returning the thumb back to the original bass note on the 4th beat. This is not as tricky as it might appear.

#5 — Now we’re rolling across the neck with a reverse m-I-p sequence.

#6 — A couple of minor curveballs in this one, rolling across with a p-m-I sequence. First, the bass note (first note of each beat) has an extended duration. Let it ring out for the full beat, not just the triplet. The other two notes of each beat remain triplets. The rest of these twelve studies will have this first-note duration. Secondly, notice that for the first three beats of each bar, the last note of each beat is also the first note of the next beat, but they are picked by different fingers, index then thumb. A great introductory study for finger independence.

#7 — Let’s introduce the ring finger to the festivities here. In the 1st and 3rd beats of each bar, the chord is spread out on the A-G-E’ strings (and the low G is finally introduced in the 3rd beat of the G7 bar), while on the 2nd and 4th beat, the “interior” of the chords are played. You may want to give this study some extra attention, to make sure that the low G in incorporated comfortably into the established G7 form you’ve been working on so far.

#8 — A simple reworking of the “spread” and “interior” forms from the previous study. This is a good one for gaining independence for the ring finger.

#9 — This is a nice and easy introduction to the back-and-forth “rolling” technique, where a chord form is played low-to-high and then back down. The first two beats feature that technique, and it’s a valuable one. Pay particular attention to keeping your picking hand position as anchored as possible, and not floating back and forth with the flow of the notes. You shouldn’t have to move your hand at all, just the individual fingers.

#10 — Another reversal of the fingers against the thumb root. By now this shouldn’t be too difficult.

#11 — The first note of each beat features the melodic note, played by the index finger, with an accompanying root played by the thumb. You may want to practice playing just the I-m-a sequences first, then add in the bass notes. This is a great introduction to incorporating moving bass lines against a static melody (in counterpoint, this is considered oblique motion).

#12 — You know the drill by now — reverse the fingering of the upper triad melody, from I-m-a to a-m-I. By now your ring finger should feel comfortable in these sequences.

Throughout all of the twelve studies included here — and for any fingerstyle study — strive for clarity of tone, an even rhythm, and consistent volume. Especially at first, some of the weaker or less coordinated picking fingers may be lower in volume and/or weaker in duration and clarity. Play through all twelve of these studies until the chord shifting feels smooth and natural, and the fingers on the picking hand are strong and comfortable.

We’ll cover the next 12 studies in a future post, but later this week, there will be a couple of short, simple pieces that will give you some additional melodic and rhythmic framework to apply these ideas to.

3N/S Patterns: Harmonic Minor

The harmonic minor scale is actually easier to play in position than as a 3-notes-per-string (“3N/S”) pattern. But because these patterns have so many cool uses for melodic sequencing, and are helpful in traveling up and down the neck, it’s worth learning.

If you’re not familiar with the harmonic minor scale by name, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard it here and there. It is not commonly used in pop music, but is frequently found in metal and classical. Guitarists such as Yngwie Malmsteen have built careers on the virtuosic, heavy classical sound of this scale.

Spelled intervallically, the natural minor scale (in relation to the major scale) goes: 1-2-b3-4-5-b6-b7. So the 3rd, 6th, and 7th degrees of the major scale are flattened to make a natural minor scale (aka Aeolian mode).

The harmonic minor scale is the same as the natural minor, except that the 7th degree is not flattened, only the 3rd and 6th degrees. This creates a wider interval between that b6 and the Δ7 (the delta Δ can be used to denote major), which creates the melodic tension most associated with the harmonic minor scale.

Check out the diagrams below for notes and intervals in the scale:

HMinorScale

Here’s the tab and .wav for the scale:

HMinor_Scale

HMinor Scale

It takes a bit of back-and-forth shifting going from string to string, but once you get the shape down it’s not too bad. As always, take it slow at first, use strict alternate picking, and observe what each hand is doing as you shift and move from one string to the next.

The practice sequence below moves along the scale in thirds, ascending then descending. Check the tab and .wav files:

HMinorSeq

HMinor Seq (60bpm)   HMinor Seq (120bpm)

We’ll post some more ideas for melodic sequencing with 3N/S patterns soon, but in the meantime, try all of the sequencing ideas we’ve gone through so far on all of the scales (blues, major, minor, harmonic minor) we’ve looked at. Interval studies (such as the sequence in thirds tabbed above) are especially useful in discovering patterns within these larger scale patterns.

3N/S Patterns: Minor Scale

In looking at 3-note-per-string (aka “3N/S”) scale patterns we’ve touched on blues and major scales. Let’s take a look at the natural minor scale next. We’ll use the A minor scale, since it’s all natural notes (no sharps or flats), and the A minor scale is the relative minor of the C major scale. (Conversely, C major is the relative major of A minor.)

Here is the scale, spelled out in notes and then in intervals:

MinorScale

To add a little bit to the reference to modes from last time, since we know that a mode is a scale starting from a given tone, and there are seven tones in a major scale, then there must be seven modes, right?  This is where that “relative minor/major” idea comes in; if you count through the respective scales, you can see that the minor scale is the 6th (or Aeolian) mode of the major scale, which is A.

Here’s the tab and .wav file for the A minor scale:

Minor_Scale

Minor Scale

You’ll have to shift a little bit moving from the G to B and B to E strings, but it shouldn’t be too difficult. Check out the Modes cheat sheet on the Resources page for diagrams that are useful for visualization.

Here’s a cool melodic sequence to use on 3N/S scale patterns. It ascends through the scale pattern with a four-note sequence that goes (numbers indicate scale steps) 1-2-3-1, 2-3-4-2, 3-4-5-3, etc. Descending the pattern goes in reverse, 3-2-1-3.

Take it slow, use alternate picking (starting with a downstroke) and a metronome, and pay attention to those shifts on the upper strings. Use the .wav files for reference:

Minor_Seq

Minor Seq (60bpm) Minor Seq (120bpm)

Stay tuned, there’s another 3N/S pattern to cover, as well as more melodic sequences to use, and we’ll also be covering some ideas to improve your acoustic fingerstyle playing!

3N/S Patterns: Major Scale

Let’s continue our series on 3-note-per-string (referred to here as “3N/S”) by looking at the major scale. We’ll revisit the C Major scale, since it is comprised solely of natural notes (no sharps or flats). Check out the diagrams below, showing the scale spelled out in notes and then in intervals:

notes(2) intervals(2)

Notice that these aren’t “root-to-root” scales encompassing multiple full octaves, they are two octaves and a perfect fourth, roughly 2½ octaves. This is simply to make the most out of the position being played in, as there are only a couple of minor shifts involved.

For people who aren’t familiar with the concept of modes, there’s no time like the present to bring it up. A mode is just a scale sequence that starts from a given note in the scale. So if you start from C (the root), that’s the C Ionian mode (as well as the C Major scale). If you go from D to D’ (one octave up), that is called D Dorian. E to E’ is E Phrygian, and so on. The positions can be (and are) extrapolated along the neck.

We’ll go over modes in depth in a future series, in the meantime, check out the Modes cheat sheet on the Resources page for a quick overview. Modes are an incredibly useful tool in developing a melodic and truly musical style.

Check the tab and .wav file below. As always, use alternate picking (starting with a downstroke) and use a metronome. Notice that the sequence comes back down through the scale in the next position, which again would be the D Dorian mode:

Major Scale 01

Major Scale

The strength of playing scales this way is that they are useful in a huge variety of melodic sequencing patterns,  The sequence shown below is a great example of what can be done, it ascends four notes at a time through the scale. Try both ascending and descending, and listen to the accompanying .wav files for reference:

Major Seq 01

Major Seq (60bpm) Major Seq (120bpm)

Work it around in as many positions as you can think of, keeping in mind where the root note is located. We’ll review another scale and cool melodic sequence soon.

Neck Diagrams

A few folks have written in asking about the chord and scale diagrams, and what software is used to create them. I can’t say enough good things about Neck Diagrams software — it looks great, very easy to use, lots of excellent visual capabilities and customizable features. It features a really cool Scale Generator, that does most of the work for you, and the notes can be set to show interval, note name, or fingering.

Neck Diagrams is very easy to download and install, and again is about as user-friendly as you can get. On top of all that, it’s very reasonably priced, and their support staff are fast and responsive to questions and emails. Check out their free demo and see all of the features for yourself.

3N/S Patterns: Blues Scale

Recalling the Scales and Intervals series from a few weeks back (and we will be looking at the various intervals in the coming week), learning and memorizing scale patterns is probably the best way to build an arsenal of melodic licks.

As we’ve alluded to before, one of the most efficient ways to learn scales and cover some real estate on the neck is to use 3-note-per-string patterns. (“3N/S” seems like a convenient shorthand to use, hence the post title.) These patterns lend themselves very well to a variety of rhythmic and melodic sequences, many of which we’ll cover soon.

But first, let’s take a look at some scale patterns, starting with the blues scale. Unlike the diatonic major and minor scales, which have seven notes, or the five-note pentatonic scale, the blues scale has six notes (hexatonic). It is the pentatonic minor scale with an added flat fifth; intervallically, it’s spelled 1(R)-b3-4-b5-5-7.

Here’s the usual positional layout for the A minor blues scale, covering the first two of the five box positions:

Am Blues Scale

This is great if you want to remain in position, but if you want a convenient way to navigate, and come up with melodic sequences that are more efficient and easier to play at higher tempos, then the 3N/S style is really useful. Here’s how the blues scale looks in 3N/S:

Am Blues

It’s really just the same two-string shape, repeated three times across the neck, with position shifts. Just play the first two strings a few times at first to get the shape down; the first three notes are likely to be awkward to play at first, since about the only way to play that part is by using the third (ring) finger, a 1-3-4 fingering. Consider it a good way to get that tricky 3-4 fingering combination into shape. Play the shape ascending, and then back down, per the tab below:

Blues01

If it’s too much of a stretch to start down at the 5th position, move the whole shape a few frets up.

Practice the entire sequence in a few different keys, in various positions along the neck. The first note is the root note, so if you start the sequence at the 7th fret of the low E string, it’s in B minor, 9th fret would be C#m, and so on.

Try this melodic sequence using the 3N/S pattern in sextuplets:

Blues02

Use strict down-up alternate picking, take it slow at first and build up speed. Use a metronome to track your progress.

Stay tuned, we’ll have some other 3N/S scale and modal patterns over the coming week, as well as some sequences to try out on them!