Kreutzer #3, Part 2

While the brief intro section of Kreutzer Etude #3 probably did not take you too long to get a handle on, we loaded you up with several exercises based on the intro motif. The exercises are designed to work on melodic sequencing, and will also help a great deal with fretboard navigation, as they go up and down the neck along adjacent string pairs.

Let’s take a look at Section B of the etude, which takes up the majority of the piece, from bar 4 up through about halfway into bar 12. When you see the tab you’ll understand why that point makes an ideal spot to section off:


As mentioned in the previous post, Etude #3 is an interval exercise, specifically thirds. It is in Section B where most of the work on thirds is done. The entire section is essentially an ascending 6-note figure, comprised of thirds ascending stepwise through the scale, then connected by a 2-note scale-step descent, into the next climbing 6-note figure.

Let’s break down Bar 4 to see how that works. The notes for the first 6-note figure are: B-G-C-A-D-B. Each note pair is a descending third interval:  B down to G is a third, as are C down to A and D down to B respectively. (Be sure to check out the free Intervals cheat sheet on the Resources page if you need a reference or a refresher on the interval terms.) So you have three (3) third intervals grouped together, ascending one step at a time up the scale, right?

Now, after that 3rd (D-B) third interval (sorry if this is confusing), the figure goes to the next scale step, E, and then descends back to the D note, to set up for the next 6-note figure, which starts one scale step higher than the previous 6-note figure. This repeats through the following 7½ bars, a total of 17 times, more than 2 full octaves.

It makes sense to play the 3 thirds in each 6-note figure “in a row,” so to speak, and for the most part, they are tabbed as such. But there are bars where they are tabbed to minimize position shifting, which may be slightly more difficult to finger and learn. So below is an “alternate” way to play the section, where each successive trio of thirds stays on its respective string pair:


As we’ll see with the exercises for this section, there are only a couple of fingering patterns to learn, for thirds along a given adjacent string pair. So you may find the second tab for this section simpler to learn and play. Whatever works — in fact, any tab is generally a suggestion, although one based on experience and practice. But the bottom line is that if it makes more sense to you to play a note or phrase at a different spot from what’s in the tab, go for it, as long as it doesn’t run counter to the overall goal of the technique the study is designed to address.

To reinforce the concept of thirds and their patterns, practice the exercises shown below for adjacent string pairs:

B01 B02 B03

There are two fingering patterns for the B-G string pair, and one of those is also one of the two fingerings for all the other adjacent string pairs. The fingerings themselves should be apparent; for the double-stops on the B-G pair, try using one finger and two fingers, both ways can be applied in various playing situations.

As far as picking, start with down-up alternate, try up-down, and if you’re feeling ambitious, try economy picking (down-down or up-up).

Below is the C major scale in third intervals, going up the B string:


Needless to say, map out the scale on all strings, and play it in thirds as shown above. Then take it through the circle of 5ths/4ths, adding a sharp or a flat as you through the circle.

Finally, check out the melodic figure based on ascending and descending 3rd intervals, shown below:


As with the exercises from the previous post, be sure to come up with your own variations on these useful intervals. Listen to how they sound, and how a major 3rd sounds different from a minor 3rd. Experiment with different combinations of patterns and intervals.

We’ll close out the etude over the weekend. See you then!

Kreutzer Etude #3

We’ve gotten lots of great response and feedback since publishing Climbing the K2 last year, so we’re going to cover more technical studies from Kreutzer, as well as other collections for violin and piano.

At first glance, it might seem a bit odd to practice material specifically written for other instruments, especially studies written to address technical issues on those instruments. And some of that is true; studies that addresses bowing technique for the violin, or two-hand techniques for piano, are not readily applicable for those technical issues.

But many of them are very musical, and address musical issues in addition to the technical aspects. Many of the 42 Kreutzer Etudes fall into that category, as so many of them are interval studies, in addition to whatever proprietary technical issues they are written for.

Etude #3 is a study in thirds, probably the most commonly used interval in single-note (melodic) playing, and the foundation for musical structures such as triads and chords. It’s short, just 16 bars plus a final “landing” note, and relatively easy to play and learn. To make it even simpler to learn and discuss the concepts covered in the etude, we’ve broken it into three easy chunks. This post will cover the introductory measures, with the other two sections to follow over the next couple days.

The piece is in the key of C major (no sharps or flats), and we’ve tabbed it to lay along the general area shown below:

CMajor_notes CMajor_intervals

The majority of the etude is in this area, and of course C major is probably the single most important scale to learn and internalize, in as many positions as possible. There is one section (covered in the next post) which takes you up the fretboard along the E’-B string pair, so it will be useful to know the scale as shown here as well:


Check the tab shown below to play both scale forms:


Use strict alternate picking (starting with down-up, but try up-down as well) and a metronome to internalize these scale patterns. The first one should be pretty straightforward. The second one, with its four-note-per-string (4N/S) fingering at first, followed by the shift to a sextuplet at the end, will be challenging at first, but that’s because it’s supposed to be. Once you get the shift from straight-four to sextuplet cleanly and in time with the metronome, you’ll have a pretty cool sound that’s easy to work into a lot of melodic situations.

Make sure to work both patterns in as many keys as you can think of, chromatically or (better yet) through the circle of 5ths.

So we’ve set the scene, now let’s take a look at the intro section of the etude:


For our purposes, let’s consider the first three bars as Section A. Looking closely at these measures, we can see that it consists of a four-note melodic figure that repeats and descends mostly through the C major scale form we looked at above.

Especially with short, repeated melodic figures (motifs), it helps to break them down intervallically, to show the relationship of the notes to each other. So the first four notes are G-E-A-G. The distance from G to E is down a third. (In this case, it’s a minor third, but since we are moving diatonically through the scale, that will change to a major third in some instances.) The distance from E up to A is a (perfect) fourth. Finally, the distance from A down to G is a (major) second. So we’ll notate that intervallically as ↓3↑4↓2.

So as you can see, that ↓3↑4↓2 pattern continues right down through the scale, mostly in the 3rd position, to transition into Section B starting on the 4th bar. Throughout the entire piece, we’ve tabbed it so as to provide a variety of patterns and shifting, but we’ll also provide you with some exercises to focus on specific patterns, and how to apply them.

Practice Section A as tabbed, using strict alternate picking, and get the shifts and twists down. Start slow and build speed and accuracy at the same time; in other words, don’t bump up the metronome until you can play the passage perfectly.

Once you have that down, take a look at some bonus exercises that revolve around our ↓3↑4↓2 intervallic shape. Work the shape up and down various adjacent string pairs, as shown below:

A01 A02 A03

Once you isolate each 4-note grouping, you see that there are only 6 shapes total to learn:  3 for the B-G pair, and 3 for all the other adjacent string pairs.

Now let’s try a couple of ways to “invert” the shape. First let’s run it upside-down and reversed — instead of ↓3↑4↓2, we’ll go ↑2↓4↑3. See tab below:


Another cool way to invert is to keep the intervals in the original order, but reverse their directions. So now instead of ↓3↑4↓2, it’s ↑3↓4↑2, as shown below:


You know the drill by now with exercises of this nature — work them through other keys, positions, string pairs, etc. Think of other ways this particular interval sequence could be permuted or inverted. And perhaps most importantly, mix them all up, use pieces from all of them in various combinations. This is a really quick and effective way to build up a powerful musical vocabulary.

We’ll work on Section B in the next post, stay tuned!

Diminished Arpeggios and Sweep Picking Sequences

One of the more interesting flavors to add to your musical spice rack is the diminished arpeggio. Long used in jazz music, it was not used much in rock or metal until European guitarists such as Uli Roth and Yngwie Malmsteen, well-versed in classical music and theory, popularized it in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Check out the Scorpions’ classic Yellow Raven, or Yngwie’s Far Beyond the Sun, and the sound and tonality just leap out at you. These players and compositions paved the way for countless shredders.

As a rank beginner, the first time I heard the diminished scale, I thought the guitar was out of tune, but very quickly came to appreciate its unique tonality. Aside from its sound, a large part of the diminished arpeggio’s beauty and versatility lies in its simplicity.

We already know how triads are constructed, by stacking two third intervals. The diminished triad is made by stacking two minor thirds. You’ve probably heard the old line that an arpeggio is simply a “broken chord,” basically playing each note of a chord one at a time, rather than strumming all at once. Another way to look at it is as an extended triad — you get a triad by stacking two thirds, what if you stack an additional third interval on top of the first two? Now you have a 7th arpeggio; again, which type (major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th, diminished 7th)will depend on whether each of your three stacked thirds are major or minor in quality.

When the triads and extended arpeggios are harmonized through the major scale (similar to the way modes are derived), there is only one diminished 7th arpeggio, and it is the seventh (and final) one of the major scale. As always, concentrate on learning the sounds and shapes before the theoretical concepts.

Here’s where the diminished seventh arpeggio gets really simple, yet effective — all three of your stacked third intervals are minor thirds. So each note is three frets away from the previous one, and the next one. This equal distance between all notes in the arpeggio makes it symmetrical.

Let’s take a look at all of the notes (from the 2nd to 20th frets) in the 4-note diminished seventh arpeggio, with the root note of A:


Again, notice that there are just four notes:  root, minor (flat) 3rd, flat 5th, and diminished (double flat) 7th. (In terms of interval spelling, a diminished seventh interval is equal to a major 6th interval.) In the key of A, these four notes are A, C, Eb(D#), F#(Gb).

Another simple, effective thing about symmetrical forms is that, for practical purposes, each note in the arpeggio is a root. So any melodic sequence developed from this arpeggio will sound just as good in any of those four keys. This free-floating root characteristic is true of other symmetrical scales, such as the whole tone scale.

Here is a way to play the arpeggio in single-position fashion, but with some navigation up the neck:


Note that it’s just a single two-string, two-finger (1st and 4th) shape, repeated with each successive string pair. The slight position shifts might seem unusual at first, but try it on a single string pair at first, work it up to speed, and then run the entire shape across all six strings.

Now let’s take our 4-note shape and run it up the neck along a single string pair:


Just work the shape up one position (three frets) at a time, up and back down the neck, as shown in the tab below, using the 1st and 4th fingers only. This is a great way to warm up your hands for position shifting as well.


Referring back to the earlier “neoclassical” players mentioned, Roth and Malmsteen, let’s take a look at how easily this symmetrical shape falls across three strings for them, especially the first two trios of strings (E’-B-G and B-G-D). Here’s how the arpeggio sits on the E’-B-G strings:


Play the sequences shown in the tabs below, using the suggested picking and fingering. This is a good one for working on 1-3-4 fingerings, which can be problematic for some players.



Both shapes are useful for working on sweep picking upstrokes. Definitely try both; you may find that the second shape, with the pull-off, allows for smoother phrasing.

The next few tabs will show how to create melodic sequences with this shape that sound good and are not too difficult to play.



The second tab of the above two shows how to effectively sequence rhythmic variations, building each phrase with a triplet 16th and a 4/4 8th note, repeating up the neck. Played over a straight 4/4 rhythmic progression, this is a nice change-up from having the exact same note rhythm all the way through.

For the last sequence for this shape and string group, we’ll complete the sweep-picking sequence by coming back through the shape with a sweep downstroke. This is a fairly common shape in the rock/metal “neoclassical” style that uses diminished arpeggios frequently.

Try to achieve a “rolling” effect, back and forth, between upstrokes and downstrokes. This is a good rule of thumb for sweep picking just about anything, and will give your arpeggio sequences a nice, smooth, even sound.


It’s fine to accent the first note of each beat slightly, but when sweep picking, make sure that each note can be heard cleanly and clearly, independent from the note before it and the note after it. You don’t want the notes to all bleed together into a chord.

A great technique to try, especially when first learning sweep picking, is to palm-mute the note slightly as you pick it. Apply light pressure with the side of the palm of your picking hand as you pick the note, and gradually lift the pressure as the shape and the picking sequence become familiar.

We’ll wrap this up with a look at the B-G-D string group. (If you look at the neck diagram introducing this post, and observe how the arpeggio lays out on the G-D-A and D-A-E trios, you’ll see how the tuning of the B string helps in creating easy-to-play shapes that can quickly be moved along the progression of the arpeggio, up and back down the neck. The shapes on the lower strings are worth learning, but the E’-B-G and B-G-D groups will probably be more useful to you in an actual playing situation.

Here’s the B-G-D group. Where the E’-B-G group employed the 1-3-4 fingering, this one will use 1-2-4, and thus will probably be easier for most people to play.


Let’s apply this shape to a couple more back-and-forth “rolling” sequences. Again, get a smooth, even tempo and dynamic control over the notes, so that none of them are getting drowned out.



Again, since each of these is just a single shape repeated, it’s a great opportunity to work on sweep- and economy-picking, as well as fretboard navigation, all at the same time. Check out how hammer-ons and pull-offs are used to help set up the picking hand for greater maneuverability, so you’re not having to jump back into position too quickly.

Pay attention to the various picking suggestions in the tabs, and try them all, see which one(s) play more comfortably and smoothly. If you refer to the Roth video (esp. at about 2:23 for the main solo) and Malmsteen video (esp. in the secondary intro phrase, starting about 8 seconds in), you can see these exact shapes at work, and how useful they are for leading musically and navigating up the fretboard.

Definitely check out the entire bodies of work from each of these players (and others, of course), as Roth and Malmsteen pioneered this style and many of these techniques, and were playing this arpeggio when most players were still working with pentatonic boxes and not much else.

Notice also in the videos how little picking motion Roth and especially Malmsteen require when they play. There is basically zero wasted motion, and not only are they extremely efficient in their picking motion, but they make it seem almost effortless. This is the sort of top-level technique that enables you to play just about anything you can imagine, and is achievable with rigorous practice.