## Chromatic Patterns Part 2

In the last post, we looked at the 24 possible combinations for all four fingers, and paired them up as ascending and descending symmetrical patterns for easier memorization and practice. The idea with these sorts of exercises is to develop maximum independence in the fingers on the fretting hand.

So now we’ve taken the ascending and descending parts of our #1 fingering set, and worked on those pieces separately. The next logical step would be to combine the two, right? Let’s do it!
Cell/Loop:

Run:

Now reverse the combination, ascending with the descending pattern, then descending with the ascending pattern.

Another way to combine the mirrored patterns, rather than running one all the way up and the other all the way back down (or vice versa), is to alternate them one right after the other, all the way up and back. The cells and loops are the same for both sets of combinations, but the runs will change as seen below:

Let’s review the process of breaking down exercises into cells, loops, and runs:
• Practice the pattern cell a few times to get the rhythm and feel of the fingering pattern.
• Play the loop, gradually raising the tempo until you can no longer play it perfectly.
• Play the run as you did the loop, comparing maximum tempos for each to identify possible mechanical areas to work on.
• Play the full exercise, from the 1st to 12th fret and back down, on each string.

Some observations on the process:
• For the full exercise, feel free to adjust the range up the neck to a more comfortable area, if need be. The range should span an entire octave (12 frets).
• Use standard alternate picking (down-up-down-up) until you are satisfied that you have mastered the exercise. Then try reversing the picking motion (starting with an upstroke).
• Try fretting-hand techniques such as legato (hammer-ons/pull-offs).
• Try picking-hand techniques such as palm-muting.
• When working on ascending/descending fingering pairs, spend just enough time on the individual pieces to learn them, then move on to working them in combination. That’s where the greatest benefit to your technique will occur the most quickly.

Again, keep track of your maximum tempos as you work on these exercises and their component pieces. This will help you pinpoint areas in your technique to focus on, and will also allow you to track your progress.

## Chromatic Patterns

This next series of posts is designed to create maximum independence in your fretting hand fingers, by getting you familiar with all the possible combinations and creating patterns. These are commonly referred to as “chromatic” but are not technically using the entire chromatic scale in most cases. Whatever you want to call them, working these patterns into your practice routine will have an effect on your technique very quickly.

The usual mathematical model of showing all possible combinations of using all four fretting fingers once each in a sequence looks like this:

 1. 1-2-3-4 2. 1-2-4-3 3. 1-3-2-4 4. 1-3-4-2 5. 1-4-2-3 6. 1-4-3-2 7. 2-1-3-4 8. 2-1-4-3 9. 2-3-1-4 10. 2-3-4-1 11. 2-4-1-3 12. 2-4-3-1 13. 3-1-2-4 14. 3-1-4-2 15. 3-2-1-4 16. 3-2-4-1 17. 3-4-1-2 18. 3-4-2-1 19. 4-1-2-3 20. 4-1-3-2 21. 4-2-1-3 22. 4-2-3-1 23. 4-3-1-2 24. 4-3-2-1

The table is handy, but not very easy to memorize for practicing. As you practice fingerings across multiple strings and up and down the neck, you’ll see that half of the patterns are mirror images of each other. So you can simplify the number of patterns by pairing them up and organizing them like this:

 Ascending Descending 1.    1 – 2 – 3 – 4 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 2.    1 – 2 – 4 – 3 3 – 4 – 2 – 1 3.    1 – 3 – 2 – 4 4 – 2 – 3 – 1 4.    1 – 3 – 4 – 2 2 – 4 – 3 – 1 5.    1 – 4 – 2 – 3 3 – 2 – 4 – 1 6.    1 – 4 – 3 – 2 2 – 3 – 4 – 1 7.    2 – 1 – 3 – 4 4 – 3 – 1 – 2 8.    2 – 1 – 4 – 3 3 – 4 – 1 – 2 9.    2 – 3 – 1 – 4 4 – 1 – 3 – 2 10. 2 – 4 – 1 – 3 3 – 1 – 4 – 2 11. 3 – 1 – 2 – 4 4 – 2 – 1 – 3 12. 3 – 2 – 1 – 4 4 – 1 – 2 – 3

Sample exercises and patterns corresponding to the first pair of fingerings are provided, so you can plug all the other pairs in accordingly. Run them across all strings, up and down the neck, forward and backward. Stick with standard down-up-down-up alternate picking until you get comfortable with all the pairs, then try up-down-up-down and legato (hammer-ons and pull-offs). Refer to the main chart of symmetrical ascending/descending patterns for additional practice.

Remember: the point of these chromatic-style practice patterns is to promote finger independence, and to facilitate moving patterns across strings and up and down the neck. They are not intended to be musical, but can definitely have musical uses. Use your imagination, mix and match patterns and timings, develop your own variations – and most of all, have fun with it.

To introduce ideas and patterns for exercises and how to apply them, we’ll use the following terms to describe the basic elements:

• Cell – refers to the pattern at its most basic level, usually within a single position.
• Loop – playing the pattern repeatedly in position.
• Run – moving the pattern up and back several (at least 4) positions or strings, and back.

These are the building blocks for all the exercises presented in this series of posts. When learning any new piece or exercise, it’s always best to take it a segment at a time, then put it all together.

Single-String Patterns
Let’s take a look at patterns that occur on one string. We can then move them up and down the neck, and then across the neck on the other strings. We’ll start with the first pair of fingerings in the table on page 7. The cell for the ascending fingering [1-2-3-4] looks like this:

The cell itself is the 1-2-3-4 16th-note combination; the quarter note after the phrase is primarily a place-holder, but also allows you to get the hang of the fingering, and bring it up to speed. Now try moving on to the loop:

Play this one at a comfortable tempo, to where it’s a continuous, seamless flow of notes. Gradually raise the tempo until you can no longer play it perfectly. Make a note of this maximum tempo. Now we’re going to move the pattern up and back a few positions on the neck:

As with the loop, play the run at a manageable rate of speed, gradually raising the tempo until it is no longer perfect. Now take a look at that final tempo, and compare it to what you ended with for the loop. Ideally, the “maximum run tempo” should be equal to the “maximum loop tempo,” but if it is less than that, then exercises that address position-shifting should be an emphasis of your warm-up and practice routines. (This principle will also apply to string-crossing.)

For the full exercise, run the pattern from the 1st position up to the 12th and back on the low E (6th) string. Then do the same thing on the other five strings.

Now, let’s look at the descending part of our #1 fingering pair, starting with the cell:

Now the loop:

And finally the run:

As with the ascending pattern, run this up and back, from 1st to 12th frets, on each string.
Hopefully the “cell/loop/run” format outlined here serves as a useful template for you in breaking exercises and drills down into more manageable chunks, working on those chunks at comfortable tempos, and then putting them all together into one coherent piece.

In the next post, we’ll go over some ideas on combining ascending and descending patterns.

## Melodic Warm-up Exercise

Here’s a cool 16-bar run I’ve been using a lot lately for a warmup exercise. It focuses on a couple of important techniques, gets your hands moving quickly, and gives your ears something to listen to besides straight scales and chromatics. Let’s break it down into two sections.

First things first:  the entire piece is in sextuplets, in 6/8 time. As always, every note should be alternate-picked until you feel like you’ve mastered the progression at a decent tempo, at which point you can and should experiment with the usual dynamics (especially palm-muting and legato). Usually with a warmup piece you don’t really worry so much about using a metronome and keeping strict tempo, but for this piece it would probably help to use one at first, again to the point that you feel comfortable with the progression and techniques.

The piece breaks down into two main sections, six and ten bars respectively. Let’s break down the first six-bar section:

Bars 1-4

This is a six-note motif, with the root note descending chromatically against a repeated C-D-D#-D-C line, until bar 4, where the 5-note line played against the root becomes C-D-C-F#-C and the picking scheme changes substantially from having that F# note played on the D string instead of the G string. Take that 4th bar slowly at first, until the slight difference in picking sequence feels comfortable.

Bars 5-6 (see above)

One of my favorite melodic maneuvers, ascending triads using chromatic inversions. This sequence essentially functions as the melodic “bridge” between the two main sections. Check the chord implications throughout the piece, and use them for ideas for your own study pieces, progressions, or songs.

Bars 7-10

The rest of the piece is string skipping, so if you’re not comfortable with that technique, you should be fluent with it after mastering this short piece. Bars 7 and 9 are identical, and 8 and 10 are symmetrical, as diminished triads repeat every three frets, and are musically enharmonic. That’s why in bar 10 the arpeggio is shown as C#° (A#°/G°/E°), as it is technically all four of those things, because of the symmetrical nature of the diminished scale.

Bars 11-16

The string-skipping progression continues chromatically in bars 11-12, before heading into a “classical” cycle-of-fifths (E-B-D-A-C-G) progression in bars 13-15, before resolving on the B in the final bar. The stretches in bar 12 are wide, and a simple alternative to that is shown below. It can be either alternate or sweep picked; obviously, I would suggest you try both.

As always, get the progression comfortable under your fingers, increase the tempo, try various guitar dynamics, and especially throw in some melodic and harmonic changes of your own. As long as it sounds good, warms up your hands and ears, and gets you working on specific techniques, it’s good. Have fun!

## Appreciation

Russia, Brazil, Poland, Serbia, the Australian Outback, Sweden, Indonesia, Newfoundland, Vietnam, India, Greece, and of course all across the good ol’ U.S. of A. What do all of those places have in common? People from those areas — and many more throughout the world — have visited Purple Tiger Guitar in the last 24 hours. Fifty-seven countries in all, in fact. That is an amazing thing.

Every day thousands of people from everywhere around the planet stop in and get tips, tricks, and techniques to help improve their playing and musicality. We’ve been on a bit of a work-life hiatus lately, and it’s a thrill to know that you all still keep coming by, and that you find music and ideas to help your playing.

Just wanted you all to know that your continued patronage is deeply appreciated, and that there will be new material posted as this week progresses. As always, stay tuned!

Just wanted to thank everyone who grabbed their free downloads over the weekend, over 5,000 PTG books were downloaded! Hope you all enjoy them, please spread the word, leave a review, and feel free to comment or contact us directly with any questions or suggestions you may have. Thanks again!

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## Back to Basics: Pickin’ and Grinnin’

When it comes to getting the hang of alternate picking, two fundamental questions frequently come up with newer players. The answers, such as they are, may surprise you.

How Should You Hold Your Pick?
When building or improving any technique, and this is certainly true of alternate picking, efficiency and control should be your main goals. But you also have to take into consideration intangibles such as comfort and feel. As long as a motion or position isn’t inefficient or causing any discomfort, it’s worth trying out.

So the short answer is “whatever works”, but you do want to make sure that the way you hold your pick doesn’t create an unnecessary “ceiling”, a point at which further improvement is difficult or impossible.

Ideally, the pick should be gripped with the thumb and index finger, though some players will include the middle finger in tandem with the index as well. The thumb (on top of the pick) should run parallel to the strings, and the index finger (on the bottom of the pick) should be directed perpendicular to the string. The other three fingers can be curled into a loose fist, or splayed out, you can find plenty of examples of each among famous players. Again, the key is whatever’s comfortable, so long as it doesn’t affect your control and efficiency.

Keep your wrist and forearm loose; your grip on the pick should be just enough to not lose control of it or let it slip. Experiment with single-note playing as well as strumming chords across all six strings.

What Type of Pick Should You Use?
This will probably take as much experimentation and practice, if not more, than observing how to hold the pick. Most picks are made of plastic, and some have cork for easier gripping. Some players use metal picks, which are great for artificial harmonics. Players such as Brian May and Billy Gibbons famously use coins (English sixpence and Mexican peso, respectively), which again make artificial harmonics very easy, and have a built-in grip from whatever is embossed on the faces of the coin.

Aside from material, a huge consideration for what pick to use is thickness. A very thin (less than .50mm) will give you less resistance as it meets the string, thus greater speed and flexibility. But you may have to compensate more to strum full chords or get a full dynamic range (such as artificial harmonics or palm muting). Conversely, thicker picks (over 1.00 mm) will give you more control in accurately targeting notes, and getting full strums and dynamics. But you also have to train your wrist for the greater resistance from a thicker pick.

Try at least one of each along the way, until you find what works best for you. I used coins for several years early on, but most of them produce a good deal of metal dust that clings to your fingers. Thin picks give you more freedom and flexibility, but you have to work more at dynamic control. Thicker picks will dial in your wrist and give you more dynamic control, but you have to work at it.

I ended up somewhere in the middle, as I suspect most players do, and I’ve used Dunlop Tortex green .88mm picks for about 20 years or so. Once you find something that works well for you, you’ll probably stick with it for good, but definitely try a few different materials and thicknesses before settling on one particular type. Think about the style(s) of music you play, and what works best for that.

So many of these basic areas of playing boil down to a matter of personal preference, but it’s important to try a few different options before settling on one.

## Tales from the Practice Monkey

Let’s talk about “practice” versus “jamming”, and how each is important to your development as a player. After several years of playing drums and then bass guitar, I picked up the six-string, motivated in no small part by lunch-hour excursions home from high school with my friends to crank up the first couple Van Halen albums, and ask “how’d he do that?” over and over again.

That was a great time to get started, to see the ongoing development of rock guitar, from giants such as Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Jeff Beck (and so many more), to the fertile post-EVH boom of proto-shredders. Once I had mastered most of the Van Halen and Randy Rhoads material, I turned my attention to what at the time was unheard-of speeds of playing.

Players such as Paul Gilbert, Nuno Bettencourt, and Yngwie Malmsteen (and again, literally dozens of others) gave me an appreciation of where impeccable technique could be matched by real musicality. There was room for both, and players were experimenting with all sorts of unusual techniques and scales, and (just as important to me, as a learner trying to take in all these new sounds and styles) sharing tips and tricks with one another.

Tab was still in its infancy at the time, and things we take for granted now — such as, you know, home computing, websites, YouTube, software that enables you to create awesome neck diagrams and tabs with a few mouse clicks — were not even a dream. I still have a huge notebook, spiral-bound binder paper, full of handwritten tabs that I either copied out of magazines or created painstakingly, hunched over the guitar, working out one sweep-picked arpeggio at a time.

Also, we walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways, barefoot.

Anyway, it quickly became apparent that, having average manual dexterity, a systematic approach to learning all these great new tricks would be the best way to go. Many players (also, by definition, being in the middle of the bell curve) figured out the same thing, and started really taking practice seriously, and breaking down mechanical techniques into their most fundamental forms. It was still cool to blast Buck’s Boogie or Cat Scratch Fever with your older cousins when they were around and felt like playing, but it was clear that if you wanted to compete with guys like Paul Gilbert, it would take some time and preparation.

And when it came to breaking everything down to its mechanical basics, and providing some clues as to how much time you should really spend on acquiring a high level of technique, the great Steve Vai came along and threw down the gauntlet, hard, with his infamous 10-Hour Guitar Workout. The title alone tells you he’s not screwing around, right? (In fact, Vai later expanded upon the original for Guitar World magazine, creating an even more comprehensive article called The 30-Hour Path to Virtuoso Enlightenment, comprised of three 10-hour-per-day sessions.)

Such a level of commitment and dedication was nothing short of a challenge, and many players (including yours truly) wanted to see if we were up to it. There were days I would call in sick to work, and spend 10-12 hours with a stack of books and my Ibanez, going over scales and patterns and arpeggios and solos. It was a lot of fun, and a tremendous amount of work.

Even with that sort of lopsided, time-intensive commitment to anything, it’s important to leave at least some time for other things, for some sort of life balance. For probably 3-4 years, I probably never took a full day off, unless I was sick. There was always at least an hour or three, after work, on lunch break, watching football on the weekends, for practice. Where there’s a will there’s a way, as they say. But there was also time for riding motorcycles, for dating, for recreation, for reading, etc. Even so, most weeks were in the 30-40 hours of practice range, so it was basically like having a second full-time job.

After a few years of that, I became accustomed to referring to myself as a “practice monkey” — that is, someone obsessed with the mechanical minutiae of playing things that required very little active intelligence, merely rote memorization and pattern recognition. There’s nothing wrong with that; in fact, I still routinely use many of the pieces I learned at that time as practice material. But in retrospect, it may not have been the most balanced approach to things.

Don’t get me wrong; if there’s been one consistent theme here since day one, it’s that practice is vital, and it is defined distinctly from jamming (which is also important). Things like goal setting, tracking progress, closely observing fundamental motion in both hands, learning music theory, are all crucial to effective practice that will really accelerate your learning curve.

Or you can learn a few patterns and boxes you’re comfortable with, develop your ear to the point that you can hear where and how they fit, and write songs based around that. Which is a perfectly valid approach to the instrument. But there’s a lot more you can get out of real practice, with time and attention, and that sort of thing is not really “practice” anyway, but jamming. And again, that’s fine.

If you’re one of those players who, once you pick up the guitar and start learning, you know that you’ll never stop learning or playing, then you know what I’m getting at here. The old bit about it being a journey and not a destination holds true. The thing to recognize is that over such a course of many years of playing, your focus will (and should) shift from one to the other, from an emphasis on practicing mechanics and technique, to spending the majority of your playing time on improvising and composing.

Back in the 30-40 hours of practice per week days, probably 80% of that time was spent on mapping various patterns all over the neck — scales, modes, arpeggios, chords, etc. Included in that would be time spent on learning classical pieces like we frequently tab here, and solos from songs I liked. The remaining 20% would be left for more jamming-oriented playing. Included in that would be composing riffs and progressions, writing and arranging songs.

As time has passed, that ratio has shifted, probably to almost the opposite — while my weekly playing time is closer to the 10-12 hour range these days, probably 75-80% is spent jamming and noodling around. The patterns have been long ago internalized, and putting them together, running through them randomly, and finding progressions over which to apply them, is the whole point of learning them in the first place.

So while we spend most of our time here going over scales and patterns and classical pieces and exercises to memorize, please keep in mind that these things are just a means to an end, not an end in themselves. The object is not to hone your mechanical dexterity until you can play a C major scale pattern at a thousand beats per minute, it’s to help you attain a solid level of mechanical ability and musical understanding in a shorter length of time, so that you then have the ability to play whatever you come up with, whether it’s composition or improvisation. It’s a matter of getting your hands, ears, eyes, and brain all on the same page, working together effortlessly.

Think of it as a continuum, starting with a ton of practice and some jamming, to eventually the other way around. And again, jamming is the arena where you apply the patterns you’ve drilled on for so many hours. If you’ve played organized sports, you know the dynamic right away — you work out with weights and cardio (basic motion) to get physically conditioned to execute without too much strain, then you drill on specific movements that you will need in a playing situation. Then comes the game; then you play. That’s the difference between practice and jamming.

Realize that it takes time to learn all the patterns and pieces that we’re going over on this site, and even more time to put them all together in some sort of coherent context (which is music theory). Understand that all that material gets learned a piece at a time, and will take repeated visits to learn and internalize and commit to memory. Keep it all in perspective; no matter who your favorite player is, no matter how brilliant they are, it took them years of patience and dedication — and yes, practice — to get their playing to the level that you’re hearing.

In the meantime, be persistent and consistent in learning the patterns, and take advantage of the tools at your disposal. If you can’t afford recording software, go grab a free copy of Audacity, and record some basic grooves to improvise over. Don’t feel like you need to write songs right away, unless that’s your focus; if you’re a lead guitarist by nature, record some simple progressions that have a clear key, then move on to more complex progressions and songwriting as your ear becomes more attuned.

Above all, if you find yourself in “practice monkey” mode, make sure that the time you put in is matched up to concrete goals, short- and long-term. Take at least some time during the week to apply the things you’ve been working on.

And when you hit the inevitable wall or rut, don’t be afraid to put the guitar down and take a walk, hang out with friends, just get away from it for a while.

## Learning to Read Tab and Notation

A very common question among players is whether they really need to learn to read music. Some will just dive right into reading tab and standard notation, and figure it out, while for others, it seems too much like work, time taken away from actually playing. It is mostly that latter group that asks if knowing how to read music is necessary.

And the answer is both yes and no, which can be frustrating for most people. Which is it, yes or no? As with many things, it depends. Look, if you just want to learn a few songs, a couple of pentatonic boxes, keep it real and play completely by ear, you can definitely do that. There are countless musicians who have had legendary careers, who cannot read music and do not know theory. If you can navigate your way around to where your ear can hear what you like, and you know the patterns to create those sounds, you can write plenty of songs in that style.

When talking about “reading,” especially for guitar, it helps to make a distinction between standard notation and tablature. Unless you’re learning jazz or classical guitar, learning standard notation is not as critical a skill. (But it certainly doesn’t hurt.) Tab, on the other hand, is essential to getting anywhere beyond the absolute basics. Almost any song or exercise that will further your development is going to at least be in tab.

The best analogy I can think of as to why it’s worthwhile to at minimum learn to read tab has to do with reading in general. You want to be able to read any book or magazine or publication you might pick up, so you learn what sounds letters make, separately and in combination, how to put words and phrases together, etc. It’s the same with music — you can figure out by ear how to play this or that song, but to grab a tab book or a piece of sheet music and make it sound like something, that takes an understanding of the basics of reading tab.

And reading tab really isn’t that difficult, for the most part. Aside from seeing the fret/string combination and being able to play it as you read it, the other major feature that needs some study and attention is note values and rhythm. This means understanding the difference between a quarter note and a 16th note, or a triplet or odd grouping, which is mostly being able to tap your foot to a beat and count it out.

Learning to read notation is somewhat trickier, because the guitar is considered a transposing instrument, and so is written in standard notation one octave lower than it actually sounds. This can be confusing at first.

Also, unlike other instruments, the guitar has more than one location to play most notes. Take a middle C note for example — there’s only one place to play that note on a piano, but five locations on guitar (1st fret, 2nd string; 5th fret, 3rd string; 10th fret, 4th string; 15th fret, 5th string; 20th fret, 6th string). The context of the music and the practicality of the location (most people are not going to play that note on the 20th fret of the low E string) will help determine where to play the note. But it still can be difficult to properly sight-read (that is, read the music while playing it, in real time) standard notation, where with a little bit of practice, sight-reading tab is fairly simple and straightforward.

Some players have a fear that learning to read music, or learning theory, will affect the way in which they approach and play their music. This is not entirely unfounded — since there are only so many hours in the day or week available to practice and study, it’s reasonable to believe that excessive amounts of time spent on learning theoretical concepts will take away from learning the practical applications — that is, songs — of those concepts.

But with practice time that is properly segmented and prioritized, you can do both — learn useful concepts that will advance your understanding of music in general and guitar in particular, and more importantly, how to apply those ideas. It doesn’t take that much time, either — a 15-minute segment of your practice routine, over the course of several weeks or months, should be sufficient to internalize your ability to read tab, and use it to apply your own musical ideas.

Learning to sight-read standard notation is a worthwhile effort, because it will make a wider variety of music (again, primarily jazz and classical) available to learn. But it should be noted that it will take substantially more time and effort than learning to read tab. If you’re “starting from scratch” and don’t know how to read tab or notation, but would like to learn both, I would suggest starting with tab and progressing to notation once tab has been mastered (in other words, you can sight-read and play an unfamiliar page of tab in real time).

In the next few weeks, we’ll do a “quick and dirty” rundown on the basics of reading tab, and put that into a 1-2 page cheat sheet for the Resources page.

## Melodic Warmup Exercise, Part 2

Hopefully the previous post has given you some ideas for developing melodies and progressions, as well as for refining mechanical (fretting and picking hand) techniques. It’s usually more fun and interesting to work on mechanical concepts with melodic ideas, things that sound like actual music.

So let’s pick up where we left off, and take our single-position exercise a little further. Instead of working through a chord progression, we’re going to run through a melodic sequence derived from a scale. Here is the E harmonic minor scale, played in 7th position:

Use the suggested fingering and picking directions, and play the scale ascending and descending. The slide on the high E string is not absolutely necessary, but will make things easier, and give you more control.

Now, let’s check out the fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale. This mode, usually called the Phrygian dominant, but also commonly known as the Spanish or Jewish Phrygian, has a strong Middle Eastern flavor. If you’ve ever listened to Yngwie Malmsteen, Ulrich Roth, or any “neoclassical” style player, you’ll recognize this right away.

You might wonder what is meant by “fifth mode of the harmonic minor scale”. That simply means that if you start from the fifth note of the (in this case) E harmonic minor scale, which is B, and ascend through the same pattern, the intervals between the notes will alter somewhat, and give the sequence of notes a particular sound all their own. (For a quick breakdown on how modes are derived from scales, please consult the 1-page cheat sheet on the Resources page.)

The previous post focused on the B-G-D (2-3-4) strings for the exercise, and for the most part, this one will as well, with some minor additions. A cool exercise to facilitate finger independence starts from the octave (B) note of the Phrygian dominant mode, 9th fret D string:

Notice that this sequence is in 5/4 time. If you are not used to playing in odd time signatures, don’t be alarmed. As long as you can keep counting with the beat, you’ll be fine. You’re just going to be counting to 5 instead of 4 on the beat you have set on your metronome. You can think of the above notes as 5 sets of 4 notes, rather than 4 sets of 5 notes, as long as you can keep the beat.

One thing that really helps with odd time signatures is to tap your foot along with the beat. The basic difference between 5/4 and the usual 4/4 is that 5/4 has an extra count to the beat. Just play the above tab in a smooth, even rhythm until it sounds good.

For the rest of this exercise, we’ll go back to the usual 4/4, which should make things easier. Let’s take our melodic sequence and start moving it up further along the scale:

Again, keep strict down-up alternate picking and use the suggested fingering, and observe how it isolates all of the adjacent finger pairs (1-2, 2-3, 3-4). Usually the 3-4 finger pair is going to give you the most headaches, and this is a good one for working on that pair. Get a nice even rhythm going, repeating the sequence over and over.

The last bar is replicated below, with just the final note of the bar changed, from a D# (8th fret, G string) to a C (10th fret, D string). How does this small change affect the sound of the sequence, and the way you approach playing it? The difference a single note can make sometimes is pretty substantial.

Play both sequences all the way through, go back and forth between the two final notes of the sequence, observe the picking motion throughout, build up speed gradually and systematically. This is a really fun and melodic exercise that will hopefully inspire you to build your own ideas from other scales and patterns.