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

mw01

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

mw02

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

mw03 mw04

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.

mw05

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!

More Riffs for Technique

A great way to build technical chops and musicality, and get a break from running the same old scales and patterns over and over, is to take a song or riff that can be used to highlight a certain technique, and use it as warm-up material. Let’s take a look at a few quick and easy riffs from classic (if lesser-known) songs, that will build finger independence and picking technique.

The first example is very similar to the melodic riff from the beginning and end to Rush’s ’70s epic Xanadu.

MR_01

Probably the first thing you’ll notice here is that it’s in a 7/8 time signature. If you haven’t played much outside of 4/4 or 3/4, this is a good opportunity to try out a fairly simple odd time signature. It’s as simple as counting out a beat.

In 4/4 time, you would count “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and” to play a single bar, with each counted beat being a 16th note. For the above 7/8 bar, you simply drop the last “4-and”.

So, “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-1-and-2-and-3-and”, repeat. It takes a little bit of getting used to, like anything else, but time signatures such as 7/8, 9/8, or 5/4, where a single beat is added or removed, are easier to adjust to.

(Using the above counting example, you would count out a 9/8 beat as “1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and-5-and“. Stick with nailing the feel for 7/8 for now.)

The next thing you’ll see is that the riff is simply the same 7-note pattern played twice, and because of the odd number, in strict down-up alternate picking, the picking pattern for the second time is exactly reversed from the first. So the first note, E (9th fret, G string) is played with a downstroke the first time, an upstroke the second time. This is a really handy riff for practicing “inside” and “outside” picking, for adjacent and skipped strings.

Finally, all four fretting fingers are used to play the riff (which is a sequenced E major scale), and in patterns you may not have practiced before.

So in one mighty little riff, you get to work on:

  • Odd time signature
  • Inside and outside picking
  • String skipping
  • Melodic sequencing
  • Finger independence

Pretty cool.

The next riff is similar to the late-’80 Yngwie Malmsteen song, Déja Vu.

MR02a MR02b

The first two bars of the riff are played four times, before shifting to the third bar. The best way to go about learning this riff is one bar at a time, putting the first two together before moving on to the third bar. Make sure you can play the first two bars together, repeated in a continuous loop (at least 4-5 times without stopping) at a modest tempo (at least 96-100 bpm) before working on the third bar.

The riff and song are in F#m, a good key for rock and metal playing. The first bar is simply a four-note ascending sequence, moving up the F#m scale (F# G# A B C# D E) one step at a time. Before getting to the E (7th degree) in the scale, the second bar of the riff shifts to a nice descending pedal-point sequence, which requires a tricky shift toward the end of the bar. Take it slow, work it up to speed, and pair it up with the first bar, before moving on to the third bar off the riff, which is an extended F#m arpeggio.

Notice that the suggested picking for the third bar mostly involves sweep picking. The fingering is only a suggestion, try different fingers, depending on where and how you decide to shift as you go through the arpeggio. The main thing, as far as the picking and fretting suggestions go, is to keep it sounding smooth and effortless.

It will take some doing to get any or all of this riff up to the tempo that Malmsteen plays in the original song, but the primary goal is just to highlight some specific techniques:

  • Alternate picking
  • Sweep picking
  • Melodic sequencing
  • Pedal point
  • Position shifting
  • Arpeggios

The final riff we’ll look at is similar to one of the main riffs from Dream Theater’s The Root of All Evil. John Petrucci is a master of fast, tricky, melodically sequenced riffs, and this is actually one of his simpler ones.

MR03

Simple is frequently more effective than complex, as far as writing songs and riffs goes, and this riff is a good example of that principle. And yet every finger is utilized, and there’s some position shifting, and the beats on which you cross from one string to the other may be a bit unpredictable at first. Melodically, Petrucci incorporates chromatic notes to nice effect.

  • Alternate picking
  • Position shifting
  • Finger independence
  • Chromatics

Have fun with these riffs, and try to think of others from songs you enjoy, that help pinpoint specifics techniques you want to work on.

Kreutzer #12 Finale

Let’s finish off the Kreutzer #12 with the last ten bars. Not only does the progression shift substantially, going Bb-Eb° before heading back to the more familiar Am-E, but the sequencing patterns begin differently than before.

K12_05

Make sure, as you continue to refine and internalize the various patterns and sequences in this piece, that you go back and try applying, for example, the sequencing patterns from bars 23 or 27 to bar 1 or bar 5. The main thing here is to master all the triad shapes shown throughout; once the shapes are familiar, they can be sequenced in any way that sounds good to you.

The piece concludes with a return to the home key of A minor, finishing off on the high A note. (Something to try:  what if that final note was an A major chord instead?)

K12_06

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this piece, and gotten some cool ideas for sweep picking, arpeggios, triads, and sequences from the material. We’ll do a follow-up post soon with explanations and printable cheat sheets for triad shapes and circle of 5ths.

The PDF link below contains the entire tab (and notation) for the piece, suitable for printing and easier reading. Have fun!

Kreutzer #12 (full)

Kreutzer #12, Part 2

Continuing on with the Kreutzer #12, let’s see what the next several bars look like. While the chord sequence of the first 8 bars (Am-Dm-G-C) is the start of the classic “cycle of 4ths” progression, instead of going to what would be the next step in that cycle (F), the next arpeggio turns out to be E major, followed by A minor (E-A being yet another 4th interval), and then a nice melodic move by shifting from A minor into A diminished, and briefly nodding back to E major in bar 14. See tab below:

K12_03

Notice how the A°/E arpeggio sequence in bars 13-14 deviates from the pattern established by all the previous arpeggios, at first starting out the same, then shifting back down for the second half of bar 13, then the doubled-up first notes of the E triads in bar 14. This adds a nice change of pace, in terms of style and flow.

The next eight-bar section returns to the original sequencing pattern, starting with an E major inversion (the first note of the sequence is G#, which is the second note of the E major triad). From there the progression returns to A minor, then to B diminished, then back to an A minor/C inversion:

K12_04

Unlike the earlier A° arpeggio, the B° arpeggio in bars 19-20 conforms to the main sequencing pattern set by almost all the previous bars. Again, this is a great extended sequencing pattern to learn, and it’s a terrific exercise to map it out in reverse and play it. Print some blank tab pages from the Resources page and give it a shot!

In the next post, we’ll finish off the #12, and then follow up with another post spelling out some of the concepts (triad shapes; adjacent string trios; cycle/circle of 4ths/5ths) in greater detail.

Kreutzer #12: The Arpeggiator

It’s time for another installment in our ongoing series, “Better Know a Kreutzer Etude.” The etude we’ll be looking at today is #12, a deceptively simple piece that serves as a fantastic crash course in triadic arpeggios. (If you’re not familiar with triads, or just need a refresher, please refer to our PDF cheat sheet.)

This piece is 32 bars long, somewhat longer than the other Kreutzer etudes we’ve covered, but still very manageable. Compositionally, the #12 consists of sequenced, arpeggiated triads, spread over two bars and spanning as much as 3 octaves each. Let’s take a look at the first four bars and see how that lays on the fretboard:

K12_01

Right away you can see where maintaining strict alternate picking will be something of a challenge. Let’s take a quick look at the music itself first, and then we’ll show some picking options for consideration.

The piece is in the key of Aminor, and starts off with an A minor triad (A-C-E) played in an ascending sequence that spans three full octaves. The very first 4-note grouping simply ascends, A-C-E-A’. Each successive 4-note grouping, however, goes up to the next step in the triad sequnce, then down and and back up. So the second 4-note group goes C’-E-A’-C’, the next one goes E’-A’-C’-E’, and so on. This is a common scale sequencing device, and is certainly a valuable one to apply to triads and arpeggios.

The vibrato shown on the sustained notes ending bars 2 and 4 is not in the original score. But anyone who has checked out the scores for the Kreutzer studies knows that many of the pieces have an abundance of suggested variations, such as different bowing and fingering techniques. It’s important to learn these piece as written, but it’s just as crucial to find ways to make them your own at some point, to infuse them with your style and personality.

So each successive 2-bar figure features one of these extended triad sequences; bars 3-4 feature a D minor triad (D-F-A) that also spans three full octaves. Notice how the shapes along the 1-2-3 (E’-B-G) strings are the same for A minor and D minor, just at different locations. This piece will take several posts to break down and tab, and at the end of the final post in the series, there will be a PDF link for the entire tab, as well as a handy cheat sheet showing all the shapes for triads and inversions along the various adjacent string trios (E’-B-G; B-G-D; G-D-A; D-A-E). For now, as we go along, keep an eye out for how these shapes lay on the fretboard for each type of triad (major, minor, diminished, augmented).

Going back to the picking situation:  while again it is definitely challenging to play these types of arpeggios with strict down-up alternate picking, unless you’re experienced with sweep or economy picking, it is recommended that you stick with alternate picking at least long enough to learn and internalize the arpeggio shapes. Since alternate picking is basically the “default” method for efficient playing, it’s one less thing to have to think about while learning what can be fairly complicated patterns and shapes.

Once you have those shapes dialed in, though, here are a couple of more efficient ways to play that first extended A minor arpeggio sequence:

K12_var1 K12_var2

Both of these are essentially sweep picking variations; this piece is a classic example of the type of music for which sweep picking was developed in the first place. The first variation attempts to make efficient use of the picking hand’s “return” motion (i.e., coming back up to set for the next down-picked shape), by using an upstroke at the “turnaround” point. The second variation uses legato (hammer-on) for any note on a string beyond the first note, and then nothing but downstrokes.

Try both variations, see what feels comfortable to you. As always with sweep picking, make sure every note sounds smooth and even, not dynamically louder or softer than the others. Don’t “choke” a note too soon, let it have its full duration before going to the next note. You may find that some combination of the two variations works best for you.

Let’s wrap up this post by checking out the next 4 bars, which consist of a G major arpeggio, followed by a C major:

K12_02

Again, pay attention to how the shapes for major and minor triads tend to fall along these string trios. Learning the shapes, and how to work them anywhere on the fretboard, will help your navigational and improvisational skills enormously. It’s time well spent.

To recap the first 8 bars of the Kreutzer #12:  Am-Dm-G-C. In music theory terms, this is the start of a cycle (or circle) of fourths (intervallically). We’ve mentioned the circles of 5ths and 4ths before, and there will be a cheat sheet explaining the concept in more detail on the Resources page in the near future. It’s yet another very powerful tool to have at your disposal.

So practice these shapes, try a few different picking styles, play them descending as well as ascending if you’re feeling ambitious, and we’ll continue working through the #12 later in the week.

Kreutzer #3, Finale

Let’s finish off the Kreutzer Violin Etude #3. Section C starts from the middle of bar 12, riding a cool descending 4-note triad pattern all the way to the middle of bar 16. Check the tab below:

K3SecC

Since we know that a triad, regardless of type, is made up of stacked third intervals, and is spelled R-3-5 intervallically, this 4-note pattern is relatively simple to break down. Using the up-down arrow notation from before, the pattern goes up a third, down a fifth, then up a third, which returns to the first note of the 4-note phrase (↑3↓5↑3).

Just as intervals are the most basic building blocks of music, triads are the next logical extension of intervals. You can’t go wrong with learning and devising as many triad patterns on two and three strings (or more, for open-voiced triads, but we’ll cover that in another post) as possible.

Check out the basic descending 4-note triad pattern in the tab below. The 3rd note of each 4-note phrase is the root of each respective triad, so the 8 triads descending through the octave are: F major, E minor, D minor, C major, B diminished, A minor, G major, and F major. Even though it starts and ends with the F major triad, the sequence actually consists of the C major triads, as we’ll see in a minute.

C01

Now let’s take the above triad sequence, and re-organize the 4-note patterns into the same order as the #3 etude.

C02

It’s always useful to work melodic shapes along all possible string configurations, so for this example, make sure to map it along the other adjacent string pairs:

C03

The etude ends with an arpeggio spanning an octave and a third (C to E’down pattern and playing it over and over again until it’s smooth and clean.

Here are the neck diagrams for the sequence of triadic arpeggios through the C major sale:

chords

The corresponding tab is below. Again, try both alternate and sweep picking. The B diminished arpeggio is set up for string skipping, as it is simpler and cleaner that way.

C04

The links below are complete tabs for the entire piece. The second version contains the alternate B section shown in the Part 2 post.

Kreutzer_#3   Kreutzer #3(alt)

While the piece (like anything called an “etude”) itself is an exercise, the custom exercises designed around the sections will help you isolate associated techniques. Use the exercises to devise shapes and ideas of your own, to use as melodic phrases in your solos. Have fun!

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:

K3SecB

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:

K3SecB_alt

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:

B04

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:

B05

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:

CMajor_spec

Check the tab shown below to play both scale forms:

A09-

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:

K3_SecA

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:

A04

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:

A09-A05

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!