March 27, 2019
Think about your guitar solos. How do you play quick runs? One common approach to modal scales (such as major and minor) uses three notes per string. This makes it much easier to achieve a fluid legato left-hand technique employing "hammer-ons" and "pull-offs." The right hand tends to carry less of the weight, having only to strike the first note on each string, with the left hand creating the other two. Since the right hand must only synchronize with every third note, it becomes rather easy to produce extremely fast modal runs across the fingerboard. The only drawback is that over-reliance on this technique keeps you locked into triplet phrasing. So, what should we do to produce phrases with accents in fours (such as sixteenth notes)? Here are several right-hand picking techniques designed to put control of your rhythm phrasing back into the right hand!
Rhythmic Alternate Picking
In order to master Rhythmic Alternate Picking, you'll first need to be able to pick every note with the same intensity. Relax and focus only on making the notes as even and flowing as possible. Play a three note per string ascending major scale, picking every other note- up/down/up/down, etc. Pay attention to your tempo and inflection; the notes should be even and homogenous, consistent in tone and phrasing. Try to gauge the pick as shallowly as possible; hold it as close to the tip as you can, striking the string with the smallest possible amount of pick. Focus on keeping your picking hand relaxed, using as little energy as possible.
Once you can pick the notes smoothly and evenly, you are ready to begin incorporating rhythmic alternate picking. Decide what type of accent you want to work into the scale, for example, sixteenth notes or eighth triplets. To create a sixteenth feel, slightly accent the first note out of each group of four. Eighth triplets call for a right-hand accent on the first of every triplet. Sextuplets (six notes per beat) would accent the first of every six notes. Remember to keep the other notes even, both in duration and intensity. Now your accents will define the rhythmic effect, regardless of how many notes you play on each string. In creative soloing, you can mix up the accents to add variation and interest to your composition.
Hybrid picking combines the idea of plucking one note and using hammer-ons and pull-offs for the rest of the notes on the string. However, in addition to picking each string change, you will also pluck each accent to achieve the desired rhythmic feel. This can be easier to master than rhythmic alternate picking because it requires you to pick fewer notes, but you must be careful that only the accent notes stand out.
Putting it to Work for YouAs you become more proficient with these right-hand techniques, you will find that they add an entirely new slate of creative options to your solo style. Once the shape of your scale positions no longer limits the rhythm of your phrases, your solos will become punchier and more authoritative. As you master rhythmic alternate picking and hybrid picking, your solos will become more exciting than ever before. Which of these techniques have you learned? What other kinds of rhythmic picking can you think of? Let us know in the comments below.
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