Technique Building

Since I first started playing guitar, when someone mentioned guitar playing techniques, they usually mentioned some guitar practice technique that usually involved a scale or a pattern of notes for constant repetition.  Now, there is nothing wrong with that method and it does work very well at building your guitar playing technique, which at the end of the day is the most important part of anything you do.  Get the technique correct and you will make the rest of the exercise (in this case learning the guitar) much simpler.

What ive proposed in the past, with varying levels of success with my students, which essentially comes down to how much you practice, is the use of technique building exercises that other stringed instruments use, like the violin for example.

This lead me on a search for violin technique builder exercises.  What I found was is how musical and interesting sounding a lot of these exercises were to play.  With some required tweaking, I found that these technique builder exercises turned out to be incredibly valuable to the guitar player! I tabbed out a few exercises as there are no tabs for these. 

The idea behind using an exercise for a different instrument gives rise a couple of issues on the guitar, this mainly due to the fact that most guitarists play longitudinally rather than laterally.  What I mean by that is they usually get stuck in that guitar playing trope called "in the box" or the three not per string method of playing.  Guitarists tend not to play laterally and ive noticed that this can be limiting to a guitarists individuality and originality with their soloing, often reverting to common playing elements like, three notes per string scales or sweep picking.

These exercises will encourage more lateral guitar playing and get you to move away from always playing in an up and down longitudinal method.

Single String Technique Builder

These exercises are from the Schradieck - The School of Violin Technics book 1.  If you are interested in going further as these technique exercises are quite comprehensive, I suggest you purchase a copy of this book but be prepared to read standard music notation as there is no tabs for this book.  Please note that these violin exercises are NOT for the beginner! 

Couple of comments before tackling these exercises:

  • Use an alternating picking stroke
  • Use the appropriate finger number specified






NO SWEEPING! A Major 6 String Skipping Arpeggio

Continuing on the theme of playing arpeggios without using the overused arpeggio sweeping technique (urgh! dont get me started on that! No Im NOT anti sweeping but I do think it is waaaay overused by guitar players these days but thats another topic!)

Another one of my favourite Paul Gilbert-isms is his arpeggios using different chord types like Major 6ths and 13ths etc...

Here is an A Major 6th arpeggio using a wide string skipping technique.  One note on the first string followed by three notes on the next and another three notes on the third string.


The first example is the basic pattern with no ornamentation like hammer-ons or pull offs


This next example is one with a pattern of ornaments that I may use.  I play a Lydian modal variation of this arpeggio in the The Cilikis song, Back To The Future in the Key of D major.  The modal variation is made by altering the highest E to a D# gives a nice modal #4 flavour to the run.




The Scotsman Solo Ending

Sticking with the E Major solo theme, one of my favourite solo sections that Ive ever written was this final four measures of the solo part for the song, The Scotsman. This Scottish jig flavoured track is a lot of fun to play and has a LOT of content for the guitar to play especially from a rhythm perspective.

The final section of the solo has a fun wide E Major arpeggio / sweeping pattern using two basic chord shapes as the template as it were.  The D major shape and the E major shape, commonly used by many guitarists.  Its mostly using triplets in these final measures with the exception of the first beat of the final bar being 5:4 semiquaver group (5 semiquavers in time it takes to play 4 semiquavers)

Here is the tab and the music to the solo ending and an MP3 playing the notes





Cool arpeggio run in E major

This arpeggio run is a favourite of mine.  It sounds quite cool to my ear.  It makes use of some Paul Gilbert style string skipping techniques which I absolutely love!  Its not like sweeping (although short run has some sweeping pattering in it), but it has different kind of flavour to it when done correctly.  Paul pulls his string skipping style arpeggios off flawlessly and they just sound divine!

This pattern is in the key of E Major and starts of with a Paul Gilbert'esque style string skip, some position shifting using a slide, single right hand tap/pull of combination and a C major shape descending sweep pattern.

Not that difficult to do, but its a cool melodic practice pattern for arpeggio practice.




Hear the pattern on SoundCloud at





Don't call me dude!

Here is a cool guitar riff that I remember was the "IN riffs" that people were loving when I was learning guitar.  It was one of, if not, the coolest opening guitar riff I've ever listened too.  Not many people could play it in our school so I was determined to learn it and I listened to this songs intro over and over again until I got it down. 

(I remember some mates of mine who'd been playing the guitar longer than were jealous that i'd learned it so quickly after I'd only been playing guitar for 3 months at the time! Hah fun times)

This riff is the opening riff to Scatterbrains classic, Don't call me dude! Note that this only the first 1/2 of the riff as the next two measures have a rest between them


You can play this riff with a pick but if you use hybrid picking techniques, this riff seems to flow a lot better.

This whole song is full of killer guitar riffage and is a lot of fun to play.  It wasn't too many years after this song was released when this funny "anti guitar" thing started to occur with new music.  Being a super guitar was no longer a requirement in popular music.  There was no need to be the gun guitarist any more, you just needed to be able to play the thing and write cool music.  Guitarists that did still like complex riff writing and interesting song structures still existed and put out lots of great music but as the 90s progressed, the gun guitarist in modern bands became a thing of past. 

In hindsight, its not actually bad that it occurred as the music put out by labels and bands weren't all that bad just not as guitar-centric as it used to be.  There was some great music being put out, it just was a little more "accessible" to people learning the guitar.  They didn't need to be a super player to play their favourite music.  That's not to say that Don't call me dude was that complex, it wasn't, but it was definitely a challenge to some


Marty Friedman on Instrumental Music

A few years back I came across this interview with one of my favourite guitarist, Marty Friedman. He had a few choice words to say about instrumental music, particularly instrumental guitar bands (of which there are thousands! )

At 4m45s into this clip, the interviewer asks if Marty has any advice to young players.  Marty is quite critical of instrumental music and bands and he admits he isn't a fan of Instrumental and you know what, I totally agree.  Neither am I.  I find most guitar instrumental music boring to be honest, but there's more to it than that. 

I personally think Marty's views about instrumental music are more about "instrument centric" instrumental music, IE the Joe Satriani's or the Steve Vai's type of instrumental. With myself as a guitarist being in an instrumental band, I have to agree with him. Instrumental music where the melody is all guitar is boring as these days and is like listening to paint dry.  Guitar centered instrumental music has been done to death and most releases are quite narrow melodically. 

There are of course a number of exceptions like Gutrie Govan's, The Aristocrats for example.

My band, The Cilikis, has moved away from our guitar centered music writing and I have deliberately pushed my guitar parts to the layering of the music.  No one cares about the sweeps and taps and all the stock guitar wankery that you can do on a guitar, they just don't...

People want a great song that tells a story regardless of how good you are. You CAN keep an audience's attention if you are just willing to take the focus off your own playing and put the energy into the song your writing and keeping the musical story content interesting and diverse..

That doesn't mean playing different styles from one song to the next as Marty points out.  That's more like a musical resume not an album.  Instrumental song writing needs more attention than writing a song for lyrics.  If you take out the lyric content, you need to do a lot more to win an audiences attention.  Some of the greatest music ever written is instrumental music.  Look at the orchestral greats and learn how they wrote instrumental music that still captivates people today.



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  • Professional guitar teacher, guitarist for jazz metal fusion band, The Cilikis. I also love playing around with custom hand made guitar effects and I love drinking tea and growing chilli's!