Do you want to melt people’s faces off with lightning fast speed runs but struggle to remember long passages and get overwhelmed by the sheer number of notes you need to put together? In this article I’m going to show you how to break down huge shred runs into easy to remember chunks so that you can save hours of memory work and re-invest that time into actual practice.
There’s not many things on the guitar more impressive than a well executed speed run that will drop the jaw of the entire audience collectively. Building the speed and technique needed in order to shred can take up hundreds if not thousands of hours, most of which are wasted trying to simply memorise the notes. If you can cut down the time it takes to learn speed runs and large chunks of information you will instantly have more time to put into actually practicing your technique and applying what you know to practical musical contexts. This way you will become a much better guitarists much faster and benefit from the compounding effect of reinvesting all of your time saved into other areas. If that sounds good to you then keep reading.
When it comes to speed runs and shredding, learning the run itself is often the hardest and most time consuming part. Most students will try to practice new licks or ideas before they have it memorized which leads to lots of revision and inefficient practice as you struggle to remember what comes next. For example If you have a 48 note run to learn it can be very difficult to remember all individual notes and you’re more than likely going to try to learn the lick as one big chunk. I want to introduce to you the idea concept of modal fragments and how you can use these patterns to break down the information into easy to manage chunks. This way you can learn and memorise long passages very easily, as well as using them as a tool to create riffs, melodies and musical ideas in their own right.
For this lesson we will be using the 7 modal fragments based off of the Major Scale (For a more in depth explanation of modes, what they are and how they fit together, click here). It’s not important to know the full 6 string modal shapes at this point as learning the fragments will be an easier starting point. Below are the diagrams of the seven 3 Note per string modal shapes of the major scale.
Now here are the 7 Modal Fragments that we will be using for our speed runs. Notice how the 6 notes of each modal fragment are taken from the first 6 notes of the parent scale. ie: the first 6 notes (on strings 6 & 5) are the same for both diagrams. You should take the time to learn and memorise each of these shapes. My favorite way to learn any new scale or pattern is to break it down into individual strings. I would say the frets of the first string 3 times, then play it 10 times. Then I would repeat this process on the remaining strings. FInally I would piece together the entire shape 10 times to that I have it committed to memory and don’t have to relearn it again. It might be a pain having to put heaps of time into learning the fragments, but if you learn it once and learn it properly, you won’t waste time later when you come back to revise the information and will be less likely to forget it under pressure.
How to Use the Modal Fragments
If you are playing in the key of G your notes will be G A B C D E F# G
Your modes will be G Ionian, A Dorian, B Phrygian, B Mixolydian, C Lydian, D Mixolydian, E Aeolian and F# locrian. If you want to play G Ionian you need to find a G note and play the G Ionian Fragment. You can do this starting on any string anywhere on the fretboard. You can then play the Dorian fragment starting on any a note and the Aeolian fragment starting on any E note. Most of your speed runs and scale sequences will simply be running through these modal fragments so when you can visualise the patterns and put them together learning them will be much easier and you will just be re-arranging knowledge that you have previously learned.
The Monster Lick
Above is the monster lick. It’s a 48 note lick starting at the 5th fret and taking you up to the 20th fret of your guitar. Before you get worried about how long it takes to memorise all the notes I want you to try and find the modal fragments. You will notice that it starts on the Aeolian Fragment, then moves to the Locrian, Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian & Mixolydian before coming to settle on the Aeolian again one octave higher. Rather than think of it as one big block of notes, see it as 8 groups of 6 notes (our modal fragments) played one after the other and you will have a much easier time of learning the lick.
Once you have memorised the modal fragments and have worked out how to put them together then you can apply any sequencse you know to the shapes and will have a much easier time learning, playing and even creating your own speed runs. Practice each of these fragments in isolation to build up the muscle memory and speed and when you’re ready, start shredding. In the next article we’ll take a look at some sequences and how to apply them to the modal fragments so that you can build an arsenal of monster licks to blow people’s minds and melt faces at your next show.