Advanced Picking Exercises – Riff Building

To get the most out of my warmup rehearsals I like to use approaches that exercise the brain and work on both left and right hand. One of the more important things to consider when warming up is if what you’re doing can actually be applied in a practical way when improvising or writing. Through the years all of us go through things that work for us and things that tend to be a waste of time.

Today I’m going to provide a few examples of “backtracking” and “skipping” notes when playing scales that I found to be beneficial in regard to both warming up and improvisational soloing. I’m sure we have all heard the guitar solo that seems to lack creativity and doesn’t have a true motif or direction…maybe suddenly ends or is too drawn out. Below are some exercises to help you out when writing or improvising a solo.

Keep in mind, these are just exercises that have looping continuous turnarounds meant to be used as warmups. When using for a lick or riff only parts of the exercise would be necessary. Learning the turnarounds can be useful for when you are “running out of room” within a chosen shape so to speak and want to stay within that said shape. By memorizing these exercises you’d have much more arsenal to whip out when writing and improvising!

Let’s start with the C shape Ionian Mode:

Pictured were in the key of D, but the key is easily transposable by moving the root notes (black dots) to whichever fret (key) you like. I recommend playing in a different key every time you warmup as different areas of the guitar present different challenges!

Below is an example of “skipping’ notes and “backtracking” to continue to next interval using ascending motion (low note first.) The tempo can and should be manipulated as well. Use a metronome to build your speed. Try to build to 120 bpm with 16th’s as your subdivision to the beat. At first start slowly. Maybe at a tempo of 40 bpm with 16th’s as your subdivision to the beat and work your way up. I also recommend building a speed chart graph.

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Next is the inverse, using descending motion:

Next we shall use the A shape Ionian mode:

Ionian Mode

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Next let’s use the G shape Ionian mode, or “pattern no.1”

Ionian Mode

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Next we’ll use the E shape Ionian mode:

Ionian Mode

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

And lastly, the D shape Ionian mode:

Ionian Mode

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Ionian (closed) 3rd's ascending motion

Generally, try to work on being musical with all warmups and exercises. Alternate your picking (unless your sweep picking or trying to use economy picking for an effect.) Use legato (notes ring out and flow smoothly) and work on various left hand fingerings. Also, use a metronome to truly gage your progress in developing speed.

In my next blog I’ll provide backtracking using the Pentatonic and Blues scales within the CAGED shapes. There are so many variations to this principle…I hope to get them to you soon!

Thanks for reading!

Regards,

Marc Michaud

Marc Michaud

About the Author

Marc Michaud is a professional guitarist and teacher with over 30 years of experience who acquired a BA in classical guitar performance from Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan and was trained and certified as a Suzuki guitar instructor.

He specializes in both fingerstyle and flat pick, playing virtually any genre and teaching to all age groups with the love of music. You can listen to his band Seven To Zero on Spotify, ITunes, and Amazon music. You can also visit his teaching website at diverseguitar.com


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