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Four-Notes-Per-String Chromatic (and Quasi Chromatic) Exercises

Okay. In this Psychotic Lix installment, I'm going to present a couple “four-notes-per-string” exercises for the purpose of focusing on pickhand/fretting hand synchronization: (1) a brainless “TV” exercise (meaning you can “let your fingers do the walking” while disengaging your brain) played “in position,” using all four fret-hand fingers in a “1-2-3-4” arrangement, and (2) a standard chromatic scale (successive half steps), played using the same “1-2-3-4” fingering pattern with position shifts.

These pickhand/fretting hand synchronization exercises will be presented in two ways: (1) grouped in 16th notes (four evenly-spaced notes per beat) and (2) 16th-note triplets (six evenly-spaced notes per beat). Since these examples are based on four-notes-per-string patterns, accenting every four notes (playing slightly louder on beats “one,” “two,” “three,” and “four”) couldn't be more convenient, since it coincides with the instance you switch to the next higher/lower adjacent string. The real challenge for your pickand comes in trying to accent every six notes (again: playing slightly louder on beats “one,” “two,” “three,” and “four”). This will make it necessary to “mask,” if you will, the change between strings—in short, make every effort to not draw attention to the fact that you're playing four notes on each string. This is WAY more difficult than it seems—so TRY IT!!!! If this doesn't make sense, to get a clear picture of what's happening here, listen to the MP3s below.

For maximum fret-hand efficiency, strive to position your digits/hand as such:

Keep your fret-hand's wrist and forearm straight and relaxed.

Try keeping the palm of your fret-hand parallel and almost touching the guitar neck's binding.

Fret each note firmly behind the indicated fret, pressing straight down using your fingertips.

Each of your fret-hand fingers should line up parallel to each fret.

When a finger is not fretting a note, keep it hovering as close to the fretboard as possible.

When ascending, keep fingers depressed after a note is fretted, removing them at the last possible moment to avoid excess motion.

When descending, try to finger all the notes that occur along that string in advance.

The key to pickhand/fretting hand synchronization is to make sure that each of your fret-hand's fingers travel the same distance when engaged in fretting a note, or releasing a note. This is of utmost importance because your pick will obviously be striking the string at the exact same rate, regardless of which finger is being depressed. If there is any variation in the amount of time it takes for a particular fret-hand finger to “make it” to a string, your left and right hands will be “out of sync,” and breakdown will occur. If you are unable to hear this in your own playing (read: you think you play fast and clean, but your teacher says you don't—and you don't believe them!), if you have a four-track recorder, record yourself at your machine's “2x” setting (meaning the tape reels spin twice as fast). When you play the tape back (at regular speed), you'll hear your shreddin' licks at half speed. Talk about an ear opener!


This first bugger originates at the 5th fret and involves a “1-2-3-4” fingering pattern (ascending). After all six strings are played in ascending fashion, the fret-hand's pinky is used to facilitate a position shift, then kicks of a “4-3-2-1” pattern (descending). To make this exercise more interesting, feel free to keep shifting the pattern up the neck, then back down (à la the various MP3s linked below).

Make sure you accent (i.e., pick louder) every four notes. To get the hang of this, and to help draw a clear distinction between accented and unaccented notes, it may help to intentionally play the non-accented notes quieter than you're accustomed. What you want to strive for is the development of the ability to control your right hand in a manner that enables you to execute an accent whenever the spirit moves you—an often overlooked area of pickhand control.

Keep in mind this AIN'T a “true” chromatic scale. The only instances successive half steps occur in this exercise exist between the notes along each individual string; when skipping between strings, a whole step interval occurs (the only exception being strings 2-3).

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

The following exercise depicts the above pattern in a 16th-note triplet format. To clarify this rhythmic subdivision, you're going to want to accent every six notes. Also notice that, though this example is written at a slower tempo, it involves playing at the exact same “physical” speed as the previous example. This means that, if you could play the earlier figure at the indicated tempo, the only “hurdle” that stands before you with this exercise is developing your “accenting” ability. Easier said than done, as is evident by how LAME my attempt is!

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

This next example involves the exact same fingering approach as the previous pair, but includes a position shift between strings (with the exception of strings 2-3) in an effort to maintain successive half steps throughout—a true chromatic scale!

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

Here's the exact same chromatic figure, revamped in a 16th-note triplet format. Not to “rag” on myself, but the fast version of this sounds so HORRIBLE, it's actually funny. My hand basically died, mid-stream. Can't “practice” these, just have to do 'em. But YOU can practice them though, and kick my arse!!!

(*You can hear the lick FAST by clicking HERE*)

(*You can hear the lick SLOW by clicking HERE*)

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