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Pentatonic Puzzle Solutions

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What if you could take Yngwie’s mastery of sequenced ideas and apply it to Eric’s signature pentatonics using downward pickslanting? Well, now you can!

Yngwie and Eric

Yngwie’s mastery of sweeping and Eric’s alternate picking approach give us two great solutions to ascending pentatonic fours!

We recently gave Cracking the Code viewers a cool homework assignment: find a way to play ascending fours, against the pentatonic scale, using the Yngwie Malmsteen and Eric Johnson downward pickslanting system. It seems simple enough, but it’s something we don’t see very often on guitar, and for good reason — the picking and fingering can both pose challenges.

With a basic understanding of downward pickslanting mechanics, though, we can design a couple of really nice solutions to this problem that pay fantastic creative dividends.

In this lesson, we explore solutions to the daunting challenge of pentatonic fours — utilizing the DWPS system that you already know — that will help unleash your creativity with pentatonic, whole tone, and diminished sequence ideas.

Check out the complete lesson — including tablature — on Guitar World!

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Eric Johnson's Pickslanting Pentatonics

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The cascading waterfall of sound that is Eric Johnson’s lead playing has captivated players and listeners for thirty years.

Sonically, it’s an almost formless wash of sunshine. In Eric’s ethereal soundscape, all the edges are smoothed away.

Even the distinction between scales and arpeggios seems to blur. His patterns tumble imperceptibly through positions, like falling through clouds. And his limitless supply of sparsely voiced diatonic chord substitutions only enhances the vertigo. And it’s the seemingly imperturbable precision of Eric’s right hand that makes it all possible.

And now, armed with a modern understanding of picking mechanics, we can actually begin to understand and recreate Eric’s wondrous style. Read More

pickslanting vs edge picking

The Difference Between Pickslanting and Edge Picking: An Explainer

By | Lessons | 37 Comments

Here’s a question we get all the time: what’s the difference between pickslanting and edge picking?

This seems to be a source of frequent confusion. The two are very different, and do completely different things, but since both involve pick angles and rotation, this can be hard to intuit without a direct visual comparison. The above image is from an animation coming up soon in Episode 3, “Eric the Right”, and is designed to make the difference as clear as possible. Read More

Down Around the World

By | Lessons
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Bruce Lee’s famous exhortation to be like water may just as well have been directed at guitar players. The first of Season 2’s revelations, downward pickslanting, is shapeless and formless. It becomes Yngwie. It becomes rock. It becomes music. It’s one of the most universal and adaptable mechanics in picking — and for guitarists, the root of many of the most celebrated techniques in history. Read More

Steve Always Wins: The Crossroads Intimidation Breakdown

By | codenews, Lessons | 47 Comments

In 1986, Steve Vai was having one of those years. March saw the debut of the film Crossroads, for which Steve wrote and performed both the rock and neoclassical sequences of the now-famous guitar duel, and in which he also landed a starring role as the devil’s swaggering henchman, Jack Butler. Trailer clips of the film’s climactic musical showdown, with its mesmerizing cascade of diminished arpeggios, had just begun to explode adolescent minds across the country when David Lee Roth stepped into the studio with Steve to record his highly anticipated post-Van Halen grudge album.

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Lesson: Inside Eddie's Arcade

By | codenews, Lessons | 5 Comments

The Cutting Room Floor

Not all great ideas make the final cut, and the overly ambitious scene “Eddie’s Arcade”, from Season 1, Episode 1 of Cracking the Code, is a great example of that. An over-the-top homage to Tron Legacy and Back to the Future, it was a tour de force of cinematic animation whose demands on my personal time were ultimately at odds with the exigency of actually getting things finished.

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Shawn Lane: So What?

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Centrifugal Funk was supposed to be just another one of those guitar compilations.  Released by shred pornographer Mark Varney in 1991, it featured a trio of hired guns laying down silicone-enhanced solos over processed covers of trad jazz tunes.  This was the era of Nirvana and Pantera, and the infomercially polished karaoke numbers on the disc were already dead on arrival.   But the formidable talents of the help bordered on necromancy. Read More

Albert Lee: Fun Ranch Boogie

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If you’ve ever been humbled by the effortless speed and harmonic fluency of our string-slinging siblings south of the Mason-Dixon line, you’re in good company. So universal is the admiration among shred masters for their flatpickin’ and fingerpickin’ brethren that country-inflected radio rock tunes like Van Halen’s Finish What Ya Started comfortably share iPod space with the striking industrial-country fusion of players like John 5. Then there are the bona-fide switch hitters like Eric Johnson and Steve Morse, whose dual citizenship in roots and rock essentially moot the question. Suffice it to say that a healthy fear of country skillz is an integral part of the shred psyche. Read More

There's a Freight Train Comin'

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This lesson appeared originally as a master class at InsaneGuitar.com.

It’s always exciting to get your hands on something you can’t get anywhere else. So as a measure of thanks to Joel Wanasek for inviting me to do a guest column at InsaneGuitar.com, I offer up a transcription you won’t find anywhere else on the internet. It’s none other than the guitar solo to Nitro’s Freight Train, the most over-the-top ’80s metal song you never heard. Read More