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The classic fives pickup is just one of a handful of interesting variations on the pickup concept. Here’s another that uses a short diatonic melody at the top of the lick:
This brief diatonic melody, neatly embedded with the classic fives lick, is a dash of seasoning that evokes either major seventh or minor ninth flavors, depending on whether the lick is played against a major or minor backdrop. It’s the same fingering either way, of course — it’s simply the surrounding musical context that changes. This tabula rasa quality of Eric’s harmonic sensibility, ambiguously major or natural minor, and nearly always “inside” the key signature, is a hallmark of his improvisational style.
Here’s a similar mechanical sequence in the neighboring pentatonic position just to the left of the box position:
In this variation, the turnaround at the apex is entirely pentatonic, and requires a larger fretboard stretch to outline the minor third at the top. We can apply the pattern of fives to the lick’s descending side, such that we arrive at the sixth string on a downstroke.
Yet another variation employs legato as part of the diatonic apex melody:
Now this is interesting, because at first glance, the pull-off would seem to be redundant. The top string of this variation has four notes, which could very simply be solved with pure alternate picking: down, up, down, up. And yet, the pull-off between the second and third note effectively omits a pickstroke. This requires Eric to return with a single upstroke for the final note on the string, to activate the dwps efficiency. It works. But it also seems like too much work. What’s going on here?