Learn a Lick 3: Learner Messiah
This week’s lick is inspired by the solo on Metallica’s ‘Leper Messiah‘, from the ‘Master of Puppets’ Album. You can either play it with alternate picking, which is a challenge in itself, or you can sweep it, as we’re doing today.
Played this way, this lick makes a great example of how to use arpeggios and small swept shapes to follow the chords. If you’re wanting to start adding some sweeping to your solos, it would be a good idea to take note!
As I explain in the video, this lick is made up of three shapes. These follow exactly the underlying chords in the riff. Playing what is basically just the notes from each chord in a pattern like this can also be a great way to come up with ideas for licks that’ll work, without getting too technical.
First, here’s the video lesson. Scroll down for the tab.
If you want it to sound like it does in the video, make sure you use fluid up and down strokes. When going from thinner strings to thicker ones, I’m using only upstrokes. Then, when playing from thicker to thinner strings, I’m using only downstrokes. This adds to the smoother, more fluid sound.
What’s Happening Here?
The theory behind this lick is fairly straightforward, but you’ll need to know your CAGED chord shapes all over the neck. If you don’t know that yet, then you can still play the lick, but might find it more difficult to see what’s happening.
I always recommend understanding what’s happening in a lick, because then you can go away and make your own licks with a similar feel. Otherwise you’re just playing ‘by numbers’, and can get a bit lost.
So, we have two shapes, for three chords: A C major shape, and a C minor shape. These are based on the shape of the open C chord. Then, we’re moving the shape to fit each chord.
The chord progression is: Em, F, G.
First, this is the complete E minor shape that the first part of the lick is based on.
The tab above is just the shape played from the lowest (sounding) note, to the highest (sounding) note, and then back again. If you play it through, you’re playing the notes of an E minor chord from low to high (and back).
For the this week’s lick, we’re starting with the highest note on the 19th fret. I suggest using your pinky for this as you then need to pull-off to the 15th fret (first finger). Then you play the 17th fret on the B string with your second finger, and the 16th fret on the G with your first finger again.
It is also possible to use your third finger for the B string, and your second for the G. I just prefer my fingering because that’s what you’d use to play the whole shape (in the tab above).
So far, all of these notes (apart from the pull-off) should be played using upstrokes. This makes sure you’re using the most efficient movement across the strings. Then, for the very last part of the shape, we’re using downstrokes to re-play the 17th on the B, and the 15th on the E.
This is the basic pattern that we’ll use on each shape:
- Start with a pull-off on the E string
- Sweep down the shape as far as the G string
- Sweep back up to the E string
Remember that these notes shouldn’t be bleeding into each other (as we’re not playing a chord). So, lift your finger off of each string as you play the next string in the shape.
The F chord
The next chord in the underlying riff is an F major. So, two things need to happen:
- We need to move the shape up the next to F, instead of E
- We need to change the shape to major, instead of minor
If you play through this shape first, you’ll see what’s happened to it.
This is now an F major arpeggio, and we play through it in exactly the same way. Only the shape has changed.
So, we follow the same three steps:
Start with a Pull-off on the E string
This time, we’re pulling off from 20 to 17. I still suggest using your pinky for this, as (depending on your guitar) it can be a stretch. It’s also a good idea to use the same finger pattern for each shape.
Sweep Down as far as the G string
This time, we’re playing the 18th fret on the B with our second finger, then the 17th fret on the G with our first finger. These should both be with upstrokes, so that you’re picking in the same direction as you’re going across the strings.
Sweep Back up to the E string
Then, play back up the shape. The 18th fret on the B string, and the 17th fret on the E string- both with upstrokes.
The G major
The final shape is exactly the same as the one we just played. The only difference being that it’s moved up another two frets to G major.
When repeating these shapes, you may find it easier to use a hammer-on to take you from one repeat to the next. So, after playing the first shape once, hammer on from the 15th to the 19th fret on the E. Then you’ll be playing ’15 hammer-on 19, pull off 15′- which makes it easier to play fast, and sounding smoother.
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