LESSONS > SHRED YOUR ENTHUSIASM
Seven Solos that Melted My Face
I have to start by saying Eddie Van Halen, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Jimmy Page have
been so well covered that I’m going to give them a quick, respectful “I’m not worthy”
bow, and move on to some lesser-known, but still thoroughly face-melting guitarists. I
chose these songs with one specific requirement in mind: These are solos I actually sat
down and learned. I tried hard to play specific parts of them, and although I couldn’t
always play them perfectly or completely, I definitely came away with some great
phrases and inspiration. Please seek these out and give them a listen.
1Song: “In the World of Giants” Guitarist: Kim Mitchell
Max Webster, like Jethro Tull and Lynyrd Skynyrd before him, is not actually a member
of the band. Kim Mitchell is the guitarist, singer, and creative force behind this Canadian
rock-prog-fusion-pop band. Kim blasts out an amazing intro of picked 16th-note triplets
in this song. Not only is he fast, but his tone is flawless, and he’s so locked into the
groove that you can stomp your foot to it. The song itself is a great rocking shuffle, and
his guitar solo in the middle was one of my first exposures to playing “outside.” Plus, Kim is wearing
some kind of bright yellow satin jumpsuit while flying through the air on the album cover.
2Song: “Mother Mary” Guitarist: Michael Schenker
Check out the live version and listen to Michael Schenker rip through some descending
fours with power and ease. It took me a long time to figure out that these are played on
a single string. Yngwie made a franchise out of this lick, but Schenker played it first.
3Song: “Harpsichord Concerto in A Major” Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
How many hundreds of years ago was this written? I’m not sure. But it was long ago
when TV, video games, email, and Facebook didn’t distract musicians. In other words,
there wasn’t much to do except practice. And it shows in classical pieces like this one.
Okay, it’s not guitar, but I still tried to learn the beautiful and simultaneously face-melting
harpsichord solos in this piece. If you want to hear my guitar version of it, listen to
“Gilberto Concerto” on my Flying Dog record. I also used a chunk of it in “Scarified” by Racer X.
4Song: “End of the World” Guitarist: Gary Moore
Gary Moore gained fame as a blues guitar player, but in the ’80s he was metal, metal,
metal. Have you heard his Corridors of Power record? No? Well then, put down this
magazine and go get that thing. The whole record is great, but Gary’s solo in “End of the
World” is the definition of “face melting.” Seriously, you’re not going to believe it. Go get
5Song: “Exploder” Guitarist: Akira Takasaki
Akira Takasaki is the Japanese Gary Moore, Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, and Richie
Blackmore all rolled into one. You can hear his influences, but they are excellent
influences, and he mixes them into his own incredible style. This is from an album
called Disillusion. The whole album was a huge influence on my early Racer X
playing and writing.
6Song: “Answer to the Master” Guitarists: Pete Willis and Steve Clark
This song is from the very first Def Leppard album when Pete Willis and Steve Clark both
played lead guitar in the band. I don’t know which one of them played the solos in this
song, but the result is one of the most glorious air-guitar moments I can think of. The
main riff is creative and rocking at the same time. Yes, 1980 was a great year to be a
7Song: “Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)” Guitarists: Pat Travers and Pat Thrall
And 1979 wasn’t bad either. Pat Travers and Pat Thrall remain my favorite dual-guitar
team of all time. On this live recording, their guitars are panned hard to the left and right
channels, so you can easily hear what each Pat is playing. Both their rhythm parts and
lead parts made a huge mark on my style. In the mid ’80s, when I found myself getting
too deep into harmonic minor Bach-rock, I brought myself back to this song, learned the
solos as best I could, and my rock-blues soul was literally saved! But with face-melting phrases still at
full force! The rest of the album is great too. And you can hear where I got the idea for getting crazy
sounds out of an old A/DA Flanger or my new Airplane Flanger.
74 PREMIER GUITAR MAY 2011
with a blues influence, my habitual minor
6th sounded horrible over bluesier tunes.
It’s something that’s pretty obvious by ear,
but good to be aware of before blasting into
Now this is all very general. Let’s get into
my specific solution for the 6th problem,
which is: Don’t play it at all!
And while we’re at it, let’s leave out the
4th too. Why? Because it’s not a chord tone
and when I leave it out, the key becomes
more focused, and I just like the sound better. That’s why.
So we are left with the root, minor 3rd
( 3), fifth, minor 7th ( 7), and the 9th—all
good notes. These are all strong chord tones
( 1– 3–5– 7) plus one well-chosen extension
( 9). By the way, the 9th is the “Sade” note.
Listen to her vocal melodies in “Smooth
Operator” and “The Sweetest Taboo”—the
9th is everywhere!
Let’s give these good notes a name. Let’s
call it a minor 9th arpeggio.
We are now full of melodic intention.
We mean to play these notes. And we also
mean not to play some other ones. Now all
we need is a good fingering. I’ve taken the
trouble to work one out for you. Check out
Fig. 1. The red notes indicate where the
root lives. In this case, we are in the key of
There they are, five good notes—Em9.
And the good news is, they fit on two
strings. This is wonderful because you can
use the same shape and fingering on the
next two strings, and then again on the last
two strings. Yes, you do have to quickly
shift your left hand position, but that is a
small inconvenience in exchange for easy
visualization. In other words, this lick is
super-easy for your eyes and brain. And
your fingers will follow.
One important technical note: I recommend not picking everything. Fig. 2 is an
example of how to combine some picking
with hammer-ons and pull-offs to make the
lick easier to play and sound smoother.
I’ve found that these shapes are very
useful for fast sixteenth-note improvising.
If you compare the sound of these shapes
to more typical scales (natural minor or
Dorian), you’ll hear a real difference in how
the Em9 arpeggio does a much better job in
focusing your ear on the key and just sounds
more “intentional.” You meant to play that.
Au revoir, Pee Wee!