Notes from Marty Friedman’s Melodic Control Guitar Lesson

This lesson from Marty Friedman was release in 1993. Topics include chord progressions, arpeggios, relative minor chords, scales, how to build a melody, picking, bending, and playing the blues.

Full video:

Opening (1:05)

Making music, not just playing exercises, being in control of what you’re doing, do it, handle it, that’s what we’re going to do today, you’re going to get it down, you’re going to learn what I say and you’re going to live it…”

Hearing the chords (2:05)

Develop the ability to hear a chord progression in your head and be able to solo over it. Follow the chords strictly in your head.

To make your melodies work, you have to care about what is under them, the chord progressions…”

The easiest way to follow a chord is to arpeggiate it.

You have to consciously think of the chords that are happening under your soloing, know what you want to do over the chords…”

E-D-A Chord Progression Soloing (6:20)

Start with an E major arpeggio. Anticipate (as you’re soloing over the E chord) the upcoming D and A chords. The roots of the upcoming chords can be your target notes.

You can always be safe with an arpeggio of a chord…”

Take a pause, sustain a note to give yourself time to think about the next chord.

“Sometimes when you have a lack of ideas, you just need to slow down and that’s when you have the time to figure out the next chord and what you’re going to do…”

“The more you think the better you’re going to play…”

Relative Minor (12:05)

Play the relative minor in order to add a different flavor. For example over the E chord, you can play C# minor (Aeolian mode). For the D chord, you’d play B minor. Add in this scale while playing the arpeggio over the chord for effect.

The more knowledge that you have, the more control you’ll have, therefore the more aggressive you can play. You can play the notes like you mean it. It always comes across when a guitar player plays the notes he means to play…”

Learn as much as you can about the notes you’re going to play, it will increase your confidence as a player and it will come across in your playing.

Scales (16:13)

You can come up with your own scales. Play a chord (such as A) and play single notes at a time. Pick the ones that sound good to you and construct your own scale. Eliminate notes until you get it into a form that you like. 

Come up with different patterns, and from your starting point have an end point in mind. Play various patterns in between.

In your practice sessions, start with practicing an entire scale pattern. Follow that by breaking up small individual patterns within the scale and practice those. Change up the patterns to add variety and create new patterns.

Get control of the notes that you play. You can develop technique, but you need control over your note choices. That will make you sound different from someone else because you can control yourself from sounding like someone else…”

Minor Keys (21:00)

Demonstrates the chord progression: Am-Dm-F-E

For Am chord plays Am scale or Am arpeggio. Gets more adventurous for Dm chord, hits the B note (13) which has an exotic sound, targets that B note when the Dm chord hits and then resolves to the root note, D. Likes to hit the F as well (minor 3rd).

For the F chord, plays the Eb (flat 7th) to get a dominant sound. Likes to break out this note here because this note wouldn’t sound good over the first two chords, but it’s fresh when the F chord is played.

For the E chord, plays solo using diminished notes. This is a good approach for soloing over a major chord in a minor progression.

Building a Melody (29:00)

Establish a melody under a chord progression, and just when the listener gets used to hearing the melody, change it up by arpeggiating the chords to give it another flavor.

Arpeggios (36:25)

An Arpeggio is playing the notes of the chord as a scale. So for A major, you would play A (1), C# (3), E (5). Come up with patterns at any position and in any combination using only those notes. Come up with something you can practice as a repeating pattern.

Idea: play up the fretboard using an C major arpeggio, but come down playing the relative minor, in this case would be A minor. Come up with a pattern that repeats so you can continuously play it and improve your accuracy and speed. 

Practice with a metronome. Develop your “evenesses” of playing. Get it at a comfortable level, and move up the tempo gradually.

Big difference between technique and creativity. Technique is kind of like a bank, you have all this technique in your bank, and when it’s time to be creative you draw from that. You shouldn’t use technique as a substitute for creativity…”

Picking (42:55)

Marty doesn’t have a consistent picking pattern. Uses different patterns that suit each lick differently.

I try not to use picking patterns that are going to be the same for everything…”

“Basically if you’re just playing what is easiest for you to pick, that as a rule is the best way to go, don’t think you have to pick something in a particular way…”

Bending (48:32)

Understand that there are many different ways to bend a note. As long as you get the pitch correct, it doesn’t matter where you bend from.

When bending to a target note, think of the starting note as an opportunity to grab the listeners attention (could be a “wrong note”) that you bend into the “right note”.

Blues (53:40)

At some point as a musician you’ll likely be in a situation where you’ll need to be able to play the 12-bar blues. It’s a progression that everyone knows, a foundation for Rock guitar. Learn to play it.