Learning A Hard Run Overshoot

author: rtcx86 date: 04/16/2010 category: guitar techniques
rating: 9.9 / votes: 8 
If you haven't tried to play it yet, Cliffs of Dover is a beast, and it's not very hard to see why. Sometimes to learn a one run, you have to learn why it's constructed the way it is. This lesson is going to use one big run from Cliffs of Dover to get some insights into Eric Johnson's playing. This lesson is a look into bridging the gap between playing a song... and playing like the guy who wrote it. Without further ado, here is the run I'm talking about:
-------5-7-6-5---------------|---------------------------------------
---5-8---------8-5---5-7---5-|-3-------------------------------------
-7-----------------7-----4---|---4p2---4p2---------------------------
-----------------------------|-------5-----5-2---5-2-----2-----------
-----------------------------|-----------------5-----5-2---5-2-------
-----------------------------|---------------------------------5-3-0-
On the record, Eric plays through this thing in a little more than three seconds. There's a few important things to note about playing this riff. The key of cliffs of dover is G major, over pentatonic shapes 2 and 3 -- mostly shape 2, which is major pentatonic.
He starts in shape 3:

|---|-2-|---|-3-|---|               |---|-5-|---|-7-|---| 
|---|-6-|---|---|-R-|               |---|-5-|---|---|-8-| 
|-3-|---|---|-5-|---|               |-4-|---|---|-7-|---|
|---|-R-|---|-2-|---|               |---|-5-|---|-7-|---| 
|---|-5-|---|-6-|---|               |---|-5-|---|-7-|---| 
|---|-2-|---|-3-|---|               |---|-5-|---|-7-|---|

   Diagram 1                         Diagram 2

He ends in shape 2:

|---|-R-|---|-2-|               |---|-3-|---|-5-| 
|---|-5-|---|-6-|               |---|-3-|---|-5-| 
|-2-|---|-3-|---|               |-2-|---|-4-|---|
|-6-|---|---|-R-|               |-2-|---|---|-5-| 
|-3-|---|---|-5-|               |-2-|---|---|-5-| 
|---|-R-|---|-2-|               |---|-3-|---|-5-| 

   Diagram 3                         Diagram 4
Okay, I've got four diagrams here. The ones on the left illustrate the shape, where the major roots are, and the corresponding major scale intervals that belong to the scale. The ones on the right show specific frets that apply to the key of G. When Eric plays a fast run, the effect he is going for is almost blurry the line between melody and harmony. It's like he's tryin to leave the E minor (the relative minor of G major) sound in the air with this riff, and he does it with a combination of speed and delay/sustain effects. The first thing I'm going to do here is take the second half off the riff and show how its two main ideas can be extrapolated all over the fretboard. The pentatonic scale has 5 different shapes... penta... 5... so this pattern can be played in at least 5 places. Here's all the descending variation of this pattern
Here it is in shape 2...
-------------
-3-----------
---4p2---4p2-
-------5-----
-------------
-------------

In shape 3...
-------------
-5-----------
---7p4---7p4-
-------7-----
-------------
-------------

Shape 4...
-------------
-8-----------
---9p7---9p7-
-------7-----
-------------
-------------

Shape 5...
-----------------
-10--------------
----12p9----12p9-
---------12------
-----------------
-----------------

Shape 1...
-------------      -------------------
-0-----------      -12----------------
---2p0---2p0-  or  ----14p12----14p12-
-------2-----      ----------12-------
-------------      -------------------
-------------      -------------------
The thing to do with these patterns is take all of them and string them together. And since they're descending patterns, it is generally a good idea to start with the high version of shape 1 and play each shape all the way down to the nut. Then play it in the other direction, and that means turning the descending patterns into ascending patterns. To make them into ascending patterns, we play it backwards.
So this (shape 2):
-------------
-3-----------
---4p2---4p2-
-------5-----
-------------
-------------

Becomes this:
-------------
-----------3-
-2h4---2h4---
-----5-------
-------------
-------------

Shape 3:
-------------
-----------5-
-4h7---4h7---
-----7-------
-------------
-------------

Shape 4:
-------------
-----------8-
-7h9---7h9---
-----9-------
-------------
-------------

Shape 5:
-----------------
--------------10-
-9h12----9h12----
------12---------
-----------------
-----------------

Shape 1:
-------------
-----------2-
-0h2---0h2---
-----2-------
-------------
-------------
Haha... this is getting a bit exhausting... and the other shape 1 pattern has 12's and 14's instead of 0's and 2's So that's the basic method for transforming part of a run into an exercise. Play it in all shapes, forwards and backwards. To keep yourself sane, just stick with one key for now. That's what Slash does. That guy basically lives in E harmonic minor. The idea is, the fact that Eric Johnson put that run on a record means probably improvised it, and is almost certainly comfortable with every single musical idea that composes the riff, so to play like Eric means walking the same path.. it means exhaustively going through his patterns until you start understanding what he was going for. This next riff is one of those that will mess with your head. Because it's in 5's. There's two 5 note groupings.
-----------|-----------
-----------|-----------
-----------|-----------
-5-2---5-2-|-----2-----
-----5-----|-5-2---5-2-
-----------|-----------
The way to think about these is to attach syllables each note. Joe-Di-Ma-GGi-O works pretty well. Because of the way we talk, the human brain is very good at fitting any given number of syllables (within reason :-p) into one beat. If you're at the point in your playing where you have stomach for this kind of work, I highly suggest taking the above riff, and write it out forward, backward, and in as many places as you can fit it in the key of G. This particular riff fits everywhere on the board pretty nicely except for on the 3rd and 2nd string because of the M3 interval between the strings. That's it for this lesson. The moral of the story: If you have a riff you like, don't just settle for knowing it as it is. Learn it forward, backward, and in every relevant place you can fit it. You'll find that when you learn things this way, the riff is much more likely to make its way deeper into you brain until like the concept of it is part of your playing, and it's not just some static riff you know.
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