Building Rediculous Speed With Moving Chromatic Exercises

author: jetman666 date: 04/13/2009 category: for beginners

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Chromatic exercises can seem tedious and boring at times. Most people seem to just look at Chromatic exercises once or twice in their life and think, "this doesn't sound very cool", or, "this isn't metal" or whatever else. The first time I saw the Chromatic Scale I played it a tiny bit and went, "egh... Whatever". It wasn't until about a year ago when I saw Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom) giving a lesson on speed exercises using the Chromatic Scale that I began to take it seriously. Try looking for some YouTube videos on this subject as well. Below are a few things I, personally, practice daily. Remember that it's okay to start slow and work your way up. It can also be good to use some distortion when playing through these exercises. It helps to keep everything sounding really cool and keeps you from getting too bored. You'll notice that the faster you play the cooler it will all sound! Also, try to palm-mute these exercises for a tighter sound.
|---------------------------------6-7-8-9---------| <--You'll notice that we 
|-------------------------5-6-7-8-----------------|    move up a fret here.
Once you reach the end of this run go ahead and play it in reverse:
|-----------------8-7-6-5-------------------------| <--We go back to the 
|-------------------------8-7-6-5-----------------|    original 4 frets here.
I'll play this quite a few times just to get warmed up. Start slow, use alternate picking (D-U-D-U) all the way through both ways. It's not necessary to switch your alternating picking when playing it in reverse. Just play whatever way feels quickest and easiest to you. Personally, my own alternate picking varies as I play. Sometimes I switch on reverse. Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I switch my alternating in the middle of the exercise! My right hand kind of does whatever it wants depending on how fast I'm trying to play! Everyone is different, so don't be afraid to just play your own way! Now let's do a real Chromatic Scale exercise: E F F# G G# A A# B C C# D D# E
|-------------------------------------------------0-1-2-3-4-|E F F# G G#
|---------------------------------------0-1-2-3-4-----------|B C C# D D#
|-------------------------------0-1-2-3---------------------|G G# A A#
|---------------------0-1-2-3-4-----------------------------|D D# E F F#
|-----------0-1-2-3-4---------------------------------------|A A# B C C#
|-0-1-2-3-4-------------------------------------------------|E F F# G G#
That's what a true Chromatic run sounds like, but that's boring! So, let's turn it into a standard scale using a half-half-half-whole-half-half-whole structure. This makes the scale a bit more fun and gets you moving around the neck a bit. Note that this leaves out a few notes ( A, A#, D# and E ).
|---------------------------------6-7-8-9----------| <--Jump up 2 frets here.
Or you can practice a Chromatic scale that is much more common and has every note. I play this one as well, but it only contains A A# D# and E in the last 2 strings.
|---------------------------------4-5-6-7---------| <--Play the same frets as
|-------------------------4-5-6-7-----------------|    on the G string.
Well, this is all still pretty boring, huh? It's gonna take a little practice, but try to play through these as FAST as you can! When you're first starting out people will tell you that it's really important to be as accurate as possible... This is true, but!, it's also important to be consistent and to actually finish a scale or song or whatever! What I mean is, if you were in a foot race with someone and you accidentally fell on your face, would you get up and go all the way back to the starting line and start over? No! And I know that playing guitar is not a race, but it is important to know how to keep going after you screw up and just finish what you started. Trust me, you'll feel really good about what you're doing if you can actually just finish it! Once you've accomplished finishing a scale or song then you become more familiar with what the scale or song feels like under your fret-hand. Just keep playing over and over, finishing each time, and the speed and accuracy will come with the constant practice! Now, on to some more exercises! Remember the very first set of exercises in this lesson? That's where the fun starts to come in when doing Chromatic exercises! Here's one of my favorite ways of playing in Chromatic:

Did you notice how we moved up a fret and then finished a fret higher than where we started? Of course you did! But, that's not the end of it! When you get back down to the low-E string, go ahead and move up another fret and start over. Move up another fret again when you reach the high-E string. Play this out until you reach the end of the neck and then go ahead and descend the entire neck in reverse. I'll play the exercise above in many different configurations. Sometimes I might only move up a fret when I reach the low-E string. Another thing I'll do is this:

Now that sounds pretty cool! Again, go ahead and move up a fret each time you reach the top and bottom of each run until you reach the end of the neck. Once you reach the end you can go back down the neck doing everything in reverse of how you ascended. Remember, try playing these as fast as possible! And keep that distortion going strong too! After practicing some of the scales above I'm sure you'll see how you can come up with different variations to keep everything interesting and sounding cool. Here's another variation that I play often:

Just as stated before, keep going up the neck until you reach the end. Then, go back down the neck doing the same pattern in reverse. You can also ascend the neck by doing descending notes like we saw in the lesson before this. Try descending the neck using ascending notes as well! Here is another of my daily exercises based on the structure of the first exercise. We alternate between the B and G strings so we have to remember to move up a fret going from G to B and then back down a fret from B to G. This is basically the same exercise as above but it requires some quick fret-hand movements to keep it accurate. Start slow and work your way up to speed. Or, you can do like I do and just head full speed into this one!

Now that's fun! Gobs of distortion, blazing alternate picking, and a blatant disregard for the peace and quiet in your neighborhood makes this a bitchin' lick! Well, I can't really show you much more without being completely redundant so I'll leave you with this: practice, practice, practice! These Chromatic exercises can seem tedious at first... Some of you might even disregard them for now... But when you really discipline yourself to just play them and really push yourself to be able to haul ass through these, you'll see how much fun they can be and you'll notice how accurate both of hands, and maybe even your ears, have gotten! Just keep finding ways to change these scales around and new ways of moving them up and down the neck. Email me or comment here with any questions.
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