Learning A Hard Run Overshoot

In this lesson I'm going to take a run from Cliffs of Dover and explain how to make exercises out of its components. We're going to take an ear dive into the mind of Eric Johnson.

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.

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    rtcx86
    still don't get it. are they supposed to be scales? cause if thats the cause. the first one is wrong
    Hmmm... well... it's not wrong. Not sure what to tell you. It's just the third pentatonic shape. Of you can think of it as the Dorian mode without the 4th or 7th of the major scale. If you're still interested in finding out more about this stuff, I'd google "pentatonic shapes guitar" and surf around for a while.
    Briar30
    Dude this is a great lesson. It just gave me a bunch of ideas I want to try out. Keep up the good work!
    rasta_mon
    wwhhooo I was hearing cliffs of dover and I came across this. Its pretty good too.5/5
    illyria
    rtcx86 wrote: illyria wrote: quite dense. maybey to much in one go. don't understand the diagrams. and yeah, it is pretty dense material. I'll start breaking up my future lessons into more focused ideas. the thing with the diagrams is to recognize that the one on the left is "general", and the one on the right is "specific". That means, you can move that anywhere on the fretboard, and the key you're in will change, but it will always have those interval relationships - if that makes sense for you. The diagram on the right is specific to G major. It's just showing the same shape as on the left, but with the fret numbers of notes in a the key of G major. Those diagrams are showing the fretboard, not tablature.
    still don't get it. are they supposed to be scales? cause if thats the cause. the first one is wrong
    rtcx86
    illyria wrote: quite dense. maybey to much in one go. don't understand the diagrams.
    and yeah, it is pretty dense material. I'll start breaking up my future lessons into more focused ideas. the thing with the diagrams is to recognize that the one on the left is "general", and the one on the right is "specific". That means, you can move that anywhere on the fretboard, and the key you're in will change, but it will always have those interval relationships - if that makes sense for you. The diagram on the right is specific to G major. It's just showing the same shape as on the left, but with the fret numbers of notes in a the key of G major. Those diagrams are showing the fretboard, not tablature.
    illyria
    quite dense. maybey to much in one go. don't understand the diagrams.
    MotMandre
    Nice lesson, it creates a lot of ideas for practicing. Descending shape 4 should be a 9 on the D string there is a 7.
    rtcx86
    MotMandre wrote: Nice lesson, it creates a lot of ideas for practicing. Descending shape 4 should be a 9 on the D string there is a 7.
    good call. guess I was writing too fast... i wish they allowed editing on these things... anyone know a way to edit?
    10pound
    Whoa.....thats some heavy shit you got going on there. I'll give it a whirl tonight.