Operation Shred Guitar: Shredasaurus Rex!

In this lesson I will teach parts of a shred etude I wrote called "OMGZ! It's a Shredasaurus Rex!," and go into detail about how I crafted the licks in it.

Ultimate Guitar
Welcome shred fans, my name is Jake Popowski, and in this lesson, I am going to teach you some licks from an etude I wrote called "OMGZ! It's a Shredasaurus Rex!," and explain some of the ways I go about composing something like this.

To start off, the licks in this lesson vary in difficulty from relatively simple, to extremely difficult. If you find yourself having trouble with anything, don't fret, just keep practicing slowly and with proper technique until the lick become easy. Past that, let's begin.

The Building of a Shredasaurus

When I sat down to compose this etude, I had a few ideas in mind about what I would want it to sound like, and what I would want it to cover. The first thing I had was the title. Now, imagine a shredasaurus. He's not gonna be all slow and melodic, he's gonna be fast, and aggressive, and honestly overly fast and aggressive. So knowing that, right out of the gate, I wanted to kick off the etude with something super fast, and aggressive sounding. Digging into my bag of tricks, I thought that some type of diminished run would be a great way to start, and in shredasaurus fashion, it would have to be harmonized. Now, I am not a huge fan of just straight harmony, say, minor thirds, for an entire line. So, with that in mind, I wrote this. The first lick is the main part, the second one is the harmony. Keep in mind this piece is in 3/4 (I'll get to why I chose that in a little bit).

Lick 1:

Lick 2 - The Harmony:

Now, as I said to conclude the last paragraph, these licks are in 3/4, BUT please don't rely on these bars for timing, I will have a link to the guitar pro of the song at the end of the lesson. These tabs are just to show you the notes, so you can jam along to the video if you want.

If you examine the opening lick, and the harmony, you will notice a few things. The first thing you may notice, is that the diminished scale drops a half step half way through the lick, I end with an A minor arpeggio, and the harmonies aren't just straight minor 3rds or fifths. Well, as for how I got the idea to slide the diminished shape down a half step, that's a little trick I learned from Allan Holdsworth, and to my ears, it always sounds neat. The harmony line I wrote just came from messing around a bit, and the D string rooted sweep arpeggios in the harmony are one of my favorite ways to play a diminished arpeggio (if you haven't seen that shape before, learn it, it has a ton of unique uses, and sounds different from what I call the Yngwie standard diminished shape). And I ended on A minor to help segue into the next part of the song (plus it's a pretty simple shape to prepare for the next run)! 

Why I chose a 3/4 time signature

To all the theory elitists out there, what I'm about to say and explain may infuriate a bunch of you, because this is just my personal take on the 3/4 time signature. Honestly, I'm not sure if what I'm about to type is by the book correct, but it helps me with this time signature, and can help you make your shred songs sound faster and more aggressive.

When you listen to "OMGZ! It's a Shredasaurus Rex!," the first thing will hear is a count in. You will hear six ride hits (I gave myself 2 bars of 3/4 to get ready to record). However, after the intro when the drums kick in, the song will sound like 4/4, but with a slightly off feel. Why is that? Well, because it's in 3/4, with the drums more or less playing in 4/4. What that does, is make the song sound a lot faster than it is. So, even though the fastest straight alternate picking lick is only 16th notes at 134, it sounds much faster. In my mind, that's because of how we hear the 3/4, with the 4/4 drum beat. In 3/4, I view sixteenth notes (which are very common in my piece) as triplets in 4/4, with the accent on every fourth note, so for examples, A a a a A a a a A a a a, being 16th notes in 3/4, and A a a A a a A a a A a a, being 8th note triplets in 4/4. Knowing that, you can make a lot of sixteenth note runs sound like triplets if the drums are playing 4/4 in 3/4, That creates the feeling of the notes being played faster, or at least more aggressively, than if the piece were just straight sixteenths in 4/4. I hope this explanation makes sense to you guys, if it doesn't, I will try and answer your questions. ALSO, this is just the way I view 3/4, and it works for me. I could be wrong, but I know this knowledge has helped me a lot. 

Summoning the Shredasaurus (aka Lick 2)

For this lick, I used one of my favorite musical ideas, altering a pentatonic scale. I wanted something to stand out after the crazy intro, and add an eastern esque sound to the piece. So, what I did, was just flatten a few notes in the pentatonic scale, as I played the shape. I honestly didn't put much thought into it, I just took an E minor pentatonic shape, flattened the top E to D#, and the B to A#. For the harmony, I just messed around with flattening some notes in the B minor pentatonic scale.

Without further ado, here's Lick 2:
And the harmony:

Journey Through the Arpeggio Forest

For the next two bars, I decided to go to some swept arpeggios. The next licks are pretty easy. It's just a C major arpeggio, to an A flat minor arpeggio.

Arpeggio Lick
As you can see, I literally just harmonized the arpeggios with different shapes of the same arpeggios. Pretty easy, and again, pretty thoughtless (Well, what would you expect from a shredasaurus rex eh?)

Insane Pentatonic Tapping of Dinosauric Doom!

This following lick is probably the most challenging of the entire song. It's based around the e minor pentatonic scale, and is a string skipping tapped run played in 16th notes triplets. I also harmonize this one. To play this well, make sure you practice it slowly until you can do it perfectly!

The Harmony

That will do it for the lesson on shredasaurus rex, in closing, I will leave you with a video of me playing it, and a link to the guitar pro tab. I hope you guys get some ideas from this. Keep SHREDDING!

Here's the video of me playing it:

YouTube preview picture

And here's a link to the guitar pro tab.

All the Best,
Jake Popowski, and Shredasaurus Rex!

10 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Chris Zoupa
    Dude... You can shred. I do not want to meet that dinosaur. I'm hearing it as 4/4 triplets... Regardless of how you hear or feel the pulse, it's really fun to listen to... YA FREAK!
    Thanks so much man!!! Means a lot from an insanely amazing guitarist like yourself!!!
    I'm sorry, I just don't understand...if you want it to sound like 4/4 with triplets, why not just write it that way? Or use a compound meter like 6/8 or 12/8? I'm really not trying to offend or anything, I just don't quite understand
    The thing is, is that I dont want it to sound like 4/4 triplets, but that whole part was meant to explain how I view 16th notes in 3/4, and why to my ears when I had a 4/4 drum beat under the 3/4, it sounded different tham both 16th notes and triplets in a 4/4 context, and that's mainly because of the accents, and how our brain due to the beat interprets how thefeel should be compared to how it is. As for 3/4 instead of 6/8, it has to do more with how I played the rhythm track than what the lead is.
    Also I wish I could word this better haha im just not sure how. It's just my own view of it. It might not be technically correct or anything, it's just the thought process I had when writing the piece (if you study jason becker and cacophony's music, you will see they did the same thing quite often. The point of the whole 3/4 attempted explanation is my demystification of the whole thing for myself even I suppose). Anyways, thanks for reading! I hope in some way this article can help you guys!
    The word you're looking for is polyrhythm. Your drums are playing in 4/4 with a beat equal to a dotted eighth note while the rest of the track is playing in 3/4 with the beat equal to a quarter note. The reason everyone is hearing it as triplets in 4/4 is that you are not accenting the 3/4 groove very much through most of the etude; which is fine because the parts where you do bring it out come across as very weird because of it.
    sick as usual. me and JP are starting a shred project and im finishing up on the first track i composed for it. this guy kills
    Thanks man I cant wait til we get it rolling! I sent you a quick idea i had today btw.