Welcome to the first installment of Shredding with Semeron! A common starting point for many ongoing guitar lesson columnists and bloggers is the topic of warming up. Warming up properly before attempting guitar heroics is crucial if you want to play effortlessly and fluidly. One can avoid injury as well, and who wants to explain how they hurt their hand to their band mates? I was practicing my Gb7sus4 sweep arpeggios at 200 bpm, I swear!
Here’s the lesson video. Simply click on the links below to the description to see the music notation. It is also included at the end of each demonstration on the video below.
Many people like to warm up with finger patterns that use every finger. I call these exercises 1-2-3-4 exercises. These really do a good job of warming up the hand. Along with warming up, the exercises are good for working on dexterity, but they can get a little stale over time. They are typically nonsensical and not very musical (often computer-like).
Warming up with Music
The idea with warming up is we are prepping ourselves to play music, so it only makes sense to add some musicality to the warmups themselves. With this in mind, here are a few excerpts from songs that use the aforementioned 1-2-3-4 patterns.
“Space Truckin’” – Deep Purple
The first riff comes from Deep Purple. Be sure to play the first half of the riff in 5th position (so 1st finger plays the 5th fret, 2nd finger plays 6th fret, 3rd finger plays the 7th fret, 4th finger plays the 8th fret). Here is a great example of a 1-2-3-4 pattern that is used in a song…easy to play, and good for getting the fingers going. C’MON!!!
(As a side note, J.R., Jeff, Adam, Jesse… this riff might be the reason I like to say “C’mon!” all the time!)
“Erotomania” – Dream Theater
This instrumental track from prog rockers Dream Theater has some really great riffs and licks in it. The intro is a little more advanced as it has a few odd time signatures, chromatics (like 1-2-3-4 patterns), and bigger stretches (m.9-10). This excerpt covers a lot of ground, uses all four fingers, and even has a little lead playing making it a great tune to warm up on.
Counting 5/4 and 9/8
Let’s start with counting the time signatures. 5/4 is as simple as counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (in quarter notes). The same goes with 2/4 and 3/4, just count to 2 or 3, respectively. The measure of 9/8 can be a little tricky. Here’s what’s going on. 5/4 could be written as 10/8, so 9/8 is essentially dropping one 8th note beat. 9/8 in this context can be counted like this (in 8th notes) 1 2, 1 2, 1 2, 1 2 3 .
“Can’t Take Me Alive” (Verse 1 Arpeggios) – Semeron
This little arpeggio part from my band Semeron’s upcoming album “Breathing Scarlet,” uses mostly sweep picking and a little bit of alternate picking. I like to warm up my sweep picking with this because it is a bit slower, which is ideal for warming up! I follow the same pattern throughout most of the example, but watch for m. 4 where alternate picking is used. This example can also be alternate picked throughout, which gives it sort of a Steve Morse kind of sound, but I like the flowing sound of sweeping here. It’s a good intro to sweep picking if you don’t use that technique much, too. If the arpeggio shapes give you trouble, try looping each measure, so play each measure 2 or 4 times before moving on.
“Jotun” (live) – In Flames
If you play lead guitar, it’s important when warming up to prep yourself to play leads! The melody in “Jotun” includes hammer-ons and pulloffs, bends, slides, and plenty of position playing. Melodies are great to warm up on to remind us to play melodically (hence the word) and not just shred when playing leads. This one isn’t technically a 1-2-3-4 pattern, but every one of these fingers is used.
This excerpt, written by Rhandy Rhoads, is a classical study adapted into a rock song. It’s a perfect chord warmup that uses all fingers (again 1-2-3-4), has some good stretches, and sounds pretty! It is played “Rubato,” which means “Flexibility of Tempo,” so you can speed up and slow down to your taste. Rhandy doesn’t go crazy with that, but it’s a little more free sounding that way.
If you need these slowed down, try going to www.soundslice.com and loading our video. Just search “Shredding with Semeron.” You can play YouTube videos from there and not only slow the music down to half speed (without changing the pitch), but you can loop sections, and it’s free!
Good luck with all of these examples, be sure to practice slowly and accurately, and see you next time!