In my last column, I discussed scale-based shred licks using alternate picking whilst skipping between non-adjacent strings. For this issue, I thought I’d expand upon this concept (literally) by adding in some large and rapid position shifts! These types of licks are a personal favourite of mine. When used at speed to solo over a raging thrash beat or a brutal death metal track, they can sound pretty cool!


The following licks use the E natural minor scale (E-F#-G-A-B-C-D). As a quick refresher, here’s one of my exercises from the last issue (in case you missed it, an archive of all my previous columns is available at Using a three note-per-string fingering, the lick descends then ascends through the scale twice via 16th note quintuplets (five notes per beat) and strict alternate picking. However, the key here is that rather than strings one and two (which would be more conventional), the lick is performed across strings one and three.

Hear Exercise 1


Once you’re comfortable with the first lick, we’re now going to add in the larger position shifts. The melodic contour of the phrase stays the same, but instead of moving from the 12th position on the first string to the 11th position on the third string, it jumps down to the 9th position on the third string (using E natural minor three note-per-string fingerings throughout). Doing so means that the notes on each string are now the same (G, F#, E), only an octave apart. When shifting between positions, keep your left hand as close to the strings as possible, only barely releasing the pressure as you move up and down the fretboard.

Hear Exercise 2


This lick goes even further by starting on the 19th fret with the notes B, A, and G in the 15th position. It then leaps down to the notes G, F#, and E in the 9th position, as with the previous lick. The jump here is quite large (not to mention the string skip), so start off slowly to work on the accuracy. Accommodated by the quintuplet rhythmic grouping, the circular nature of this lick (and the others) means that you can seamlessly loop it as many times as you like. When performed at top speeds of around 200BPM, it starts to sound pretty crazy. It also looks cool too! 

Hear Exercise 3


The last lick joins Exercises 2 and 3 together to create a longer ‘monster’ lick (note the repeat signs). As such, it moves from the 12th position on the first string to the 9th position on the third string, and then to the 15th position on the first string and back to the 9th position on the third string (and so on). Whilst developing the accuracy of the position shifts may take some time, by starting slow and gradually increasing the speed, it will eventually program the muscle memory of your left hand so that you start to nail the wide fretboard jumps more times than not.   

Hear Exercise 4

You can hear my recordings of the exercises from this column by heading to Once you’re comfortable with these licks, practice transposing them to different keys and scales, and then try coming up with your own variations. You could also apply the technique to different two-string groupings. For those feeling really adventurous, you could extend the concept further by using even larger position shifts and skipping over two, three, or even four strings!