In previous columns I’ve talked about licks that involve three note per string patterns. While this can be great for fast playing, it’s also cool - although much more difficult - to use all four fingers in the one lick. The following exercises and licks all involve using four notes per string, and they should be a good starting point for incorporating this technique into your own playing.


I’m sure you’ve probably all seen exercises such as this one - where you play the exact same thing on each adjacent string. Although there’s nothing musical about them, drills like this really are a great way to increase the dexterity, endurance and speed of your fingers and picking. Although there are many different variations of this basic exercise, here we play four frets in a row on each string ascending, then move up a fret and descend four frets per string. You then keep this going all the way up the neck (usually to the 12th fret). The most important points to note are:

- Use steady and consistent alternate picking, starting with a downstroke on each string.

- Keep your left hand fingers parallel to the frets and keep your thumb straight.

- Try to keep your fingers as close to the strings as possible, paying particular attention to your pinky since it’s generally the weakest.

Hear Exercise 1


Loosely in the key of E minor, this lick uses a chromatic scale (a non-diatonic scale using all 12 pitches, each a semi-tone apart). To ascend through a chromatic scale, you would play four consecutive frets on the sixth string, moving back a fret as you change to each string (except between the third and second strings where it will remain the same). However, instead of simply ascending through the scale, this lick descends through four notes on each string. It creates an interesting sound since although you’re descending on each string, it is still ascending in pitch overall.

Hear Exercise 2


This exercise is in E Dorian. Rather than just going up and down with three notes on each string, it adds an extra note on the first string (an A in this case) via your pinky. So you end up playing three notes on the B string using the finger grouping 1-2-3, and four notes on the E string using fingers 1-2-3-4. I’ve finished it off with a bend and doubled it up here, but you can loop it as many times as you like.

Hear Exercise 3


This lick arranges the notes of an E natural minor scale into a descending sequence using four notes on each string - it’s going to be pretty tricky! The basic sequence here is to descend then ascend on two strings using ten notes (or two five note per beat groupings). This is then repeated on each group of two strings before finishing on the E root note on the fifth string. Due to the notes in the scale, there are a lot of awkward stretches involved here. It may help to practice each two string grouping separately before trying to put it all together. I think the end result is pretty cool though.

Hear Exercise 4

Start off slowly with these exercises because if you’ve never tried this technique before it will take a while to get both hands synchronized. However once you do, you should be able to come up with some awesome shred licks to add to your arsenal!