I’m always interested in new things that are pretty simple, but sound cool. Once I get a basic version of a technique together, I’ll try and imagine how many different manipulations of it I can do. Can I bring it through a scale, if so…which ones? Pentatonic? Modes? Can I use it as an arpeggio? You get the picture. I spend a little time working on and refining a small technique or idea and then it becomes much easier to bring it into a larger forum.
The double upstroke is one such idea. One simple little lick literally changed the way I play. At first, I though I’d never use something like it and it was pretty unwieldy. But in time, with some practice and focus on just this small lick, it became smoother and smoother. I first heard about the idea from fusion legend Frank Gamble. Now, Frank played this type of stuff and I thought, “There’s no way I’m gonna be able do that!” So I abandoned the idea several times over the years. Damn you, Frank Gamble!
Then, born out of frustration, I came up with the lick I’ll show you below. Really short, really simple, but emphasizes the core idea. I had no expectations going into practicing it. Sounded nothing like the crazy stuff Frank was doing, but…it got the technique into my hands and I didn’t abandon it, this time. Here it is.
So, as time went by, I got the thing working, as I mentioned. Like anything else, I then thought “What’s next?” And so, I started to apply my newfound powers to slightly larger ideas. This one is our double up applied to the pentatonic scale.
And the ideas grew…here’s an Ionian scale version:
Now, ultimately, you have to work the new ideas into the existing stuff you already know to make it less obtrusive and more musical. An idea I use I call bookending: play maybe 10 seconds of something comfortable and in the same key and position as your target “new” lick or idea. Practice seamlessly and fluidly passing into the new lick and then resolve it with another 5 to 10 seconds of same key/same position comfortable stuff. Keep practicing that process, over a backing track, until things sound comfortable.
You can check out these very licks and ideas above and a ton more about the double upstroke and its direct sibling, sweep picking, in my new TrueFire foundry course Lord of the Strings. See you online!