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> Playing Runs: How Many Notes?
Ben Higgins
post Apr 9 2015, 12:16 PM
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I used to be confused by the concept of runs. No, not the thing you get when you need to keep visiting the bathroom with an upset stomach but guitar runs. A lick that starts in one place and ends up in another.

I always wanted to know how people knew where to place their fingers (well, scales eventually solved that conundrum) and how did they know how many notes to put into a run? It's that last question I'm focused on with this post.

The thing is, you can put as many or as little notes into a run as you like. It can follow an exact amount of note values or it can be very random, gliding over the beat.

A good example of a guitarist who does very exact runs is Michael Angelo Batio. Very rarely will you hear him play anything off piste.. it's nearly always exact triplets or 16th notes to the letter. His runs are very scalar based, usually following the diatonic interval patterns that are adjacent to the scale position he's in. For an example, listen to around 0:44. We can all agree that these runs are all very accurate and stick to the sextuplet format.



Now, a guitarist who does mostly the opposite is Yngwie Malmsteen. His approach is more about what sounds good to him and to hell with having an exact amount of notes during a run. If anything, it's 'fit as many notes in as possible and land on the target note'. Playing like this is not easy if you use strict alternate picking which explains why people who develop awesome picking speeds still don't flow quite like Yngwie does. His use of picking, economy picking and legato enable him to fit extra notes in that just wouldn't be possible if using alternate picking all the way through.

So, here's some Yngwie to remind yourself what a run with no specific parameters sounds like. Notice from 0:22 he starts chucking in some rapid runs that just blast over the beat with no defined timing.



I've recorded 3 runs over an A5 chord. The scale is A Mixolydian. The first example is using strict timing. After the bend and initial lick, I perform a descending sextuplet run that stays strictly in time. So, forgetting about speed for the moment, this shows the most basic way of making a run. Use a scale and determine the note values.

Attached File  Run1.mp3 ( 301.64K ) Number of downloads: 54


The 2nd example starts off with a bend and then slows things down with a staggered phrase before descending with loose legato. The strategy here was to get to the ending note as quick as possible so I just pulled-off until I reached the last note. Nothing refined about this. This is starting to use the 'Yngwie' approach of cram as many notes in as you can and go for the effect.

Attached File  Run2.mp3 ( 301.13K ) Number of downloads: 52


The last example takes it further and just fires notes all over the place with no heed paid to how they sit over the beat.

Attached File  Run3.mp3 ( 300.52K ) Number of downloads: 50


Works, though, doesn't it? This sort of stuff you just develop yourself. It's a very personal thing. You know how your fingers move and you develop a way of emphasising certain pick strokes and maybe missing others. This Paul Gilbert-esque picking/legato approach occurred naturally for me after pushing myself to play more challenging licks. I didn't strategise (I don't that's even a word) which notes to pick etc, it just happens with trying to cram notes in. You eventually see what you can get away with and what you can't.

I've used two 'shred' guys as examples here but look no further than the blues for an example of playing your runs with feel instead of exact note values.

All blues guys play around the beat, slowing down & speeding up at will. Just have a listen to what Frank Marino can do with the pentatonic scale here from 6:19 onwards... would you fancy tabbing that out? Hell, no.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15yFEqB6NMw

It's this un-teachable, almost indescribable quality that many people describe as 'feel'. That's why anyone can learn a blues track but it takes much longer to let it flow the same way the masters do. Oh and what do blues players have in common with Yngwie? They use a combo of different techniques in their phrasing.. picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends.. they're not stuck to strict picking runs etc. Just something to think about... wink.gif

So.. runs. How many notes? As many as you like.

This post has been edited by Ben Higgins: Apr 9 2015, 12:17 PM


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bleez
post Apr 9 2015, 10:37 PM
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Interesting examples, Ben. Cool topic.
I keep trying to write fast ( for me ) runs in the collabs but it rarely works out rolleyes.gif

QUOTE (Ben Higgins @ Apr 9 2015, 12:16 PM) *
A good example of a guitarist who does very exact runs is Michael Angelo Batio. Very rarely will you hear him play anything off piste.. it's nearly always exact triplets or 16th notes to the letter. His runs are very scalar based, usually following the diatonic interval patterns that are adjacent to the scale position he's in. For an example, listen to around 0:44. We can all agree that these runs are all very accurate and stick to the sextuplet format.



Although Ive always been 'aware' of Batio, Ive never really listened to him that much but that video is freakin amazing. those runs and that speed ohmy.gif If I could ever pull off a run anywhere close to that there would be NO living with me! I would be walking around with a Yngwie sized ego. My mrs would probably divorce me ph34r.gif

is Batio an 'upward pickslanter'?

This post has been edited by bleez: Apr 10 2015, 06:33 AM


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You say 'minor pentatonic ' like it's a bad thing
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Todd Simpson
post Apr 9 2015, 10:53 PM
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WELL SAID!! Fine post smile.gif How many notes? As many as it takes!!!!


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Ben Higgins
post Apr 10 2015, 09:08 AM
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QUOTE (bleez @ Apr 9 2015, 09:37 PM) *
is Batio an 'upward pickslanter'?


During a convo with Troy Grady he said that MAB is an upward pick slanter mainly. I guess because of his hand position the pick edge has got to be pointing more down towards the floor though and the edge moves up /down over the strings rather than back and forth.

QUOTE (Todd Simpson @ Apr 9 2015, 09:53 PM) *
WELL SAID!! Fine post smile.gif How many notes? As many as it takes!!!!


Yes.. or, as one of my favourite FB responses said, ALL OF THEM laugh.gif


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klasaine
post Apr 10 2015, 02:49 PM
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I agree with as many (or few) notes as it takes ... as long as your overall time - your feel - is good.

*I don't hear Yngwie's runs as being 'random'. He feels pretty metered to me. Just not the typical slow is 1/4 notes and fast is 16th triplets. He mixes it up a lot - even mid 'idea'.


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