Here we have a free lick taken from the On the Beach solo study, based around the hard-rock style. This style gained popularity from the late 1970’s with Eddie Van Halen’s groundbreaking debut album Van Halen, released in 1978 and featuring the legendary showcase Eruption. The style is characterised by choppy sounding riffs interspersed with flashy fills and flamboyant lead playing, often showcasing cutting edge techniques mixed in with a blues/rock-based core vocabulary.
A new modern rock sound emerged as a result of advances in amplifier technology with increased levels of gain, and along with the advent of the floyd rose locking tremolo system, lower actions, lighter gauge strings and hot rodded pick-ups, a new modern era was born and gathered pace throughout the 1980’s with bands like Van Halen, Dokken (George Lynch), Ratt (Warren Demartini), David Lee Roth (Steve Vai), Winger (Reb Beach), Whitesnake (John Sykes), Extreme (Nuno Bettencourt) and Ozzy Osbourne (Randy Rhoads / Jake E Lee / Zakk Wylde etc).
To get an authentic tone, set the gain on your amp to maximum, with the bass and treble set slightly boosted (1 o’clock), and the mid-range either scooped (9 o’clock) for rhythm or boosted (1-2 o’clock) for lead.
This lick in the style of Reb Beach (Winger / Dokken / Whitesnake) and starts with a bluesy A Dorian / Minor Pentatonic phrase featuring a bend on the b7 played with wide vibrato, moving to a semi-tone bend on the 6th degree (B string / 19th fret), leading to some descending slides and then into a 3-octave legato lick extended with taps. As we are fairly high up in position 5 (3-notes-per string system) or starting in position 4 from a caged point of view around the R5th A minor chord, it is common to see rock players use fingers 1, 2 and 3 on the fretting hand for this particular shape and with this fingering also lending more of an angle to the fretting hand which in turn sets up a good position for the “exit” or finishing phrase. The traditional classically based fingering of 1,2 and 4 should also be developed as you will see both commonly used in different circumstances. I would advise that the exit phrase uses the 3rd finger for the fretting hand tap (or hammer-on from nowhere), setting the hand up at an angle for the final bend on the b7. Once the lick is played, visualise yourself in the high position 1, A minor Pentatonic scale and continue improvising. This way you will start to integrate these new licks in with your present vocabulary.