Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine


An A Dorian lick, Figure A has three notes per string. Typically most players accent the first note on each string (both when fingering and playing legato). When playing this exercise as written (with semi quavers) that means the new starting note on each string isn’t always on the beat (as you’re playing three notes per string but counting/feeling groups of four). Whilst this can be a cool effect on its own it can also play with your time and feeling of where the one is. I’d suggest playing the lick with alternate picking as a start, really honing in on the feeling of semi quavers and hearing/feeling/counting out loud every beat (1 e + a, 2 e + a etc).

After playing Figure A slowly a few times you might be surprised at which notes are falling where in the bar. Let’s have a look at Figure B which takes the first bar and highlights the counting of semi quavers (with a feeling of four/groups of four) against where the new string starts each time (groups of three).

Keeping just the accented notes you end with Figure C. As mentioned this has a cool rhythmic feel to it but it’s also important to be able to use this when needed and play the phrase without accents too – irrespective of what finger you’re using, which string you’re on and whether it’s the start of a new string or not etc.

So going back to Figure A you should now try and play the phrase with more of a legato feel. Try picking just the first note and even not picking at all. Focus on hearing the phrase in 4/4, counting all the beats out loud and making them all even and clear. Figure D takes a similar sound (in A Dorian) but starts with the second finger. A similar premise again with keeping a pattern moving across the strings but for many (myself included) this starting on the second finger is much harder to get clean and precise. Try picking as a start and avoid accenting the new string (accent the whole beats – 1, 2, 3, 4 if anything) and get the feeling of the semi quavers as opposed to the string change.


Now think how many possibilities and combinations there are – different scales, arpeggios, chromatic lines, different fingering and groupings and then mixing those up. Don’t be overwhelmed though, start with one small exercise and work on it. Building technique can be very rewarding, it does take time and practice however.