Breaking All Illusions (Help Request?)

Hi folks, I really hope you guys are all keeping well and are safe!

I was just wondering if I could ask a question? Can anyone here play Breaking All Illusions by Dream Theatre? I have been learning it note for note using the official tab book and my ears and its coming on pretty nicely. The only part I hate in the main/longer solo is the descending run that starts at the 24th fret. I don’t want to scan my tab book or share illegal stuff here but I found a photo of the page online and it’s the run that starts like this and then continues across the other strings…


Does anyone know the part I mean, and could someone who is a little more clued in than me on this stuff maybe suggest a good sounding alternative you could play in this part? Strangely, it’s not the speed or the fingering that is tripping me up, its almost the opposite - there are a lot of little slurred parts and some repeated notes as that run continues and the Paul Gilbert/Malmsteen fan in me almost just wants to learn an actual shred run full of distinct notes that feels more ‘complete(?)’ lol

Instead of posting that little snip of the tab, it might be easier to link the video to him playing it and then provide the time stamp where the part happens.

So this guy is playing it, and the part I think you’re referring to is happening at the 2:39 mark

Is this correct part you are thinking of? If so, 1) it’s an absolutely beautiful solo, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing, and 2) the part already looks like it uses the technical approach someone like yngwie would use to play it, except for maybe he would keep more of it on a single string before switching. But he would for sure slide into the last note of a four note grouping every time it occurred. Paul too. Paul Gilbert would likely play it exactly like this person is playing it.

You can for sure morph the lick into something that you like better, or is more conducive to your playing, just play with the fingering of it a little, and take out what you don’t want in there.

Also I doubt the tab book you are using is correct to how it’s really played. They are notoriously problematic in general and have lead to the frustration of many a budding guitarist.

I co-transcribed that book and can pretty much guarantee it’s accurate there. I wouldn’t recommend trying to learn that lick exactly as written out.

Instead, maybe get the LH pattern down first with a more legato version like this. Then bring in the picking. If you turn one note of each 5-note slurred group into a grace note, you’ll have about as many picked notes as the original.

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And I’m the other guy who co-transcribed that book. While the books before JBakerman and I took over (everything pre-Octavarium) were pretty incorrect in a lot of places, we’ve both strived to make everything we’ve done as close as it can be. We’ve always had access to the complete isolated tracks and have sat down with JP in person and/or emailed and video chatted with him to go over parts where we weren’t absolutely sure. Both of us are pretty much lifelong students of JP’s style and sound and it’s really important to us that we get it right.

On the part in question, you can see JP doing it basically just like it’s shown in the book here:

As JBakerman said above, he’s not really trying to play a perfect exact composed lick there, it’s really just a flurry of notes that he’s cramming into the space available. It’s slightly different every time he does it live.


Well I’ll leave all the JP idiosyncrasies to you guys then. Since I can guarantee you guys are more familiar and versed in his playing style than I am.

I think part of what the op wanted is a morphed strict alternate picked malmsteen’d version, and if that’s the lick, or a close enough approximation to it, I don’t see why that would be out of the question as is since it looks like a typical primarily groupings of 4, (or 8 rather) sequence, and you can keep more of it on a single string if you wanted like he does.

If that’s a morphed version of the lick for the sake of the discussion, then you did exactly what the op wanted, he just needs to change the legato to picked notes, should work out nicely.

Kinda cool that two people that transcribed Petrucci stuff are on here (@JBakerman @Tabs ).

@Tabs did you happen to be in the Petrucci forum as well, back in the day?

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Yep, I go way back - old school Portnoy and Petrucci forums for sure haha!

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@Tabs that’s awesome! I was on the JP forums but not Portnoy, shame they took down the JP ones, lots of interesting stuff was lost.

I agree:

  1. Super cool to get advice direct from the JP transcribers.
  2. I was on that JP forum way back and was p**sed when I found they took it down. It was a great resource for me when I was composing solos and looking for inspiration (hmm… yeh I did sort of borrow some of JPs licks and patterns, but then realised I couldn’t play most of it live anyway so had to back track).

Let’s hope Troy never has to take this forum down !


These two comments together are very interesting to me, and kind of dovetail into an unrelated question of mine I’ve had for a while related to Satriani’s “Summer Song” solo, particularly the first lead break.

I’m awful at learning other people’s solos for some reason, probab;y because I don’t often try, but I’ve picked this one up periodically over the years, and there’s one passage in particular from the official transcriptionbook (which I own) that always threw me when I was younger but made me think a bit when I picked it up recently.

I hope this is ok to share an excerpt, purely for discussion and analysis:

This is the bit right around the two minute mark of the studio recording.

When I first picked it up my thought was it was, well, notated as written, and Satriani was doing these elabprate little half step slides and then this crazy fast 19/20 then 20/19 slide in the middle of an already blisteringly fast solo, which was luducrous.

More recently, I picked this back up and had a change of mindset, I guess, about this - that it was probaby notated as heard rather than written, that Satch wasn’t carefully sliding from the 19th to the 20th and then back but that this was probably something he wrote with a bit of chromaticism in mind (in G Dorian this is a chromatic walk-up from the 5th to the major 6th and against the C7 that’s sounding gives uyou some m3/M3 bluesy color) but those slides were likely not intentional but was sort of more an artifact of the performance, and playing them however you coudl get them out - maybe just sliding into the 20th from somewhere below on the first, and then in the second just do it as a pull off and hit on thing rather than focusing on the exact fingering, and worry more about the contour of the notes than some of his grace note accents, is probably the way to go.

So, all that said… is it fair to look at a transcription in this way, that your focus is documenting what actually happened rather than what the part was probably written to sound like, and that sometimes accepting that some of these oddities are probably happy accidents or artifacts of even a great player trying to play a challenging part and going with a performance that had the right vibe even if it wasn’t textbook-clean, and that’s kind of what you’re getting at with “I’m confident this is accurate/I wouldn’t try to learn it as written”?

My .02, is that this is a very apt perspective. Sometimes especially with the players that really stand out, they do so because they have their distinct idiosyncrasies that make them…. Well them! That’s what catches our ear, and what we like about them. It’s those things that make them sound musical, and not so robotic and time corrected like what is common in today’s music. In this case, as both @Tabs, and @JBakerman pointed out, John wasn’t likely trying to nor did he sit down and write out every note in that run in the solo, it was likely somewhat sporadic in that he was trying to fit as much as he could in those couple of bars he had, and what came out is what came out. It other words, it was the performance as a whole he was trying to nail, not a specific lick he was robotically calculating. A lot of these players too, don’t usually play their solos the exact same live as they do in the recordings, because a lot of times with these players, what we hear on the recordings was very organic and in the moment and hard to reproduce even by them. So the general idea will suffice, because the performance as a whole is what matters not the flashy lick.

Honestly, as a guy who’s always just immprovised solos, is now teying to write them (by basically improvising, seeing what sticks, and comping together a solo I like as I gradually refine improvised lines into something repeatable that works for me), thinking about solos in this way is actuallty kind of illuminating - find stuff that I can do comfortably that sounds cool, play it, and then do a couple takes and look for those little moments of magic that may not have been implictly planned but, say, the pick attack on an emphaszed note happens to be pretty explosive in ways that work, or something rings out unusually clearly or a particular bit of vibrato is unusually vocal, etc, whatever, and basically come up with a solo thay I could have improvised in everything worked out perfectly, then play it a bunch of times until something about the vibe of the performance is also pretty cool.

This may be how Petrucci and Satriani and Vai (who I’ve read interviews where he alludes to doing a lot of improv playing when first starting to write a solo, so it seems reasonable) work, and I’ve just been wrong to come at it the other end and see these crazy solos and think it was someting they came up with before starting.

Thank you so much guys ^ this is what I was trying to explain in my question. I just wasn’t able to articulate my thoughts very well. In spite of this, you managed to work out what I meant and every one of you really helped. I mean, that is insane… I ask in a forum ‘is there any chance any of you know the tab I mean’, and about an hour or two later get a reply from the person who wrote the book. That is just mind blowing to me - what a font of knowledge and experience you guys are. Thank you for the help - and thanks for sharing your advice. I am going to try and finish learning this now - if I manage it, I’ll maybe post it here - I have never been brave enough to share stuff yet haha


This community IS pretty impressive - both for the more well-known contributors, but also for what I’ve learned from some of the “regular joe” guys (and gals) who have brought some really interesting and thought provoking observations of their own here. It’s a cool place.

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I try to take the second approach where possible. Assuming some things were slight mistakes seems reasonable at times.

This BAI part is the type of lick with about 3 ways to clean up the notation, where you’d either imply faster picking, fewer fretted notes or more precise LH timing than what actually happened. I thought keeping it more exact to the recording was preferable in this case.

“Summer Song” was full of problems in that book. That measure’s probably not the worst of it. The first grace note slide is there, but not the second. The 20\19 slide is either a weak pull-off to open G that lets the 19th fret harmonic sound, or just the wah boosting that frequency.

BTW I transcribed this book too:

P.S. In the printed copies I missed one detail in the next measure of Summer Song. The picked G notes are on the 2nd string, not 1st, like this:

(Digital versions should be fixed soon. I sent a correction long ago but the transcription never got updated for some reason.)

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Big kudos to you guys @Tabs and @JBakerman for making sure the official transcriptions are correct nowadays. As a massive Dream Theater fan myself, it’s so good to hear you guys are taking care of business. Thank you. :muscle:

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Oh great, another version of that to look at. :laughing:

The pull off from 20 to 19 and then hit on to 21 was my best guess of what happened in that section, FWIW, after slowing it WAY down in Reaper with pitch preserved trying to make sense of it, and I think that’s a great example of what I was talking about - I think he probably meant to play it, well, I just grabbed a guitar and ran through it to try to remember what I’d settled on, and sure enough it was your version, and probably was fretting 19th with his pointer and 20th with his ring, and I guess kind of fretted with both fingers as he was playing that, probably by accident, creating ghost hit ons and pull offs.

Interesting about the open string at the end of that lick on the B string - my transcription shows two notes there, which feels awkward, the second repetition of the open B would be essentially indistinquishable from the first, and was something I struggled to hear in the recording.

Also, that strewtchy pull-off lickj after that, he was really using a unison 2nd string 20th fret, rather than doubling up on the 15th fret G? Crazy…

Anyway, I’ll grab your versions - I have the book for Surfing… too and some of the runs on Always With Me look wrong to me too, Satch tends to do a lot of flowing legato runs where he slides from the first to the second note, does hit ons for the nect three, and pauses on the final note, and this transcription does a lot of those type of runs in box position, which struck me as probably wrong.

Yes I’ve got that book too and for ages I was struggling make those those legato sliding pausing sections sound fluid as the book has it. Until I slowed down some live footage and saw what he was doing by sliding at different points so the pause always happens on the last grouping of 3 instead of odd notes in the box positions. Still it was good practice to develop my fretboard knowledge and left hand finger coordinatation.

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Yeah, for sure, on both counts. I think Satch’s legato technique is another great example of the sort of thing we see in Yngwie’s and Johnson’s playing where sometimes memorable and idiosyncratic lines can be a direct byproduct of technical choices where lines are being optimized to allow them to be played as fluidly as possible, and don’t necessarily come out of a vacuum.