Silver Mountain Arpeggios


June 2018 Guitar World had Man on the Silver Mountain transcribed. There is the beautiful arpeggio sequence which I find remarkably difficult to play. I thought I’d look at Master Blackmore’s example, but to my disbelief, he doesn’t appear to play that live at all! The keyboards handle it.

GW suggests pure alternative picking, which is very difficult to do fast, fluently and reliably. I’ve tried many different approaches sweeping, combining inside, outside picking, two notes with one direction, changing pick slant etc. Nothing quite works and I can’t arrange it to two strings, since some of the stretches become a bit long.

It goes something like this (never done notation before…):

1 Like

are u sure thats the right song? im not finding arpeggios in any version of that song

edit: nvmnd, I thought you meant the solo. I see now they are in the verse or prechorus

1 Like

The tempo isn’t that high in the song- seems achievable?

Otherwise, you could do it in 10th position on the D and G strings, I guess.

1 Like

I love the first Rainbow album…Ritchie is one of my favorites! I play it the way you have it tabbed one note per string and I just start with a down stroke and alternate pick it. Maybe try it on two strings higher on the neck on the g and d strings like Lewis mentioned. I love the tone he has when he picks them in the record…so clean and warm sounding!


There are similar arpeggios used in other places by blackmore. I’m pretty sure he uses cross-picking. At least that’s how I play them.


I agree. If you want to alternate pick that on three strings, cross picking is the only solution. Rainbow seems to play that live very fast, while the recorded version is pretty easy tempo.

I find cross picking tiresome and error-prone. Two string version would be much easier but you can’t get that sweet sound from thicker strings.


If you find crosspicking tiresome and error prone you’re probably stringhopping to some extent. Watch Molly Tuttle, it’s a very natural movement.

There’s a bit in the Child in Time where Blackmore is playing crosspicking triplets around a three string e-shape triad. I do recall him saying in an interview that it’s hard to do that bit live

1 Like

There wasn’t even any question in my original post. It was written out of bewilderment about how even our great heroes seem weaponless when it comes to things like those arpeggios. Listening to the original or looking at the tabs you would never guess that a player of Blackmore’s caliber would shy away from them live.

If you read the GW instruction and work on ”perfecting the alternate picking”, you might keep hitting a wall again and again, because cross picking is not mentioned in any way. Instead they suggest keeping picking hand movements minimal. That’s probably not something good cross pickers have to do to keep it clean and flowing.

I’ll put these arpeggios to a rest for a while now.


This bit I actually figured out on my own while I was working on crosspicking. A Google search for “arpeggio child in time” and this is the first link. Lo and behold it’s exactly the lick I was talking about. Keep in mind Steve and Yngwie are both influenced by Blackmore.

Regarding the GW article, guitar technique is something of an esoteric concept. You can’t take all statements or transcriptions made as fully accurate. In my opinion, “keep picking movements minimal” is terrible, terrible advice.


Those are different arpeggios. They are triplets and can be picked one direction, quite unlike the Silver ones. There is no proper solution, as far as I know, for Silver, other than crosspicking.


The “caliber” of player isn’t really the issue here - it’s the kind of pickstroke the player knows how to make. As an example, I would imagine lots of people would rate Eric Johnson as high you can rate a player - I mean, the live performance on “Austin City Limits” is an all-time great. But Eric doesn’t do a double-escape pickstroke, so he doesn’t play alternate-picked arpeggio lines. In fact there’s a whole scene on both of his instructional videos where he talks about trying to figure it out. He doesn’t explain things quite to that level of detail, but he says something about wanting downstrokes to move the same way his upstrokes move. And looking back in hindsight at the motion he mimes in the air, it seems likely this is what he was getting at.

What, then, do we make of these instances where you have a player that can do something in the studio but there is no or very little evidence of them ever doing it live? Well, one thing we might be seeing in such cases is a player who is partway through figuring out the technique but hasn’t quite figured it out yet to where they have it all the time. This is super common when you’re learning — the flip flopping between “oh, I got it”, and “damn it’s not working today”. It can feel random in the early stages.

If you’re a bluegrass player you grow up playing roll patterns like this all day long - it is your default. By the time your technique is mature, you can do it as confidently as any of the shred heroes can play a three-note-per-string scale. There’s no reason for it to flip-flop because the motion is learned. Statistically, the batting average is high and will generally tend to stay that way.

So I think when it comes to these great players like Ritchie, you have to see the glass half full. These players had no slow-motion video to look at, and yet here they are essentially discovering techniques by feel — techniques which they did not grow up habitually playing because it wasn’t as common in their style of music.

Btw I will apologize again for the confusion of the term “crosspicking”. Moving forward, I think it’s much clearer to think about the kind of pickstroke needed to play certain phrases. A 1nps alternate-picked arpeggio always requires a double-escape picking motion, because you want to avoid the surrounding strings. Whether or not you call this “crosspicking” is up to you. But without a doubt, if you want to alternate pick a roll pattern, the double escape is the motion you’ll need.

We covered this exact picking pattern in our second lesson on double escape picking motions. Here are a couple takes of it:

In these clips I’m using a combination of wrist and forearm. But any picking motion that can perform a double escape pickstroke can be used to play this pattern, including just the wrist by itself, the elbow plus the wrist, as well as various combinations of wrist, forearm, and fingers like what Martin Miller does.

We’re working on some updates to the Pickslanting Primer now to lay this out a little more clearly. Again, sorry for the confusion in the mean time.


Thanks for the reply. I actually understood everything Troy said and it really puts the publication into shame.

GW suggests to palm mute the arpeggios “on the G and B strings” and also hold the triad shape without lifting fingers. And to minimize movements. Back in the day, when I read advice like this, I tried to follow it and never really went anywhere with my guitar playing.

This kind of there and back again -picking (Hobbit picking?) is something I am putting off for now. I can’t mute that stuff properly and it is not reliable.


Not sure what you mean by “hobbit picking”, but muting is definitely possible with roll playing. I do it in both lessons. It’s just a matter of having clear instructions. In the wrist-only technique, muting does not come from the side of the hand - it comes from the center of the palm and/or the watch band area of the wrist. That’s the pivot point, so that’s the part that contacts the strings.

In the wrist+forearm technique in the second lesson, muting comes from the side of the palm. That’s possible with that technique because forearm is being used. So there is a little more supination to the arm, and this brings more of the side of the palm in contact with the strings.

Whoever wrote the article you’re referring to could have been using any one of these techniques so they probably were correct when they wrote that description. You have to remember, nobody looked at motions back in the day the way we do now. It’s tempting to judge previous generations of instructional stuff by the standards of our current knowledge, but that’s just as unfair in instruction as it is in science or tech or anything else. The truth is we wouldn’t have the insights we do now without everyone who came before and did their level best to figure this stuff out, contributing pieces of the picture along the way.


Yes, that’s the famous ending part of the guitar solo, played in unison with the keyboard. it’s an a-minor arpeggio on the g b and e string (g14 b13 e12). It’s triplets at around 180 bpm.

I’ve seen him do it on an ES335 on some tv footage from the 70s :wink: Definitely pure alternate picking.

I personaly play it using the DDU technique on the g and b string (g14 b13 b17).

It’s basically the the smoke on the water riff of Blackmores solos :wink: