Technical difficulties with Paul Gilbert licks

The Paul Gilbert tune - has anyone mastered it?

I simply cannot figure out how the hell to play the main riff - I can’t get the same sound - that wickely awesome “gunning engine” sound he gets. I can play all the fast bits, the legato stuff, the 6’s e.t.c. - just can’t play the main riff without bluffing the single string notes.

I play it starting with a up stroke, the fast 6 runs I inside pick - then back to a upstroke for the main riff. For some reason I usually mess up and double hit the single string notes.

any help with this would be awesome!

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Hey, thanks for posting. Would you mind sharing a bit more detail / editing the post title to make it more clear exactly what song or lick you’re referring to? (A lick from one of our lessons, or a song of his? Either way feel free to link to it here!)

To get better feedback it would be helpful if you could post a video (both normal speed and slow-mo) showing what it looks like when you try to play this. Go to #technique-critique and click “new topic” to see instructions on how to film and share a video for technical feedback.

Hi Brendan !

sure thing, please excuse my terrible tab!

all 16th notes @ 130bpm


all the 3’s are muted
and the 5’s and 4’s are accented on the beat

I start the riff with a upstroke and alternate pick - no problem with speed, my problem is I occasionally double hit the 4’s - a slight touch on the returning upstroke(since that note is a downstroke for me). I think it’s the way I mute the riff - I think it constricts my picking somewhat. Would love to hear how other people approach this killer riff!


I think even Gilbert says the song is difficult to maintain. I totally love Gilbert’s dynamics and ‘bursting’.

But as far as that tab… are those triplets? (ie equiv to nearly 200 bpm 16th)… if so… I am 99% sure that he doesn’t alt-pick that. If he does… then he truly is a god.

This part specifically is very tough at high speeds:
If anyone here can alt pick this at 200 BPM, then I officially anoint you as a Guitar GOD. :crown:

I would use cross-picking for this… and I still haven’t reliably broken about 160ish… because it’s so akward… almost like the 3 string rolls.

EDIT - I just realized what part of the song your tab is for… so they probably aren’t triplets… so I think at 130 bpm… its tough… but its definitely doable. Again… Cross-Picking is great for this kinda alternation.


Start with a downstroke! See Remy Hansen’'s lesson:

Edit: Straten Marshall told me the same thing. Also, just want to clarify, I can’t play it :smile:

Edit 2: I can’t play it “yet”! Metronome, slow bpm, patience, I can see the potential.


Starting with a downstroke worked best for me. Messed around with it this afternoon and got it to around 110 bpm. For this riff my right hand stays in a slight DWPS position and switches to UWPS for those single “5” notes on the higher string then immediately back to DWPS. There’s some old lick (I wanna say Vivian Campbell) that I like that has a very similar picking pattern.


It actually is a simplified version of the bluegrass forward roll picking-wise, on 2 strings instead of 3. That just shows how challenging the fwd roll is past moderate speed.


In principle you can think of it as a 3nps scale and forget that it’s on 2 strings: starting with downstroke you get:

Dwps - dwps - rotate - uwps -uwps -rotate.

In practice I think I swipe a lot here. Maybe Gilbert swipes it as well occasionally.

I also can’t play the main riff in a satisfactory manner, it’s my nemesis! I find the fast scale fragments at 130bpm very very hard!


Hi All

@Tomo - yup it’s my nemesis also - only the seemingly simple part tho lol. I did have problems with little triplet fragment runs - until I started practicing straight across the strings scale runs 18 notes, 3 notes per string and got them to 15nps. Also starting with up stroke really helps those parts.

Thanks for your input on this BEAST of a riff. I think I figured it out last night.
My problem was my down stroke wasn’t articulate enough to make the main riff clean.
So I started to re-learn it with a Pop’n’Scuff mechanic - this is how I learnt that other damn fiendish gilbert lick.

so Pop’n’Scuff - I really really pop the 4’s and 5’s (I really do hit them as hard as possible) - and the 3’s I scuff lightly. I tried that for 30mins - and it started to sound good. I feel that this is trick to this riff - will find out in a few days!

I start with a upstroke because it makes the 6’s triplet runs far far easier and smooth.

When I can finally play this and make it sound good - I can finally rest in piece :stuck_out_tongue:



Interesting! can you elaborate a bit on this, e.g. how do you then connect to the dowonstroke on the D string? (do you use economy for example?)
I’m happy to try anything to make it work :slight_smile:

I was convinced PG would start the fast bits on downstrokes, but I may have seen it wrong.

Hi Tomo

If you start the riff with a upstroke - those fast runs also end up starting with a upstroke and are inside picked - I found that sounded much smoother than the other way around. I can play it starting with a downstroke and at speed but I found the whole song becomes much more of a challange for me.

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Thank you I will give it a shot! Sometimes I make the mistake of practicing the same thing one million times even though it’s not getting better. I should always remind myself to take a break and try different ways of playing the same phrase - what works for PG may not be the best solution for me/us.


That main riff - that pop and scuff mechanic - I think what that is essentially doing is two things

  1. Putting the pick and hand in the right position to clear the strings easily
  2. De-emphasizing the muted notes so the pick hand doesn’t get drag for the clear notes
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Yaaay totally cracked it now!

Woke up this morning and could play it 100% with all the correct accents and feeling!!

The Pop’n’Scuff thing did work but not in the way I expected - when I looked at my picking hand - it had “Decided” to pick diagonally across the strings - about 45%. Amazing - such a simple solution - Because I hold the pick up quite high - above halfway on the pick - picking across the strings - there just isn’t enough space to articulate the accents correct - or for the pick to get into the right angle to hit the strings bang on to get a good tone. Also with the diagonal picking the timing is 100% spot on for the riff - no micro hesitation or adjustments needed!

I did find a tiny issue with muting because my palm position has changed it’s a bit tricky to mute whilst doing this - I’m sure once I’m 100% with it, Pick hand will work out how to do this easily for me!

So so so so chuffed with this - it’s been the bane of my guitar world for quite a while!
As a “Double Bonus” I also realized I could finally play the “Arpeggios from hell kind of stuff” - you know a chord shape spread across 2 notes on one string and 1 note on the next(or the reverse 1,2 e.t.c.). Because the diagonal picking essentially gives your more space to escape the strings - Amazing!


I actually do the diagonal across the strings as well. It kinda gives the feel of having a bit more space in between the strings.

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I’ve never diagonally picked before - mainly because I come from a 80’s thrash background - it’s easier to mute when you pick across the strings, so my playing has always been strictly across! I feel like such a idiot really - should have realized the diagonal thing along time ago :stuck_out_tongue:

I was thinking about this tune again, and I think my trouble with the fast scale bursts is the incorporation of palm muting.

While my fastest 3nps scale playing is done with primary UWPS and no muting (or with limited muting capabilities only on the 2 low strings), my palm-muting posture is more condusive towards a significant DWPS - bias, which makes 3nps playing a bit awkward.

I can see 3 options:
1- play the fast bursts unmuted (but then it’ll sound far from the original)
2 - rearrange the bursts as even # of notes per string - i.e. pure DWPS (a bit of left hand position shifts are needed)
3 - use DWPS + swiping for the ascending runs (but I can totally feel the swipes when doing DWPS)

Dunno what I’d prefer at the moment :thinking:


Hi Tommo

Those fast bursts - I don’t know if I mute them or not - because they are so quick! I think it’s more a light scuff rather than a deep chugg mute.

The thing that really made me able to play them was practicing the 6 string 3nps runs with perfect timing. I put heavy precedence on the timing rather than note quality. I practiced for about 1 week - usually around 6 hours a day. Within those 6 hours usually for around 15-20 mins per hour just playing the ascending/descending 18 note scale run in perfect time - with a extra end note resolve to ensure everything was in time, I played at around 9-10 notes per second. I played without a metronome - but made sure the timing rhythm was correct. I did only that for about a week, then I started using a drum machine pattern to make sure the timing was still correct and upped the speed. very gradually from 12nps to 15nps - constantly monitoring the timing and rhythm pattern. Once I was happy with the runs - the accents,timing and consistency I decide my to revisit the technical difficulties riff - and oh boy I suddenly discovered I could play all the burst notes very very easily. What I’ve learnt from this is 0-10nps you can still control the individual accents and dynamics, above 10nps you get less and less control and it’s super important to burn in the timing and picking rhythm pattern so it’s super super accurate before playing it super fast.


Makes sense! I also found that 10nps (16th notes@150bpm, or 6s @100bpm) is a good speed to work on technique: fast enough that the movements have to be “realistic”, slow enough that things can be consciously changed. I may practice the song a bit more at this speed and see what happens!


Yeah - there’s like a Speed threshold at which articulation becomes tricky. I think it’s linked to adjusting via finger movement - my fingers can move at about 6nps or less, so above a certain speed any kind of finger adjusting becomes less than usless. (finger adjusting on picking hand)

The little scale runs:

I found the Bracketed notes the most important - and that’s the outside joins to the sixes - I found it so so easy to mess up that timing and it still “sounded” ok - but in reality it was a wonky out of time mess. Once I really focused on getting those links perfectly in time, that’s when my run’s really “lit up”. (ignore the actual scale notes - I just play random scales when I’m practicing)

And for the Gilbert riff - I found the very first and last note of the sixes and the start of the main riff are the important ones to get in time.

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