Vai Inspired Ascending Alternate-picked run

Here is a run based on the infamous Vai Passion and Warfare ascending and descending runs.

Can also be reversed to a descending run but doesn’t seem to sound that cool IMO.

Here is me failing to play it many times haha. I will probably defer to the normal Vai method of hammering on and pulling off the 9.10, 9 and equivalent bits.

I am trying to do 2 way pick slanting while playing but to be honest its a struggle. Any comments on my poor picking is appreciated, I class myself as a USX wrist player, but I might be wrong.


I’m pretty sure the more current way of thinking about these types of runs isn’t 2way pickslanting. That was a rabbit hole Troy went down and apologized for (many many times lol). I think it’s now understood that there is a helper motion that allows the trajectory to change when needed and it’s not so overt like completely ‘changing the slant’, which can result in a flip-flopping movement. That may be the ‘problem’ and I say that in quotes because you’re obviously a great player.

Have you seen this?

Anyway, great playing and great lick!

Thanks Joe, yeh I wasn’t too sure what to call it because as you can see I do have a slight flip flop motion that seems to be burnt in especially on the lower strings where I struggle with anchoring,.

But I normally have a secondary elbow motion to handle trajectory changes, might not be evident in this clip though.
Sometimes I even seem to do a weird jerky shoulder motion if I’m going really fast which only seems to happen on the higher strings, I think I’m just weird.

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You had some really good takes near the end. Well, plenty throughout, but it seemed to get more consistent in end.

I feel like I often fall into this trap of wanting to play something I can’t play lol! It’s just a theory but I think all the heroes we look up to had the opposite approach. They didn’t waste time on stuff that was hard, they capitalized on what was easy for them. I guess Vai is an exception since we know he went out of his way to play things that were difficult to him and spent a lot of hours (per day) on it. I know I’ve read Shawn Lane not getting hung up on something that didn’t work. He’d just abandon ship and do something that felt easier. That’s still not much comfort for mortals like me who will never be able to play what was ‘easy’ for Shawn Lane haha!


@SlyVai curious, how do you feel about swiping? I was playing around with this and I found a way to slightly re-finger it and keep it all USX. The main caveat is it contains one swipe per beat.

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I went through phases where I took the easy route to everything. If I couldn’t do something after a few tries I ditched it and moved on. But that was because I was in a band where I had other priories like writing songs and organising and had a full time job so it was a time thing I guess.

Now I’ve got time and I understand the mechanics more, I like to challenge myself, especially with picking. I’ve only been playing again since the start of the year and I think I might be better than ever but that’s because I’ve had the time to put in. I was never great at fast picking and believe it or not this is an improvement for me so I like to think that I can improve further.


I’ve never really tried swiping seriously but I’d certainly give it go if you wanna post your version.

I love swiping. I never even tried it pre CtC and it’s opened up a lot of avenues for me. I find it feels most natural when doing ascending USX stuff this is a perfect phrase for that. One each sextuplet, you swipe on the third note:

The fretting hand is a little more challenging in this approach but the picking is USX the whole way. So I guess it’s a “pick your poison” type of situation :slight_smile:

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Clever ! I’ll give it a go, thanks.

So theres a swipe needed only in the third note on the first, third, fifth, seventh sextuplets I assume ? There’s no need to swipe if we arent changing strings ?

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You’re correct, I was wrong when I said ‘every’ sextuplet. As much as I love swiping there’s no need to use it if it isn’t required lol!

@SlyVai, which song was this inspired from? Looks like another good one from you, I’ll try it out tonight!

The one thing with swiping though - Make sure your fretting hand muting is on par, or else it will be equally as frustrating. It also can be tricky to do it around a position where there is a strong natural harmonic.

Hi @Fossegrim, thanks.

On Passion and Warfare, the parent of this lick is in nearly every song, except for The Love of God, although the ascending run at the end of the solo has shades of it.
The original is a sextuplet pattern, but with 7 notes per, where the first 3 are played as fast triplet, but I have extended it with the an additional sextuplet making it pure sextuplets in between each of the original.

It’s something Vai throws in a lot on Passion and Warfare, sometimes partially, and of course there’s a lot of variations, both ascending and descending, but the cleanest versions are in Liberty (ascending), Erotic Nightmares (descending partial and ascending variation), I Would Love To (ascending) , Blue Powder (Descending):

Liberty ascending run:

Now there is, of course, a debate over how he plays this, and I must admit I struggle with it as he plays it here, the descending version ,I can do much easier. For this ascending run though, I really struggle with my normal outside picking approach and find this approach better:

But, I do also re-jig it to an alternative that some people say is actually how he plays it. I don’t believe this however, as in the videos I have watched he is clearly playing it like above. The descending runs though, I have seen him do it both ways.

The re-jigged version is like this for the Liberty run:

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sorry that re-jigged version was wrong, should be this:

Hi @joebegly, well I tried the magical swiping method, and I’ve gotta say I am pretty impressed.

Seems to work well for me, especially on 3NPS stuff like this. The muting bit just seems to happen naturally for me, I wonder if I am doing it right, but seems like I am from all the material I’ve read and watched on it today.

I will try and post a video of me doing it with you alternative version, see if it’s right or not.

Awesome! Yeah as @Fossegrim pointed out, if the muting isn’t there or you get one of those unfortunate natural harmonics, it can sound messy. Like in your report, I’ve always felt like (as long as I was ascending and using USX) it just took care of itself. I think it may be that at the point of the swipe I have contact with 2 fretting hand fingers on the swiped string, which would explain not ever hearing a natural harmonic.

A perfect example is the run that’s your thread’s subject. The third note where the swipe happens:


The fret hand pinky plays E on the 12th fret of the low E string. The underside of this gently touches the 12th fret on the A string. That would typically create a natural harmonic…but I think my index finger is about to fret the F# on the 9th fret of the A string. So at the instant of the swipe, I’m actually gently muting the A string on the 9th AND 12th frets. While that generates a harmonic still, it’s nowhere nearly as audible as a natural 12th fret harmonic alone would be, and is probably not perceptible given the fundamental E we played just before swiping. Plus the natural compression we have with the distortion probably helps. That’s my theory anyway. I’m fine with calling it magic though, and there plenty of licks like this and John Petrucci’s blinding fast ascending run in the “Another Day” solo that I’m getting close to being able to play up to speed if I swipe and not worry about all the mixed escapes that you’d otherwise need for it. So yeah, I’m close to buying an “I <3 swiping” bumper sticker but I can’t find one anywhere :slight_smile:

As for if you’re doing it correctly, I’ve heard Troy say if you can’t hear it or feel it, it’s correct :slight_smile: Since you have a good experience with it, it’s most likely correct. I know another thing CtC helped me with in general is loosening up my grip on the pick. Swiping definitely feels more clunky any time I catch the old habits creeping in and holding the pick more tightly. As long as I have just small amount of what Troy calls “flop”, the pick glides over that swiped note so smoothly I can’t even feel it.

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I can imagine. That was one of my favorite runs growing up that I could never quite nail. Part of that is my lack of chops, the other part is not being able to quite decipher the notes he was playing. It’s sort of clear how he plays it here:

Of course all that means is “how he played it at that show” haha! But he tends to be pretty worked out. The piano doubles him (mostly) which means he put enough thought into how he liked it phrased that he had it notated for another instrument, so that’s probably a clue.


Ha, yeh, I’m pretty sure that’s how he always plays it live, I’ve never seen him play it any other way, unfortunately haha, but the descending versions, like the Blue Powder lick, I have seen him play both ways.

Note the tabs are all wrong for the lead up to that run though, the tabs say this:

But he actually play’s this, slightly easier.

This has also always been one of my ‘problem’ licks, every since I got the tab book in 1991. Although I can play it better now than ever, I can’t quite seem to pick every note like he does every time, I end up with a slur.

I have tried to analyse it many times, if you take away the 13,14,13 hammer, pulloff parts and just play the 13, so only the picked notes, I can do it very well, but add in the hammer and pulloffs it becomes hard again, doesn’t make any sense from a picking perspective, so I wonder if it’s a coordination problem between right and left hands.

Yeah all great points. I always did the ‘lead in’ on the B string also until watching that live video. One thing that interests me…I’ve never ‘heard’ the little hammer-pull ‘trills’. Not saying he does it or doesn’t do it, just my ears just never caught it and I always played it as straight sextuplets. All the other examples you cite indicate the trills are indeed a thing he does very often, so he could be doing it in Liberty also.

But I think overall, it’s one of those things I just drove myself batty over the years about. I’d be much happier if I’d find the most natural way for me to play my own version instead of mimicking someone else’s exact left hand and picking schemes. Maybe someday I’ll get over it lol! I mean, Shawn Lane covered Eric Johnson sometimes. He doesn’t even attempt EJ’s runs note for note. And obviously it’s not a difficulty thing since Shawn’s runs were MUCH harder and faster. It just probably didn’t occur to him to try being a copy cat to that degree. Meanwhile I’m locked in my bedroom for years punishing myself for not getting things note perfect lol!

I’m at a crossroads now because thanks to CtC a lot of the stuff I struggled with was simply not being aware of escapes. So I know enough to tackle most of my problem licks to set myself up for success. Should I care though? Wouldn’t making up my own runs that feel even more comfortable to me be even better? I struggle with these questions. and since I gave up on the band thing over a decade ago, it’s only ever myself (and my unfortunate wife and son) that hear my playing. No one’s going to be sneering at me for leaving out some of Steve Vai’s trills because I play it better without them lol! I guess to some degree, I enjoy the struggle.

Yeh you’re right about the trills but they are more pronounced I think in other Vai songs. It’s one of those questions I would just love to ask him, along with a load of other stuff.

I was thinking about this the other day, that we, as guitarists, try and play licks and solos by a hundred different players, and beat ourselves up about it when we can’t do it. I’m sure there are plenty of great guitarists that can do it, but can, for example, Vai, play all the Yngwie stuff and vice versa ? Probably not, well those examples are very talented and god-like, so it’s possible but I sort of doubt it.

The example you gave of Shawn playing EJ, this is sort of how I feel it should be. If you are going to cover a great song, then you should add some of your own style and flavour to it.

If I was to play a Vai song live, like For The Love Of God, I probably wouldn’t play it note for note, obviously the majority of it will be the same or similar, because the melody is so distinct, but the fast bits, I would try and make those my own.
Partly because I still can’t play them exactly like he does haha, but mostly because I have my own style of fast playing, in my case a lot of slurring and legato because I’m still not a great picker, and that then makes the song your own ‘version’.

This is all academic anyway, because like you, I don’t play in a band anymore, and probably won’t again, so the only audience is my family and the poor neighbours next door.

I’ve been thinking about writing and recording some stuff, but playing other guitarists licks and runs is always just a fun challenge I guess. It’s probably not very healthy though, as it’s really like I am constantly testing my abilities and I normally end up failing and feeling inadequate as a player. So maybe like you said it’s better to write our own stuff. I don’t know, I sort of feel like I get better by playing or attempting to play Vai or Yngwie or EJ runs.

CtC really got me playing again, after 8 years of not playing, and learning about escapes was great, because, I think I said it before on this forum, I always used escape motions, but very pronounced, and I thought it was cheating. I thought I was so bad at picking, having to do these weird little jerk motions to change strings that I was just weird and could never pick fast like my heroes. So that’s why I picked up the guitar again, after watching Troys primer videos.

Yes to all of this. I bet like most things the answer is somewhere in the middle. We should do our own thing and we should also spend a little time trying to emulate things others do.

Same here. I wasn’t off for quite as long and I DEFINITELY wasn’t intuitive enough to be using any escapes, at least not that I was aware of. There were a few licks I could play faster and more comfortably than others and I know now that I was playing them with a DSX conducive setup and they were DSX exclusive licks. But yeah, you should feel proud that you figured out what you did on your own. No such thing as cheating :slight_smile: