What are some songs you practiced that helped improve your technique in particular areas?

Some of mine:

AC/DC - “Thunderstruck”. When I first started, that main riff did more to improve my fretting and picking hand synchronization than anything else. Fitting that it started life as a practice lick of Angus’s. I still often play it as a warm-up.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - “Tamacun”. The whole song is a great picking exercise. It’s not terribly difficult, and it was particularly helpful to me because at around 130 bpm, its moderate tempo lied in my awkward transition zone between slow and fast picking technique. It helped me gain more control over my picking and not make it so binary between slow/fast.

Stevie Ray Vaughan - “Crossfire”. This song was both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it did more than any other song to build my string-bending strength. A curse because it and other SRV songs resulted in my being a heavy-handed player for many years, something I had to break myself from because that hurt my playing in other non-Texas Blues areas.

Ozzy Osbourne - “Bark at the Moon”. The main riff is an all-around great rhythm picking exercise.

The Eagles - “Seven Bridges Road”. This song helped me improve my acoustic strumming skills beyond basic “Every Rose Has its Thorn” level

Megadeth - “Train of Consequences”. Learning the main riff introduced me to the joys of chucka-chucking on fully muted strings.

Guns N Roses - “Sweet Child O’ Mine”. Yeah, yeah . . .

There are a lot of others, but I’ll leave it at that as a starting point for y’all to share your own.


My legato improved big time after learning Flying in a Blue Dream. It was an absolute boost for me.

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This’ll be fun!!!

There is so much to learn from pretty much all of the guitarist’s catalogs listed below, but I’m going to be very specific in what I’m choosing.

Slayer - Chemical Warfare: If you can nail the intro riff, there is very little “metal” you can’t play. The first Slayer song I learned was War Ensemble, but Chemical Warfare is the one I worked on the most. In jr. high, I’d use a pick against the edge of my desks all day, every day, until a teacher would scold me. Then I’d keep doing it, hahaha.

Joe Satriani - Echo: Up until I had to retire, I probably played Joe’s music as much as he had. He is the foundation of most of the technique I practiced up to a certain point (which will be posted below) but I chose this solo because of how smooth and fluid it is overall, and particularly the lick at 2:30 because of the texture the muting adds to it. An added bonus in that it really focuses on the pinky and you have to have a strong one to do it well.

Dream Theater - Metropolis Pt.1: I think this song as a whole is probably the most epic that prog-rock has ever been. While that is most certainly debatable, the value in the section at 4:41 (though going back to 4:16 is a beneficial on it’s own and a nice warm up to getting into it) is not. It will whip your alternate picking into shape. Satch-style Legato was my go-to for fast stuff until I heard this album. “Wait… I can pick everything instead? I guess I do that now.” is what happened, and part of me regrets it because I basically forgot all about legato… Oops. Regardless, this section is basically a shredding exercise anyway lol

Steve Vai: Frank. The final third of my youthful triumvirate… For The Love of God is the greatest instrument guitar song ever recorded. Period. If you were playing when it came out, you were never the same. That said, the solo in Frank is kind of a masterclass in intonation and control with the whammy bar. I showed him a book that had it tabbed out and he glance and said “This is wrong. I’ll show you sometime” That never ended up happening, but using that tab as a base was great for the lesson. One mistake and it all falls apart.

Stevie Ray Vaughn - Rude Mood: Things to learn from SRV songs is damn near endless, but this one has one of the more difficult things to learn. Hitting everything but only letting one note ring out can teach you a ton. Scuttle Buttin’ is similar and probably more impressive, but I loved what Rude Mood opened up for me.

I could seriously keep going and going, but I’ll leave it at these for now since they each focus on a very specific thing. I kind of feel bad leaving out Pantera, Megadeth and such, but we all know what can be learned from those songs.


It’s funny rereading and coming across this part of your post. I had a similar experience with the SRV song I posted in my list. I started trying to play a lot of things using the technique and almost forgot how to be intricate.

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SRV could play with a light and dynamic touch on slower stuff like “Lenny” and “Riviera Paradise”, but otherwise he was driving nails with his playing. As Stevie himself said: “I don’t play with a lot of finesse. I usually play like I’m breaking out of jail.”

Fun Thread! okay, in no particular order here’s the important ones that I can remember;

Jethro Tull - Aqualung: ummm not a shred thing, but I was a kid and I was pretty amazed I could learn this. I heard it all the time on one of my mom’s records, so naturally the riff was burned into my mind. Taught myself how to play this, and I think my guitar was tuned all in 5ths from a very low ‘C’. I had no guitar teacher, and there were no guitar magazines at the time sooo

Rainbow - Kill The King: This one took a lot of work, but same story as the one above - I figured it out on my lonesome from beginning to end until I could play along with the recording. Ritchie. F***ing. Blackmore.

Autumn Leaves: Why this, I got out of a jazz standard Fakebook when I went to music college and it taught me the importance of melody, all of my chords, key centers, harmony, improvisation etc etc. To this day I love this tune.

Dolly Parton - Jolene: Who doesn’t love Dolly? This riff taught me how to play fingerstyle and how to take a riff and personalize the sequence of intervals in my own riffs. Handy. Basically, that Intro chord riff is as important as Paul Gilbert’s “The Lick”.

Eruption - EVH: I learned many, many versions of this slowly but surely over time becoming righter and righter. Same deal, used my ears. Did my best. Once transcriptions became available I tried to use 'em as reference. Taught me that a transcription is just an interpretation; use your guts and your ears I say!

Yngwie Malmsteen - I’ll See The Light Tonight: I didn’t know why at the time, but this one came kind of easily to me although now I realize that it’s because that interlude is even number of notes per string, and dang it if that doesn’t work awesome! Lots of Malmsteen and EVH picking I used swiping and/or a muted legato. I knew I was cheating, but it was fun to play along so I did it…

Eric Johnson - Cliffs Of Dover: Hoo boy, I have come up with many, many variations of this trying to get the picking to “work”. I finally settled on a note arrangement this year to suit my DSX proclivities…

And of course, I REALLY love John Coltrane - Giant Steps is amazing! Glen Gould’s Bach 2 Part Inventions, Nicolo Paganini’s 24 Caprices (I’ve learned 5, 16, and 24 although not fast!). Henryk Wieniawski is a big one for us violin nerds… Albert Lee, Jerry reed, Brent Mason… Steve Morse’s works are incredible, as are George Lynch’s first 2 Lynch Mob albums. Dream Theater Images and Words was a big one for me, all Malmsteen, all Extreme, SRV, Jeff Beck, Stanley Jordan hahaha The list is endless… Stevie Wonder…

Okay, I’ll stop. Getting out of control.

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Excellent post in general, you mentioned some very cool tunes… but this caught my eye.

This is totally a throw away and pretty useless in terms of getting reusable stuff out of it, but still fun every now and then. I’m sure your awesome DSX technique would totally crush this

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Oh this is fun!

Crazy Train - To really listen and get the feel of the fills and solo are pretty difficult, Randy really could play like no one else. The last lick in particular, with the long ascending 3nps legato split into two halves with the bend at the end which I have to do with my pinky is still challenging all these years later. Getting the dynamics of everything is the hardest part, but essential to get the feel. He has a lot of little pickup line like between the first and second verse that a lot of people miss, stuff like that. It’s all the little embellishments he did that fit perfectly.

Master Of Puppets - Of course for downpicking, this song is just brutal. You think you’re playing it at speed then try to play along and realize you’re still 20 bpm slower than they actually did it. They played it even faster live. The length of it too is an excellent endurance builder and you really have to focus on being relaxed as possible or you’ll wear out hard and possibly hurt yourself.

Skeletons in the Closet - Another super fast thrash song for building tight galloping at fast speeds for long periods of time. I have this one up there with Master for difficulty, at least for me.

Mr Crowley - There are so many different types of things in this from legato lines to tremolo picking pentatonic groupings, etc etc. The solos are some of the most challenging things I’ve ever learned, and I still can’t quite nail them.

Cliffs of Dover - Well, it’s Eric Johnson, like Mr Crowley this is a show case of a lot of different techiques and phrasing that are virtuoso level in terms of execution. Eric is a master and there has already been plenty written about this song.

Checking Out by Allan Holdsworth. I’ve been trying to learn this song for ages, and I still can’t play it, that doesn’t stop me from trying. I love it. Allan is just insane and there is again a million things to learn from this one. The final lick in the solo is just off the hook alternate picking.

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Speaking of Metallica and endurance, Disposable Heroes was that for me. Just keeps going and going and going lol

Metallica - Blackened: I was never a huge fan of the band, but my teacher at the time insisted on working on this. Very fun to play and it really improved my right hand stamina. Now I can’t even touch this song haha, it’s a good benchmark for stamina.

Ozzy - Bark at the Moon: Nice chord voicings and groove. The solo still eludes me, but it’s also great in working out your Antigravity picking stuff.

Stratovarius - Stratosphere: Picking, picking, picking and sweeps. Great song to check your mechanics, as it allows you to make choices. Most people alt.pick everything in there, but I managed to play it decently once I started incorporating legato in some parts.

Andy Timmons - Gone: All the important stuff, vibrato, bending, voice leading.


As a primarily USX player, learning Rush’s YYZ forced me to look at DSX.

Until I realized Alex Lifeson favored DSX, his lines gave me fits. For me, he’s one of the players that I truly want to know exactly how he did it. When I realized my pick technique was what was holding me back, it clicked.

Fortunately, I’ve spent a fair amount of time with hybrid picking (which often forces DSX without you realizing it), it wasn’t completely foreign and I was able to make some small adjustments and adapt.

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Another absolute game changer is Hendrix’ Little Wing. It makes you question what “rhythm guitar” even means.


Learning Al Di Meola’s “Race with Devil on Spanish Highway” at the moment. Lots of great mixed escape lines but in relatively short bursts so it feels both parts challenging and achievable. Also the main riff is super simple but really fun :grin:

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This sweeping passage By Jason really helped my sweeping technique.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge” served the same purpose for me. When I first picked up the guitar I wasn’t listening to any Hendrix, so “Under the Bridge” was the first song I learned that introduced me to Hendrix-y noodles and chord voicings.

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There’s another thread on here for awesome intros/outros. That song is a strong candidate!


Great topic, thanks for sharing

One truly great riff for DWPS is YJ’s I’ll See The Light Tonight. It’s simple compared to his soloing and just relentless.

To take non-EVH tapping technique for a test drive, Greg Howe’s Bad Racket is a fantastic learning experience. I mean’, all the main Melodies involve a different style of tapping in a super groovy way. You gotta love Greg.