Guitar Hacks Spotlight: András (nexion218)

In this installment of Guitar Hack’s Spotlight we would like to introduce you to Andras! Most of you may know him as nexion218 within the community. András’s contributions to the community have been incredible and we’re proud to announce he is the first in our community to earn the Rock Star badge! 

Enjoy getting to know him, and don’t forget to congratulate him on his Rock Star status!

Tell us a little about yourself (name, where you’re from, favorite food, pets, etc.)

My name is András, you may know me from the forum as nexion218. I am from Hungary and currently live in Budapest. By profession I am a molecular biologist working in a pharmaceutical quality control lab. 

Food? We have an on and off relationship … But if I really have to choose something, it would either be some Mexican or TexMex style, smokey-spicey-hot, or something from my grandmother’s kitchen. Her meals always make me feel at home and put a smile on my face. Other than that, I tend to view food as a “necessary evil”. I know, I know… I’m weird. 

Pets? More like the Love of My Life, the Apple of my Eye, Daddy’s Favorite, the reason I wake up every morning (both figuratively and literally): Bandika, the cat. I am infatuated with that adorable hellspawn. :smiley:

When I have some time between my work, practicing, and keeping the cat happy, I really enjoy tinkering with my guitars: getting to know how their components work, swapping pickups, learning different wirings, applying small mods, setting them up to ensure the best possible playability. I owe those instruments that much after they are forced to put up with my playing!

How long have you been playing guitar?

I started playing guitar in my teens, somewhere around 16, so it’s been almost 20 years now, but I had a rather long period where I shifted my focus away from music due to some erroneous personal decisions. Around 4 years ago the death of my Mother somehow led me back to the instrument and music in general. Upon re-starting, I realized that I have some awful bad playing habits and huge, gaping holes in my knowledge, so I decided to start from ground zero, treat myself as a total beginner, and try to learn everything the right way, from technique to theory. So I guess that I might as well say that it’s been 4 years. 

Tell us how you got interested in playing guitar – what’s your origin story?

The first song I remember I was obsessed about was “Give in to Me” by Michael Jackson. Back then I didn’t know why I was so drawn towards it, but looking back on it now it’s pretty clear: it’s a straight up rock song with Mr. Hudson on guitars. I still think it’s Slash’s best solo (GnR, Snakepit and Velvet Revolver included). 

For most of my elementary school years that was about it guitar music wise. I studied French as a foreign language from first grade, and since I was showing some promise, my Mom hired a private teacher when I got to high school to boost my knowledge. As it turned out, the guy was a huge metalhead, and the only way he could get me to do my homework was by offering me albums for listening from his collection (surprise-surprise: 14-15 years old boy not interested in doing homework). Upon introducing his incentive based system, the first album he brought me was his all time favorite: Master of Puppets. Next week? Rust in Peace … point of no return! It was only natural that I wanted to learn how to play those songs. My first step was blasting Cliff ’em All from VHS while Mom wasn’t home, trying to mimic on my imaginary guitar Hetfield’s strumming pattern throughout the chorus of Creeping Death. I thought I was already learning something about playing the instrument. Boy, was I wrong! Regardless, I kept bugging my Mother about wanting to learn the electric guitar, but in the beginning she wasn’t too supportive. She wanted the best for me in the long run, which meant university and a “proper” profession, ensuring my future livelihood. 

Obviously, playing guitar wasn’t on the list of approved professions… Besides, most people over here (and I am sure that this is true in every corner of the globe) are convinced that in order to be a musician, you have to be the direct descendant of Mozart or Liszt, be born with perfect pitch, and have 5 symphonies composed by the time you utter your first words. It also didn’t help when a family acquaintance who was singing in a choir proposed that if I am so determined to learn music, I should maybe try drums or something similar, because I was obviously tone-deaf. That’s a nice way to encourage a kid, eh? Needless to say, I was quite saddened and angered. 

Finally, in high school I found a bunch of guys who shared my passion for extreme music (within a short period of time I went from Master of Puppets to Transilvanian Hunger) and we decided to form a Black Metal band. None of us played an instrument, so we split duties over a couple of drinks. I got the guitar, so I talked my dad into buying me a cheap Jackson. I tried learning it all alone, without any help (no internet in the house back then!) with, how should say, “mixed” results.  Thankfully my Mother saw how passionate I was about it and she finally gave in and agreed to pay for a teacher, but only if my grades didn’t suffer. I couldn’t thank her enough for that! Of course I was more concerned with playing fast than learning theory or proper technique so I failed to make the most of my opportunity, but I had fun, and some moderate success, which kept me going until those above mentioned bad decisions.

Who are some of your favorite guitar players?

Let’s see … I think I have to start with Hetfield and Mustaine. Not necessarily because of their skills or knowledge, but because of how influential their playing was to my own playing and musical taste. Of course Kiko … His off the charts playing is one thing, but he has the most direct impact on my playing and everyday life by teaching and sharing his knowledge with us, so that makes him a real special one for me. Guthrie Govan, Jason Becker, Marty Friedman… I guess not much explanation is needed here, right? Dave Davidson of Revocation. That guy is a special breed too: a Berkley jazz guitar graduate who’s playing some of the heaviest and most complex metal around. Oh, and Selim Lemouchi most definitely belongs on this list too!

What are you hoping to accomplish with your guitar playing?

Hah, good question … I rarely think about it, if ever. I believe I just want to have fun, be able to translate my emotions and feelings into music and have it as my temple and refuge. Maybe I’d like to stand on a stage again one day, but definitely no regular gigging or touring. I feel too “old” for that, and knowing myself, I don’t think I’d survive more than 2 weeks on the road… :smiley:

Is there a particular technique or concept you struggle with most?

For me I believe it’s the mental part and extreme lack of confidence. When it comes to technique, I’ve found that following Kiko’s advices and being honest with myself (“Oh, I can do this at 150 BPM!” yeah, but it sounds like shit, so go back to 130) makes things relatively easy. After all, it’s “just” muscle movement. Don’t get me wrong, I still suck bigtime and it’s obviously not going to change overnight, but I can see, feel, and hear that perseverance pays off. 

I often find myself trying to duck the Phase IV of the Workout. It’s a real struggle because of the ingrained “I’m not good enough, why bother?” mentality I (used to) have. But to nobody’s surprise, perseverance pays off again! 

The more I manage to force myself into doing it, the more I manage to come up with some usable riffs or licks during that part of practice, and it’s becoming less and less of a struggle. 

Recording things with my phone when I find something that I deem decent helps a lot too, because the next time I’m about to cheat, I can easily remind myself with proof in hand that, “Hey, don’t be an idiot, look at yesterday’s recording, you’ve found a nice lick! Why not do it again today?”

What kind of gear are you currently using these days?

I’m a huge Jackson fanboy! So I have quite a few models from their roster: a Pro Series King V, which I slightly modded with a Nazgul/Sentient set (originally it had a JB/’59) and a Hollow Point intonation system, a Pro Series Soloist with a Distortion set, a Japanese made Dinky with EMGs and a Pro Series WR7 with DiMarzio Imperiums. The latter is a Dave Davidson signature model and it was my first 7 stringer. Not so fond of signature models these days, but I loved the specs (it’s the only 7 string model with a Warrior shape) and given how much I like Davidson’s music, his signature on the truss rod cover didn’t keep me from buying it. I also have an E-II Horizon NT7 with EMGs and an Evertune bridge, plus I still have my LTD KH-202 I played my first ever gig with some 17 years ago. By the way I’ve just decided to turn it into a “punk” guitar the other day with stickers and a set of Black Winters with white bobbins in the black guitar to give it this cut n’ paste vibe.

My amp is an old 40W Hughes&Kettner Edition 1 solid state combo, I use a Korg PitchBlack Poly tuner, a Boss NS-2 (slightly modded for faster gating), a KHDK Dark Blood and a Digitech Obscura Delay, all of them powered by a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power.

What gear is currently on your wish-list?

I am proud to inform you that I am free of Gear Acquisition Syndrome as of December 2020. J Though I’d love to have something in the future along the lines of an EVH 5150, H&K Tubemeister or Triamp, maybe a Mesa TripleRec, but given my strictly bedroom guitar hero status it is totally unnecessary and overkill. Besides, I don’t think my neighbours would approve of a 100 W tube amp through a 4×12!

How did you discover Guitar Hacks?

I believe it was through Kiko’s youtube channel.

In what ways does having a community like Guitar Hacks benefit you as a player?

For starters, there’s the obvious: many like minded people obsessed with guitar in one place … That can only be good, right?  There’s always someone who has the information I’m looking for or who’s willing to help out. 

Also, it is a nice middle ground for my lack of confidence and craving to play with other guitarists/musicians: we can trade licks and learn from each other, but nobody’s sitting here watching my shaking fingers grab all the wrong notes while sweating profusely of nervousness. :smiley:

It’s motivating really… There are guys applauding you, offering constructive criticism, helping you, teaching you, learning from you. Even Kiko takes part in the discussions. If that’s not enough motivation to get better, then I don’t know what is.

What kind of content from Guitar Hacks would you like to see in the future?

I loved the recent quiz on modes! I’d love to have more of that! Some collabs would be great too, or fun contests in a kind of “homework assignment” format. Oh, and definitely more participants in the Lick of the Week Club! 😉

Sorry, absolutely no social media, and I plan to keep it that way… But I try to find some time to hang out at the Guitar Hacks forum every day, and I will most definitely share any noteworthy output there!

If you like, tell us where we can see more of your stuff (social media, webpages, etc.)


If you would like to be featured in the Guitar Hackers spotlight, please email us at support@guitarhacks.com

2 Electric Guitar Practice Routine

Electric Guitar Practice Routine – 5 Tips

The best step you can take to get out of a playing rut to start improving your music skills and learn new skills is to put together a great guitar practice routine. It’s also the best way to maintain the skills you already have. It takes some work, but If you’re serious about music and becoming a better guitar player, you need to be practicing — and you need to take the extra step to create a routine for it. When practicing, the routine you are on should be focused and intentional. At the end of each successful practice, you should see a noticeable improvement in whatever technique you were working on. 

The keyword here is “routine.” That means certain things we do every day and, if at all possible, at the same time. Of course, being a musician, adhering to a set practice schedule is easier said than done. So with that said, even if it’s at different times during the day, what’s most important is that you do it every day. 

Once you’ve committed to a daily guitar practice routine, now what?

Before you start your guitar practice routine, determine what techniques, songs, or concepts you are going to focus on. There are so many techniques out there to learn, including songs and the whole universe of music theory — it can be extremely overwhelming, especially for a beginner. Trying to decide what you are going to practice can be like hopping on Netflix without having any idea what you want to watch. You might spend an hour or two scrolling through all the shows (maybe watch a preview or two), get overwhelmed by all the choices, and, rather than practice, decide just to go to bed instead. Here are some suggestions on narrowing down what you should be practicing. 

  • Choose something that reflects who you are stylistically

If your goal is to become a great jazz guitar player, spending an hour trying to learn thrash-style downpicking isn’t going to serve you as much as, say, scales, chords, and chord theory for guitar. Make a list of exercises that move you in the direction you want to go in stylistically, and within songs, you actually want to play. This applies whether it’s new techniques or music theory.

  • Choose a technique you aren’t able to easily execute, or execute at all

For the exercises in your practice routine, work on songs and techniques that you are unable to play. Someone who can cleanly play alternate picked, sixteenth-note scales at 300 bpms on guitar doesn’t need to focus on alternate picking exercises as much, however, his legato playing might be lacking. Find out what part of your playing you’re weakest at, then build your guitar practice routine around that. 

  • Make it achievable

The sky’s the limit on what you can accomplish on guitar, but if you’re a beginner and start with something that’s too hard to play, it can be so deflating you might want to give up playing. On the flipside, if you set the bar too low for yourself, you might not make much progress in your playing. It should be challenging to play, but also achievable within a reasonable amount of time. 

It’s a good idea to set aside at least an hour each day to dedicate to guitar practice (this may require you to watch a little less Netflix.). Also, you should have determined what songs, scales, chords, or techniques you want to work on. Maybe it’s scales or chord progressions; trying to play difficult Steve Vai solo, or mastering one of your own compositions. Whatever it is, an hour of practice those exercises should be enough to get your playing where you want it and achieve it within an acceptable time frame. 

Structure your guitar practice routine using these five steps:

  1. Isolate the Difficulty
  2. Establish Technique
  3. Use repetition
  4. Expand on technique
  5. Embrace the Pain

Isolate the Difficulty

Focus on areas where you really struggle. For example, if you are trying to play a particular guitar solo or lick, narrow it down to only the parts you physically aren’t able to execute. While it’s tempting to want to run through songs from beginning to end each time, this isn’t efficient. Find the particular music passage that is giving you trouble and focus on it. This will help you as a guitarist to get up to speed quicker than just trying to muscle your way through the entire musical passage.

Establish Technique

Once you have isolated the problem area, figure out which technique is being used. Is it a legato run, or alternate picking pattern, finger tapping, etc.? Basically, this will establish what your focus will be on for that practice hour. 

Avoid using any other techniques during your practice routine at first. Similar to how weight trainers will focus on a specific muscle group each day, you want to devote the time from each session to a particular technique to maximize your progress. Of course, there can be those days where you do a circuit training approach, where you might play multiple techniques, but for the most part, keep the focus on only trying to learn one skill at a time. To keep it interesting, find different songs with the same lick or scale, or try practicing it over different chords and chord changes.

Once you begin to have a grasp on the technique you’re trying to play, you can start mixing it up with other techniques and within songs in your future guitar practice routines. This will help integrate it into your existing playing style and allow you to call it up quickly during improv situations.


After you have isolated the musical passage and technique, the next part is repetition. To continue with the weight lifting analogy, you will want to do the musical equivalent of exercise reps. That involves running through the same pattern several times, with short rests in between. 

The purpose of repetition is another way to integrate the technique into your musical repertoire. Repeat it to the point where you can instantly pull it out without even thinking about it. The more repetition you do now on a particular technique, the less thinking about it you will have to do later. 

During this step, it’s extremely important to start slowly, then work up to speed. The tempo should be set where you are able to play the exercise without any mistakes. Focus on being clean and precise. Be aware of the movements; you should be relaxed and fluid — the speed will come. 

Expand on technique

This is the fun part. Most of us picked up the guitar because we want to express ourselves musically. Your guitar practice routine should not have to exclusively exercises, and, dare I say, “routine.” After you have isolated the technique that you are going to focus on, take some time to create your own musical passages. If it’s a scale you’re working on, try connecting it to another scale in the same key. Try it with different chord patterns that using that scale or technique. This keeps things interesting by bringing in different chords and key changes, and reinforces the technique, helping it become part of the muscle memory. 

During this part, try integrating other techniques. For example, if you’re working on alternate picking, use this as an opportunity to combine it with sweep picking, or some legato runs. See what kind of interesting combinations you can come up with. 

This is a great way to start establishing your own unique playing style!

Embrace the pain

While this last part isn’t officially part of the guitar practice routine, it is important as a mindset. Getting good and improving your skills can be a lot of work. You can experience frustration, setbacks, and in some cases, actual pain. That said, the discomfort you experience in your journey to become a better player is inevitable, but necessary. Pain and frustration are actually signs that you are making progress. 

It’s important to develop the self-awareness to recognize these signals and make the decision to keep pushing forward and push through the pain. When you do, you will find that all that frustration was worth it and it will show in your guitar playing. 

If you aren’t experiencing any discomfort then you’ve set the bar too low — switch your settings from “easy” to difficult and push yourself!

Sticking to the routine

Putting a guitar practice routine together is difficult, sticking can be harder. Some of us don’t have an hour to set aside or we get distracted easily — maybe we’re afraid of commitment, or whatever. That’s understandable, even the most dedicated can find themselves struggling on occasion. 

Here are a few things you can try to help yourself stick to your guitar practice routine:

  • Start small: Set achievable milestones that can be reached in a short time frame in this step. Just learning a new scale or a couple of chords can build momentum toward your goals. Don’t pick an epic, 12-minute prog-metal song on this step, especially if you’re a beginner. Also, if you don’t have an hour to set aside start with 30 minutes. If you don’t have 30 minutes, do 20 minutes. Even five or ten minutes of intense, purposeful practice can yield results that will surprise you. 
  • Set reminders: Set alerts on your phone to remind you. Another way is to use sticky notes posted strategically around the house, such as the refrigerator, microwave, bathroom, or even your significant other (if they’re a good sport, of course.)
  • Hold yourself accountable: This might be the most important part. And one of the best ways to hold ourselves accountable is to have someone else to answer to. The Guitar Hacks forum is a great resource for this —  it’s a community of like-minded players who are all working towards becoming the best players they can be. It’s a great place for support, motivation, and accountability.
  • Reward yourself: Once you reach a certain goal, treat yourself to something. A new piece of gear, food, an extra glass of wine, or some other indulgence (preferably something legal).
  • Don’t beat yourself up: If you miss a day or fall short of your goal, it’s not the end of the world. You will experience failure and frustrations along the way, it happens to everyone. In fact, those are necessary for your journey as a guitar player. If you have a setback, simply get up, dust yourself off, and recommit to your guitar practice routine. What is important is you stay in the game. Don’t give up.

Eventually, your guitar practice routine will become a habit. When that happens, you will magically start finding more time to dedicate to it; results come quickly, songs will be easier to learn, and you will find yourself reaching more and more milestones. It all begins when you stop making excuses and start putting in the work.

Let’s get busy!

To learn more about how I divide my practice time, watch this free Guitar Hacks course: How to divide your practice routine time.

Electric guitar finger vibrato

Improve your Electric Guitar Finger Vibrato Technique


In this guide, our focus is on vibrato, it is part 2 of a series that started with string bending.

We are going to approach vibrato similar to the way we approached bends from my previous guide starting with the hand position.

Vibrato is like doing several mini or micro bends in a row.

Also, you’re not playing whole steps or half steps. You’re just going bending a little sharp then coming back. It’s very important to come back to the original note. Some people, whether with bends or vibrato, will bend the note up but fail to bring it back to the original note, so their bends and vibratos are always a little sharp and out of tune. 

Ultimately, when it comes to vibrato, what’s most important is your style preference.

However, there are some technical aspects to go over as well. For example, using the thumb and fingers of your right hand to mute the strings you aren’t playing and eliminate unwanted noise.   

Using a simple melody line, practice playing clean, clear vibrato using all of the strings of the guitar. 

You also want to practice your vibrato using every finger of your fretting hand, especially the first three (index, middle, and ring).   

Particularly important when it comes to vibrato is to know how much you’re going to use and when you are going to use it.

As far as styles go, the first one we can look at is the classical vibrato, which is a subtle side-to-side motion on the fret. Rather than changing the pitch, it gives just a little sustain and life to the note — you’ll see this technique used by players like Steve Vai and Alan Holdsworth. 

Now onto the more aggressive vibrato, where we’re changing the actual pitch, plus varying the speed of the vibrato. With regards to pitch, the further distance you bend from the original note, the more aggressive it will sound.

When it comes to the vibrato speed, faster is more aggressive, but be careful — if it’s too fast, it’s not going to sound very good. 

Think about vibrato in terms of a human voice. If a singer is always using vibrato on their voice, it would sound a little weird — good singers generally start out on a flat note, then introduce the vibrato at the tail end.  

This gives a sense of calm and control. It makes the note more interesting and keeps it going longer before it dies out. You can try out different variations of vibrato on a melody line by starting with a flat note, then adding a slow, subtle vibrato at the end, or try a more aggressive half-step vibrato. 

Try different combinations of aggression and speed. Also, experiment with where and how quickly you introduce the vibrato to the phrase. 

Of course you should also listen to some of the masters of great vibrato like Jeff Beck, Dave Gilmour, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Malmsteen, Vai, Steve Morse etc. So many great players you can listen to and check out their approach. They all have such unique, individual styles. 

Watch some videos of these players and just focus on their vibrato and when and where they use it.

A great song to check out is Steve Vai’s “For the Love of God.” How the song builds emotion with his use of vibrato is very natural.  

Vibrato can also reflect whether the player is in control or anxious — if the vibrato is super fast, it can sound like the player is tense or nervous. You want to relax. let it flow naturally and focus on control. If you approach it with confidence and control, you’ll play better and enjoy it much more. 

Another vibrato technique is to use the tremolo. This way, rather than bending the note sharp, you can start it flat and bring it back up. You have to make sure you let the bar come all the way back to the original point or else your note will be flat. 

Finally, when you play, try to be aware of the intensity, the pitch, the speed, and the acceleration of the acceleration of the vibrato, and do your best to control all of those aspects. I know I’m always going on about the fundamentals, but I feel it’s so important. Someone can be an extremely technical, fast player but if everything they play ends with a horrible vibrato it just doesn’t work. 

A guitar player who isn’t technical or fast, but has a beautiful vibrato — everyone wants to listen to them. 

Having good vibrato is the best way to give life to the notes you’re playing. 

Q&A from chat

On holding [muting] the rest of the strings. 

Yes. At least the strings that are closest to the one you’re playing. So if you’re playing the second string, you want to mute the third and the first strings. And we’re talking about playing rock and metal so you will probably use more aggressive vibrato techniques so muting strings becomes especially important, or else it ends up being nothing but noise.

 When you learn how to mute correctly, you can start to let some of that noise mix back into your playing — because the noise can be good too! You just have to know how and when to use it. 

How much of the vibrato is in the fingers — or is it 100% wrist?

For me it’s mostly the wrist — you can use the fingers, however there is more strength in the wrist. For longer, held out notes, the wrist will have much more endurance and strength. On the lower strings it’s a little different; you’re grabbing the strings rather than pushing, so the fingers handle that better than the wrist. 

If you’re on the third string, does your vibrato start up or down? 

That’s a good question … it doesn’t matter. It comes down to either what feels more comfortable or what the music calls for. If I’m using my first finger, I would start with the down motion simply because it’s easier for me — possibly because I’m left handed. Now if I’m using my third finger, it doesn’t matter. Either way feels okay for me. It’s whatever you are most comfortable with and whatever the next note is going to be and what string it’s going to be. 

Pinch Harmonics?

To be honest, I don’t know how to play them that well, because I’m not a big fan of using them. There was a time when everyone was using them and I just didn’t like them — I like the sound of the note or maybe something in between. 

Lack of vibrato in Jazz guitar.

You don’t hear a lot of vibrato in jazz guitar because of the strings and style, they have other ways to express or mimic vibrato. It’s just different — jazz guitarists spend a lot of time exploring harmonic possibilities with intervals and interesting arrangements. But if you want to play jazz and add vibrato to your phrases you totally can. There’s a lot of players doing that. 

On the Floyd Rose

With the bar it makes the vibratos sound different, mainly because you’re going flat and then back to the original note rather than going sharp and back. You can mimic the vibrato of the hand with the bar, but that’s not the idea with a Floyd Rose. 

2 How to bend guitar strings

How to Bend Guitar Strings for Fun and Profit

Today we are talking about bends and vibrato. Some of the key things to consider when trying to bend your guitar strings musically: 

  • Playing clean, without noise from the other strings.
  • Intonation
  • Bend speed

I’m showing you the way I do these techniques. Of course, there are many different ways to approach them. We play rock, so there are no rules, but sometimes I see some approaches that aren’t effective. 

Let’s start with some basic ideas for bends. Rather than a straight up and down movement with the fingers, think more in terms of rotation in the wrist for bends and vibrato. There’s more strength in the wrist than fingers — you are going to need that for those bends that go up a whole step or more. 

Another thing for bends is to reinforce the finger that’s bending the note with one of your other fingers. 

One thing you can do is practice half-step and whole step bends until you are comfortable doing them on all of the strings. Pay very close attention to your pitch, as it’s easy to go flat or sharp when bending strings. 

It’s important to make the proper faces when doing these exercises. That way, people will think you’re playing with feeling!

A good place to start practicing is on the third string on the twelfth fret — that is where the least amount of tension is. Then start moving onto other strings and frets. Certain areas of the neck, like near the nut, can be particularly challenging. Again, focus on the quality of the sound and intonation on your half-step and whole-step bends. Once you’re comfortable, you can start trying whole-step and a half bends or even two whole steps. 

The more you practice bends on different strings, and different areas of the neck, the more your ears will take care of the rest.

Soon, you will just know how much you have to bend the string to reach the correct pitch. If you switch guitars or tunings, you may have to readapt a little bit. It won’t be that much of a problem, and your ears will guide you.

Practice bends not only around the fretboard, but also focus on getting other fingers (index, middle, ring) involved.  

Now we want to play these bends clean, without a lot of noise, so muting the strings is important, especially if you’re playing live. When it’s really loud and distorted, it’s hard to control, you have to hold the other strings using the fingers on your picking hand. 

There are situations where you may want to have a little more string noise for an aggressive effect, but you still have to have control. 

How you mute the strings can also depend on what string you’re bending at the time. 

Let’s talk about the feeling or expression you want to come across in your bends. A lot of that has to do with how you reach the note you’re bending to. You can go straight to the note, or try slowing down the bend to give it a different feel. 

The more you use these bends and understand them, the more you will discover which works best for you. The bends and vibrato are your voice — it’s your way of approaching a melody. 

Now let’s quickly talk about reverse bends and how we release a bend back to the starting note. Here are just a few variations on how to approach a bend. 

The right bend can give a lot of life to a simple melody. 

For bends and vibratos, intonation is extremely important. Here is a simple exercise that focuses on the correct pitch when you bend your guitar strings. 

Take some time to go check out videos from all the master players (Hendrix, Vai, Friedman, Satriani, Gilmour, Morse etc.,) and just focus on their bends and vibratos. Forget about the technical shred stuff, scales, and all that. Just pay attention to how they bend, how they end a phrase, their nuances, and how they do it within the context of a song. You can recognize a lot of guitar players just by the way they use bends and vibratos. 

You’ll probably relate to a particular style over another and start by emulating that. Then, as you discover other masters, you start mixing those styles with your own, and all of that comes out in your own unique voice.

We are going to go deeper into vibrato in part II. 

Q&A from Chat

Bend guitar strings on standard fretboard vs. scalloped. 

It feels different. It’s easier on a scalloped fretboard, actually. I think that’s the idea. You’re not touching the wood, so less friction.

For bends and vibratos, the scalloped fretboard feels amazing. For chords and other stuff — I don’t know. With bands that have more than one guitar player, it could cause intonation issues — maybe.

Examples of players that use scalloped frets are Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Roth, and Yngwie Malmsteen, and they all perform by themselves. In bands with two guitar players, intonation is always a tricky thing. 

My fingers hurt.

No pain, no gain! Life is not easy, so you need to suffer! 

What happens is your fingers will hurt only if you play a lot, OR, if you don’t play and then suddenly play a lot.

If you play every day, it’s good because you’re not doing bends all the time. My fingers hurt during recording like if I’m playing a part over and over that has a lot of bends — then it hurts! 

What you have to be careful about is tendonitis, which is another thing entirely, I may talk about at another time.

Bending with the pinky. 

I don’t use the pinky a lot — but you could. Some people do, mainly for pentatonic licks. I tend to use the ring finger in those situations. If you feel more comfortable using the pinky, I think that’s fine. 

Continue improving your guitar technique

If you want to learn my formulas to improve your technique and progress faster, check out my online guitar course.

Here’s the link to the original bending guitar video on youtube.

3 lydian mode major scale

The Lydian Mode – Everything you need to know

The Lydian Mode: People ask me about Lydian mode all the time, and I believe it’s because it’s in a lot of chart-topping songs, soundtracks for TV, and blockbuster movies. Also, incredible guitar players like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai have great songs using the Lydian mode. 

The Lydian is the fourth mode (or degree) of the major scale. It right in the middle between the Ionian (first degree) and the Locrian (seventh degree).

I have songs where before I even started writing, I said, “I’m going to write a song using Lydian!” Just like Steve Vai, Satriani, Andy Timmons, and so many other great players. I’ll sometimes start a composition knowing that, from a theory standpoint, it’s going to be a “Lydian” song. 

The most important thing when discussing modes is: it’s not so much the theory, but what kind of feeling do you get when you hear those note combinations?

In a major triad, the notes are the root, third, and fifth. What gives the Lydian its unique characteristic is the sharp fourth — the rest of the notes (second, sixth, and seventh) are all major intervals. 

The pattern for the Lydian scale is a whole tone, whole tone, whole tone, half step, whole tone, whole tone, half step. The magic comes from the first three whole tones. Otherwise known as the tritone. 

It’s an interesting scale because you can play all seven notes in perfect fifths. Very musical.

That gives it a very natural or open feel. It sounds mysterious but gives you a feeling of hope and has a very celestial quality to it. 

In musical theory, the characteristic of every mode is due to the tritone. And the tritone is especially important in this scale because it’s starting from the root. That’s what makes this scale so special.

The Lydian’s tritone is the sharp fourth. You will see major chords from other scales having this tritone, but then add a sharp fifth or a flat seventh. 

One example you can try any time you want to have that Lydian sound is to play a major arpeggio, then move one whole step up and play the same arpeggio. That will immediately give you that Lydian characteristic. 

I use Lydian a lot. In the song “Vital Signs” off my new album, the whole intro is Lydian over Cmaj and Dmaj chords. 

You can also play using only the triads of the Lydian scale over those same chords.

One way to get to know the notes and intervals is to play the scale linearly on a single string. 

All the modes in music are based around the tritone. It creates that tension that has to be released somehow.

That’s why you have dominant tonic and harmonic movements to provide that release and make it musical. In music theory, any song with a major key chord chart is treated as Lydian right away.

Another way to use Lydian would be to imagine a metal, power chord progression of E, C, B, and G, but instead of focusing on the E minor scale, use an E Lydian, C Lydian, B Lydian, and G Lydian; all four chords in that chart are Lydian.

I do this in my song “Escaping” from my No Gravity album. It starts in A Lydian and then goes to D Lydian and C Lydian. 

The interlude contains those four chords (E, C, B, and G), all Lydian. To improvise over those four Lydian chords, you have to know the whole step, whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, half step.

It sounds very fusion. A good jazz reference for exploring music theory and the modes would be Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.

This sound was used a lot in jazz and fusion from the ’60s and especially the ’70s. Of course, you can add it to metal music — not a problem at all.

Another good exercise example would be to play the E Lydian, C Lydian, B Lydian, and G Lydian on the same string. The trick is to keep the same mode when changing the keys — you’re always in the Lydian mode. 

There’s a lot more to explore, but I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the Lydian mode. If you want to join us for my upcoming Guitar Experience livestream here is the link to register: 

Q&A from chat

How do you combine this with other modes?

The more experience you get, and the more you understand the characteristics of this mode, you can use it anywhere. I do it in songs like “Eminent Threat” from my new album, and on an old song called “Escaping” off No Gravity. I’m using the same idea for both of those. I’m ripping off my own ideas, just years later!

Do you use the Lydian mode when you want to sound ethereal?

Yes, exactly. You notice that ethereal feeling, and anytime you want that feeling, you will know what to do. With any chord progression, you can use the Lydian, or major chord with a sharp fourth, or those two major triads — it always works.

Can you mix the whole tone scale with the mode?

You can always go further. Right now, I’m just focusing on the Lydian from the major scale. You have the melodic minor, which is a Lydian with a sharp fifth and a sharp ninth.

The whole tone scale contains the same tritone (sharp fourth) but then has the minor seventh, so it sounds quite different. Also, the whole tone scale can create a very musical, ethereal sound in the style of Debussy. It has a kind of crazy vibe as well because there are no half steps, just whole tones. 

Am I using this mode a lot in Megadeth?

Not really, because Megadeth is very minor and Phrygian. If you go to my 7 Factor course, I show a spectrum from the brightest scales like Ionian and Lydian, to all the darker sounding modes.

I would say Megadeth is on that darker side, where the Lydian is more celestial, open, and bright. Megadeth is more Phrygian and sometimes Dorian. The Dorian works well when the music is more in a rock and roll key.

Right now, I can’t think of any Megadeth song where I played a Lydian.

Can you use this mode for Jazz music?

Yes! It’s used everywhere. Within any chord chart in jazz compositions, all the modes, from Ionian to Locrian, and everything in between are explored.

Carolina IV by Angra

That’s an Angra song from the ’90s. It’s an example of a song that starts with a Lydian with a flat seventh. 

The Mixolydian and Brazilian music.

In Brazil, they use a lot of Mixolydian and at some point, they added a raised the fourth, so it’s not like it’s just one scale. It’s Mixolydian but with an extra note added that creates some tension, then returns to a normal Mixolydian.  

Phrygian vs. Lydian mode. 

The Phrygian is like on the other side of the spectrum. For example, it’s a darker mode that has a major third. Without getting too theoretical, the tritone creates tension between the major third and the seventh. 

Lydian pentatonic?

The concept of the pentatonic — the minor pentatonic — is that it’s a minor triad with a minor seventh and a fourth.

7 Factor from Modes to Music

Check out my online course on modes and scales. I designed 7 Factor to help you discover your own voice and not be a copycat. It covers all the modes, including Lydian, and helps you understand intervals, scales, and how to use them.

Above all, my goal is to make sure you never get stuck playing the same patterns over and over again. As a result, you will be able to really feel the music, connecting to it on a deeper level.

How would you feel if you could always play creatively and never sound boring ever again?

10 Modes

How much do you really know about modes and scales?

Modes and scales quizz

I thought it would be fun to create a quick quizz so guitar players can test their knowledge of modes and scales quickly.

Most importantly, let’s keep this test alive. Am I missing any fun/cool question? Do you want to discuss or get detailed explanations on some of the questions?

Talk to me and other guitar players in the forum!

7 Factor from Modes to Music

Check out my online course on modes and scales. I designed 7 Factor to help you discover your own voice and not be a copycat.

Above all, my goal is to make sure you never get stuck playing the same patterns over and over again. As a result, you will be able to really feel the music, connecting to it on a deeper level.

How would you feel if you could always play creatively and never sound boring ever again?

Guide to fingerpicking on electric guitar

FingerPicking on Electric Guitar with patterns, licks and ideas


How are you guys doing?

Here we are going to talk about fingerstyle (or fingerpicking) technique.

I am going to show you the way I do it, but there are many ways to use fingerpicking on electric guitar. The idea here is to show a little bit of fingerstyle and, even if you’ve never practiced this technique, you should come away with enough patterns and fundamentals to begin using in your own playing. 

Let’s get started with the basics-of-the-basics-of-the-basics: getting the sound with the thumb then adding the first three fingers.

The idea is to do something simple, while still creating something that sounds cool.

Start with a chord or phrase that’s fairly easy to play and improvise around it. For this D minor example, the pattern is the thumb, first finger, second finger, third finger

Experiment with that pattern around the neck. You can even use some simple barre chords; just make sure you are playing these patterns slowly at first. Focus on control and tone. 

The other basic pattern is going to be: thumb, third finger, second finger, first finger.

Between these two basic patterns, you can play a lot of different stuff.

Simple! And now we can start improvising and creating different patterns. Another exercise we can work on involves using only the thumb, first finger, and second finger.

If you’ve seen any of my other lessons, you know I always talk about playing slowly to start.

Try to be consistent, get the flow, and then start to increase the speed.

Once you’re comfortable and a little more confident, you can experiment with making your fingerpicking more rhythmic and percussive. 

Finally, you guys aren’t asking me about what kind of pick I’m using!

I think Jeff Beck realized a long time ago, “I’m going to play with my fingers, so nobody will ask what kind of pick I use!”

One thing you can do using the same thumb-one-two-three pattern is to go down then up across the strings, starting on the sixth string, then the fifth, then the fourth. On the way back up, instead of thumb-one-two-three, you would do thumb-three-two-one.

Another variation you can try is something similar to the song “Feijão de Corda” (String Bean) off my second solo album, Universo Inverso.

As you can see there are many ways to use the technique. And with the rolling-like feel I use on songs like “Conquer or Die,” it can be applied in many ways — like adding octaves. Experiment with this more and more, and you can start to create some cool vibes.

And of course, we can’t forget the most famous one of all! Maybe you have heard it?  

The secret to this technique is to change the key right before you get demonetized. 

In Angra, we all liked to have some intros and outros using acoustic guitars, played by me and Rafael [Bittencourt]. There’s a song called “Rebirth” off the second album with this pattern.

Another one is off my new album Open Source called “Du Monde.”

For practicing runs and scales you can work on just using the first and second fingers.

One other thing that is good to know is, when you want to play all six strings, you will use your thumb for the first three. So it goes thumb-thumb-thumb-first-second-third.

You may think it would be easier with the pinky, but you have more control this way because the pinky is too short — I mean, maybe your pinky is as long as the rest of your fingers, but mine is not. So it’s easier and more precise this way. Another way would be to hit that last string with your index finger.

So just do the basics and combinations of the basics — practice just using your thumb and simple two-note patterns and chords using your first two fingers:

Some of these two-finger techniques could use another hour lesson just to get into! There are so many other examples. So many songs in Angra where we came up with something like this, where it’s just a thumb and one finger, much like U2’s The Edge in a way. 

Very Brazillion as well. That was composed by Rafael Bittencourt (Angra), an amazing thing that he created using just two fingers. It made a nice vibe for a song — simple and beautiful.

What I suggest for you to explore are simple things. That doesn’t mean easy to play — sometimes simple things can be hard to play.

It doesn’t have to be super complex chordal arrangements, just two-note patterns. Experiment with those as well as the basic thumb-fingers approach. 

And then just be happy playing music!

I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Share with your friends, other guitar players and check out some of the other guides here on Guitar Hacks and videos on my YouTube channel. 

My next lesson will be on the Lydian mode. There’s been a lot of questions about the mysterious Lydian mode — so let’s talk about it! 

Finally, I hope you all have had great holidays and I’m wishing you all the best for this new year! And it’s going to be a great year — because it cannot be worse than 2020, right? 

See you soon!


Q&A From Chat

What kind of fingers am I using? 

That’s a great question! My fingers are of different sizes with broken nails. My nails should not be a reference for anybody …

How do I take care of my nails?

As I said, I don’t — but I should! I was getting ready to do this video and saw that all my nails were broken! When I play live with Megadeth, my index nail always gets broken because of the intense riffs.  


I’m using 10-46 — again with the equipment! It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter. It could be 8,9,10,11,12,13 … it doesn’t matter. Normally this [fingerstyle] is done on acoustic guitar or … the harp! So it doesn’t matter the strings.

Conquer or Die [Megadeth]:

It has the rolling feeling, right? Here’s another angle:

Once you get it — get the pattern — it’s not very complicated. The difficulty in this song is controlling the G string, because it’s always open. It can be a little difficult because that G is always ringing and sometimes it’s too loud. Then there is the other sections here:

What about the pinky?

I don’t use it. Fingerpicking on electric guitar is something that you must make your own. It might be that some others do — but normally the classical players don’t use it. Even the flamenco players who hit the guitar for percussive effect mainly use only the second and third fingers.

I think you can use it — you never know. You can try whatever you want — if it works for you. I’m left handed so anything with my right hand is, like, no … that would be like another two years of practice! 

On Brazillian guitarists being “special”

Brazil has a tradition of nylon string classical guitar. I think the main difference is, when you hear any electric guitarist from Brazil, they probably started on nylon acoustic guitar. The younger generation maybe not as much, but for sure there is always a nylon guitar around, so everybody plays a bit of nylon classical using fingerstyle … [fingerstyle] is a tradition of the Spanish culture, Flamenco, the Portuguese and all of South America with acoustic guitar or charango, tres [Cubano] or cuatro; different instruments, but all coming from the same cultural traditions. That’s why Brazillian players in general will play acoustic guitar more like the classical players. 

No Pain For The Dead? 

I don’t remember it, but something similar — some chords with open strings will sound good. Like when you do an E minor, you can leave the G open and let it ring out as you change chords.

sweep picking exercises

Sweep picking exercises and tips to improve your sweeping guitar technique

Here we are to talk about sweep picking exercises, and the five common mistakes people make when learning this technique. 

I have to say that I always had a lot of difficulty in applying this. I’m left-handed, so anything that involved the right hand was a struggle. So in the beginning, I was focused on alternate picking of players like jazz/fusion legend Al Dimeola, as well as guys like Paul Gilbert and Steve Morse. Then, at some point in the late 80’s, I started focusing on sweeping, thanks to music from Yngwie Malmsteen, Jason Becker, and Greg Howe. Those three were doing a lot of sweeps back then.

First Common Mistake: playing too fast with bad form. 

All of you who follow my lessons know that I’m always telling you to play slowly when learning a new skill. I believe that this is the ultimate technique where you HAVE to play slowly — almost always. And why is that? Because sweeps are very easy to play fast and sloppy, the notes mash together sounding more like a chord.

The way to practice sweep picking is to compare the tone of each note to your alternate picked tone – they should sound almost exactly the same.

Here’s an example using alternate picking, then switching over to sweep picking on that same chord shape. The tone shouldn’t change — you want to try and get both the sweep picking and alternate picking to sound as close as possible. 

See? It’s almost the same tone whether I’m alternate or sweep picking. I think if you keep that in mind, it’s going to change everything about your sweep skills. 

For this first exercise, we’ll start with the basic movements, focusing on the motion of right hand. Experiment with the dynamics by changing the angle of your pick and level of attack. 

This lick might seem fast, but it’s controlled. It’s not just a loose raking the pick across three or more guitar strings. You want the motion to be very controlled and consistent. 

Once you have control, it’s going to be a lot easier to do these sweeps fast. You can also start adding slides, legato, and tapping to your sweeps, as well as mix it up with alternate picking. Which we will go over in a moment. 

Whether you play jazz or rock, these techniques can be mixed into your playing. And I believe you can always take time to go deeper into one single technique, understand it better, then get better at using it. 

The Second Common Mistake: hopping  

Sometimes when players are trying to avoid the first common mistake, and are trying to make every note sound nice and clean, they start to sort of hop across the strings. 

This type of motion is not going to be effective! You lose the energy and timing when you attempt it this way — you might as well use alternate in that case.

Now, “hopping” can be effective for certain riffs, check out the Guide to Downpicking for examples of that, but for sweeps, It’s not good. So no hopping!

The Third Common Mistake: not focusing on good, consistent-sounding notes 

I mentioned this under the first common mistake, but it is very important.

Once again I suggest comparing your sweep picking sound to alternate picking. Spend some time to alternate between both, or even mix them up within the same arpeggios. 

The Fourth Common Mistake: poor rhythm control 

This is a struggle, even for me — I always say it’s because I’m left-handed, but it’s most likely because I didn’t practice enough! 

Breaking things up into shorter passages, like two, three, or four notes, is an approach you can use to give your sweeps a more rhythmic quality. 

Experiment and improvise with finger position, chord shapes, timing, syncopation, and division of the notes within the arpeggio. This will open you up to new ways to use this technique in your music and make things more interesting than just the straight-up-and-down sweeps. 

The Fifth Common Mistake: poor left hand synchronization and muting

When you use distortion and high gain it’s, important to know how, and when, to mute the strings. Muting is so important I may do some video lessons focused entirely on that. 

Basically, it’s a matter of placing your palm lightly across the bridge and finding the sweet spot: 

It’s a very small area being muted, and just a tiny amount of pressure from the palm of the hand, but it makes a big difference in the tone. 

Now let’s take a look at the left-hand finger positions. You have to be able to articulate the notes by synchronizing the fingers of your left hand with the motion of the right for it to sound clean.

There are some patterns and shapes that will be more difficult to sweep pick cleanly. These are shapes where you might have to barre your finger across the strings to do the lick. For these exercises, the right-hand string muting becomes very important in the articulation. Sometimes it’s easier to find another way to play these shapes and avoid having to barre the notes. 

Speed is not the problem with sweep picking, the problem is playing articulate, with rhythmic control, and with good tone. It’s not about playing fast.

With alternate picking, it’s easier to have better timing because you usually practice it with a metronome, but it’s harder to play fast. With sweeps, and with legato and tapping, it’s easier to play faster, but harder to play with good control. So it’s important to practice these techniques slowly and using different rhythms and syncopations.  

Again, start slowly. Never try to be super fast with sweep picking —  that’s not the way to master the control of this technique. 

Also, no “hopping” or jumping to each string with sweep arpeggios. Pay attention to muting and synchronization with right and left hands. Practice exercises with different chords, rhythms and syncopation. Focus on the quality of the notes and tone; remember, the notes should sound comparable to alternate picking, whether it’s legato, tapping, or sweeping. 

This is basic stuff, I’m not throwing out complex scale patterns or anything fancy, because I believe in showing the foundation of the technique and leaving it up to you to be creative with how you use it. 

Finally, you can download the backing music for “Vital Sign,” off my new album Open Source. Take some time to practice simple sweep patterns to that. The chords are C major, D, E minor or C major, and A minor. 


On whether to hold the pick at an angle or not while playing sweeps

You can do it that way. I don’t angle the pick very much, there’s a little more attack when the pick is straight, but angled might be a little easier. You can try a little something in between and see how that sounds. 

Another example of the pick angle here:

Do you always repeat the last note [string] of the arpeggio? 

The easier way to start, I believe, would be to repeat the last string, So, on the way up you hit the E string on a downstroke, then again coming back with the upstroke. 

Of course, you shouldn’t become dependent on always repeating the same strings in a phrase. One thing you can do are exercises that break up the arpeggio at different points of the scale. This will help you execute these arpeggios without repeating strings.  


Today I’m plugged into the Archetype by Nolly, Neural DSP plugin Nolly mixed my album; he’s a great engineer and knows all about good tone. Also the Archetype lead with some modifications on that preset, no delays and just a little bit less gain. 

The pick I am using is a 1.14 mm. But the pick doesn’t really matter — unless it’s too thin — then it probably matters for sweep picking.

Arpeggios from Judas Priest’s “Painkiller”

Yes! In the ’90s, Angra recorded Painkiller for a tribute album. I did a different arpeggio during the solo on that. You can probably find it online somewhere. 

Kiko for president? 

No thank you!

9 kiko loureiro open source

Kiko Loureiro wins Guitar World’s Top 20 guitar albums of 2020 with Open Source

Kiko Loureiro is the guitar player of the great American heavy metal band Megadeth. Kiko’s fifth album called Open Source just won Guitar World’s top 20 guitar albums of 2020 by popular vote.

Many thanks to everyone who voted for this album. The competition was impressive this year with amazing instrumental guitar albums from monster players like Joe Satriani, John Pettruci and Andy James who scores the 2nd position!

As an instrumental guitar nerd, I am very pleased to see that this genre of music is as popular as ever.

Above all, artists are still innovating and delivering compositions, riffs and solos that blow our minds.  In other words, people continue to push the envelope on musicianship and guitar skills to our pleasure!

About Kiko’s Open Source

Open Source is Kiko’s fifth solo album. It has been a different kind of Album right from the start thanks to collaboration between Kiko Loureiro and his fans. Open source got fully funded in under 5 hours powered by a very successful IndieGogo campaign!

kiko loureiro open source

As our member Ron said in Guitar Hacks’s forum:

That achievement should erase any doubts that through hard work, dedication and a proper practice method anyone can achieve their personal goals no matter what the endeavor.

From Ron

About Kiko Loureiro

Kiko has played guitar for over 25 years and has performed all over the world. Additionally, Kiko started teaching when he was just 16, and has given lectures, seminars and clinics in over 50 countries. He is co-founder of the Brazilian heavy metal band Angra, He’s currently the lead guitarist of the legendary band Megadeth.

As a guitar teacher, Kiko released seven online courses in Portuguese, transforming the playing and musicality of over 3000 students.
This year, 2020, he launched this website, Guitar Hacks, dedicated to English versions of his courses.

Equally important, Kiko has also been an instructor at guitar camps from renowned musicians including Allan Holdsworth & Paul Gilbert. In 2018 he was part of the lineup of the G4 experience with Joe Satriani.

Megadeth has sold 38 million records worldwide. The band has earned platinum certification in the United States for six of its fifteen studio albums. Megadeth won the “Best Metal Performance” Grammy Award for the song “Dystopia”.

About Guitar Hacks

Guitar Hacks is Kiko’s website and english speaking community. Its goal is to help all electric guitar players improve their skills, both technically or musically.

You can answer these simple questions to see if Guitar Hacks is for you:

First, How much time have you spent practicing guitar this year?
Secondly, are you still playing the same riffs and licks from last year?
Lastly, when was the last time you had a REAL breakthrough in your playing?

This is exactly why Kiko created Guitar Hacks.

For years Kiko Loureiro has been optimizing his study formula.
As a result, he’s always prepared for the most challenging situations – like playing for 50,000 people at a festival- in a minimal amount of time.

With over 12000 members, our community is growing very quickly. It’s free to join, head over here to sign up and learn from one the best Guitar Player around.

4 downpicking

Downpicking: Improve your Guitar technique with Kiko

Right now, we’re going to talk about downpicking, how to master it, and what are some exercises we can use to improve our technique. 

Remember, every Thursday I am going to be here. I’ll either show you something new, give a lesson, or offer my point of view and discuss some of the main topics when it comes to performing.

A lot of people ask me about downpicking and I have to start this live stream by saying this: I am not a master at downpicking like Dave Mustaine or James Hetfield.

I tend to use alternate picking, but often, it’s very important to use downpicking because of the tone and the energy you get from it. That’s what I’m going to talk about, and give you some tips to develop this skill. 

Normally when I’m home I improvise and solo, or I’m composing, I’m not practicing riffs that much, so I’m a little out of shape. One thing that is very much related to this is endurance — that’s something we’re going to talk about. 

Again, what I like to do with these lessons is to talk about the fundamentals and the basics, things like right-hand position and so forth. 

The idea is to first find the best right-hand position and to understand the variety of tones you can get from just a simple E note (6th string). I’m not talking about speed — speed is one of the things we’ll have to worry about later, but before that let’s talk about the hand position and other things. 

Try to practice moving your right hand around without changing the dynamic or the speed. This is important for both rhythm and solo.

Now I’m going to find a sweet spot with a tone that I like and show you how you can change the sound with just a slight movement of the palm.  Watch how I start open and then notice the tone change as my palm touches the strings. 

The placement of your palm can depend on what kind of guitar you have and the type of bridge. So you’ll have to feel where it sounds right. Those differences in the tone vary with just the tiniest of movement of your palm.  And it’s the same dynamic when using chords. 

Another thing to consider is the angle at which you hold your pick. You can hold it parallel or at an angle — each gives you a little different tone.  

How you hold your pick is more of a personal preference. What does matter is that you are relaxed. Allow your arm to rest against the body — of course, this can depend on the guitar shape. If you have a flying V that could be difficult. I don’t like flying Vs — I mean I like them, I love the shape — pretty metal! They’re just hard for me to play. I’ve been using these [Ibanez Kiko Loureiro Signature] for so many years, I’ll try to play Dave’s [Mustaine] model and I have no idea how to hold that thing! 

You might start to feel some pain in your shoulders to your wrists, especially if you are tense or try too hard without knowing how to properly build endurance.

Try downstrokes with the other strings as well — again it’s just a matter of finding the right position for your right hand.  

Now let’s talk about consistency versus speed, and consecutive downstrokes for longer periods. What I suggest when practicing — and this is something I talk about in my program at guitarhacks.com — is practice riffs and solos if it were live, with no second chances. That is how you are going to build endurance.

So what I’m going to do is jam for a solid three minutes with the tempo around 165 bpm.

The concept is similar to how a boxer would train — three minutes playing and a one-minute rest in between — because that’s how it is in a live situation. 

 It also depends on your style of music; in my case, I’m not going to see songs that are much faster than this, so my focus is going to be on quality and consistency for the entire song. I think three minutes is a good number, you could do five mins since metal songs are usually between three and five minutes long. I have a timer set on my metronome so here it goes: 

It might seem boring since it’s three minutes of this but focus on your arm as you do this — make sure you are still relaxed. 

Forget about speed for that duration; 100 – 110 bpm, it doesn’t matter, it’s cool to jam like this [slower], it gives a different vibe. Just do it for three minutes straight. I know there are styles that are much faster, but that was never for me to play downstrokes at 210 bpm or faster.

If there happened to be a situation where I did have to play that fast, I would practice in these three-minute increments and I know I would be able to eventually play it. Not a problem.

 It depends on your style; if you want to jam like AC/DC, you won’t need that, but if you want to play some faster, more aggressive styles like Slayer or death metal type riffs and solos, then you’re going to need practice.

So I’m going to increase the speed to 180 bpm — in my opinion, you have to be able to do at least three minutes of consistent, quality at one speed before moving on and increasing the speed.

Remember to stay relaxed and maintain control. 

Balance and consistency are the aims. We’re not focusing on speed but endurance — that is what you are really going to need on stage. 

Lastly what I want you to focus on during some of these practice routines is composing and creating your own riffs and solos. You may have noticed during the three-minute exercise that I was playing random riffs — improvising riffs and ideas. So you can use those three minutes exploring different things. You’re still downpicking and the tempo is the same, but you experiment with what chords you use, where you use them, as well as the placement of single notes. 

Three main points to downpicking:  

  1. Right-hand position
  2. Endurance
  3. Being creative 

Let’s start by using a simple power chord based off the E minor scale similar to what Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath would use.

If you play metal, it’s going to be minor as most metal is, but say you want to get into some weirder, darker territory. You might not know a lot of theory, but through experimenting you discover the tritone, B flat. And you might discover the F,  just a half step up from E. It all starts to create this tension. 

So now you have three weird notes and a minor scale, now we can try using some Metallica type power chords with our bpm set at 170. 

You are jamming for three minutes so give yourself freedom to try different things. I’m doing power chords to make it simple but you can use more full-sounding chords, like the 9th or major 7th chords, or maybe something with open notes in addition to more traditional power chord things. 

I hope everyone enjoyed this lesson on downpicking!

 Once again, every Thursday we’ll be here discussing a new topic. And my next topic is fingerpicking, so subscribe to the channel and set the Youtube reminder to notify you of the next livestream.

Topics from Chat

On harmonics: 

 I think they’re cool, but I try to avoid using them because everybody does them. They still sometimes happen! 


I’m using my Ibanez signature model and the Neural DSP, Fortin Cali plugin. There’s a little bit of reverb as well. The Neural DSP has more high gain amps, but I like this one — it’s pretty heavy, but more traditional sounding. Like a British high gain. And I plug straight to the Neural DSP. 

On Pain: 

I know about pains and tendonitis. The thing is, you have to build up to things — every time I experienced pain and tendonitis was because I wasn’t doing the right thing. I would be on tour, tired and not do a proper warmup, then going straight to the concert and giving 110%. 

Also, I might play more sitting down but on stage I’ll have it hanging lower, which isn’t very healthy for the wrists — but if you do it right, you shouldn’t have any pain. You have to build up to things. It’s like anything; you go to the gym and try to lift something super heavy, or decide to do a 20k out of nowhere it’s going to be awkward — you have to build up to it. 

On his T-shirt: 

Like my t-shirt? You know? the techniques! You can purchase it at my store — as well as the tabs and other cool things.


 Of course there’s other techniques, but I tend to think in terms of alternate, legato, sweeps and tapping. We could add fingerpicking or some other stuff, but this is just because of the Beatles T-shirt: that first one that just had the four names, 

How to avoid hitting strings during the up motion while downpicking: 

I would recommend that you start slower and concentrate on not hitting the strings — if it’s still happening, slow it down even further, try to see if you can notice where the problem is. 

On whether to play with your hand open or closed: 

It depends — I do it both ways. It feels more relaxed when my hand is open, but not open like George Lynch style, with fingers wide open — just more relaxed. But if you feel more relaxed and controlled playing with a closed hand then that’s good. 

It also has to do with how I hold my pick. 

How to work on relaxation: 

If you just start slowly and pay close attention to where it begins to be a struggle.  You begin to know when to push it to the next level. I go over some of this in my program at guitarhacks.com. There are some free lessons there and you can join our community. 


I’m using D’addario NYXL 10-46. That’s what I use when I am in standard tuning and for solos. Live, with Megadeth, we are in D standard.  For that I use the 10-52 NYXLs, because of the riffs and the energy I put into performing live, I prefer the 10-52s in that situation. There was a moment when I was using 11s in standard tuning, but that was just too much! 

When I’m recording my album and doing the rhythms, I will use a heavier guage. Because when you’re recording rhythms and start doubling the tracks, you can encounter intonation issues, so it’s nice to have the heavier gauges. The Evertune bridge is great for that as well.  

Heavier strings tend to give better intonation if you are hitting them harder — also having a fixed bridge or blocking the tremolo. 

Conquer Or Die: 

It’s all downpicking, very much inspired by Eddie Van Halen. Basically like Ain’t Talking About Love but in a metal way.  

Learn more about Kiko’s Complete Guitar Workout Strategy

I have an online Guitar Camp where I cover techniques and show you the recipe for making consistent progress.

Let me ask you some questions:

How much of your time was spent practicing guitar this year? Are you still playing the same riffs and licks from last year? And the year before that?

When was the last time you had a REAL breakthrough in your playing?

Over the years I have been optimizing my practice routine to where I am always ready to perform at my best, no matter what the situation (like performing for 50,000 people at a festival), and in the shortest amount of time.

This course is just that.

I designed to entirely re-educate the way you study: with focus and discipline.

With this course, you’ll have the tools to master the most essential guitar techniques, including: alternate picking, sweep picking, hybrid picking, legato and tapping.

You will learn to effectively measure your progress. Develop better habits and correct mistakes as they happen so you will learn things faster, the right way, the first time.

Click here to learn more.

Cheers my friends!

1 2 3