Difficulty Level: Advanced
Tuning: E A D G B E (Standard Tuning)
When I first purchased the “Countdown to Extinction” album I was a pretty die hard fan of Metallica and thought that guitar solos just didn’t get any better than Kirk Hammett (as I was a wee tot at the time). When I first heard this solo I was changed… Reborn if you will and I recall saying to several of my students “Stop listening to Metallica… MEGADETH ARE WIN!”
I’ve put off trying to learn this solo properly for nearly a decade, but a few weeks ago I found the courage at the bottom of a can of Red Bull and with the help of the delightful program Audacity and the slow down function… I got there. This solo has a few arpeggios, lots of crazy fast legato and really interesting phrasing and use of the pentatonic. As usual we’ll break the solo up into problematic sections. I’ll also leave a link to my YouTube lesson and a tab at the bottom of the article.
The first section of this solo deals with some cool licks of the 4th branch of the “A” minor pentatonic. Let’s have a look at the scale shape and then attempt the lick (see diagram below).
Now that we have the scale shape, the tricky lick in this section only uses the 1st, 2nd and 3rd string. Let’s check out the lick (see excerpt below).
The 2nd bar of this lick is the one I had the oat trouble with. Accurately rolling back and forth between the 1st and 2nd string amidst fast hammer ons and pulloffs can be tough… However the sound and intervals that are created are really cool and I think give the listener something a little bit different outside a meat and veg pentatonic. Work through this lick and section slowly and try incorporate some flat finger licks into your pentatonics and playing.
This section was just awful for me to learn. It’s the guitar equivalent of being told “There’s no Santa” (f–king soul destroying). This section uses some massive stretches and legato whilst still hanging around the “A” minor pentatonic with a cheeky accidentals and blue notes (see excerpt below).
Thumb placement and finger stretching is absolutely crucial in executing this lick properly. If you have a Les Paul you’ll probably cry a little. Pay close attention to the legato emphasis and try to keep your hammers and pulloffs smooth and to have an equal/even volume between them.
The 3rd section deals with some pretty cool old school rocky blues licks around a “B” minor pentatonic. It also sounds awesome coming off a key change from “A” minor. Let’s take a look at the lick below (see excerpt below).
The bends and pulloffs can be seen in pretty classic rock contexts like KISS, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC and even Chuck Berry. Pay close attention to bends and legato emphasis. Also the flat 5 sound on the 10th fret of the 3rd/G string is pretty bad a-s. If you can try include rock influenced licks like this in your playing it can break up the monotony of overusing arpeggios and diatonic runs.
The first time I heard this song I remember thinking that this was one of the coolest licks I’d ever heard. It’s essentially working through different parts of a “B” minor pentatonic using many position shifts and the Dorian 6th/sharp minor 6 (G#). Let’s take a look at the lick below (see excerpt below).
This is an excellent way of playing a pentatonic without resorting to going up and down various box shapes. You’ll notice there’s a lot of hammer ons, pulloffs and slides to assist all of the position shifts and jumps needed to play this lick. Try using this position shifting trick to get some cool flavours into your playing.
This section deals with an “F#” minor pentatonic in a pretty high register. You’ll notice we ride the flat 5th of this scale (C natural) quite a bit. Let’s take a look at the lick (see excerpt below).
This section nearly destroyed me as it’s only 2 notes per string but extremely fast legato and phrasing. You’ll need to start slowly and build up to Marty‘s insane speed on this. You may also find that the lick will tire your hand out. Be patient with it and hopefully this pentatonic madness will act as a hand strengthener and increase your shred and legato cardio… Legato cardio… Say it out aloud 3 times… It’s sounds awesome.
The final section has a really cool way of hammering into the flat 5th of the “A” minor pentatonic (Eb), and dancing around a few other notes a the same time (see excerpt below).
It’s extremely bluesy, but played fast I think this high “rock ‘n’ roll” style pentatonic with the flat 5 sounds great. There’s a string skip in that lick too which adds really nice intervallic space. Try experimenting with this concept in a few different keys and implement it into your own playing.
Hope you guys have enjoyed this!
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By Chris Zoupa