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Licks transcribed by Amir Shmueli. Where do you begin breaking down Shawn Lane’s technique? At first listen you just don’t understand how someone can play that way. The funny thing is that even after you get to know the concepts he’s using you realize that most of it is in his hands as opposed to the notes. Lane also knows this - many times he doesn’t bother fingering the “correct” scale, preferring something symmetrical. Never the less, Lane employs a few trademark techniques which are well worth getting to know. Since the majority of lessons and transcriptions out there relates to the Powers Of Ten album I’ve decided to focus on The Tritone Fascination. Aside from being as brilliant as Powers compositionally, it’s more guitar heavy, making it the perfect vehicle to explore Lane’s technique. One more thing before we begin. Since we’ll be looking at excerpts, this won’t be a methodically structured lesson. This may make it a bit harder to isolate the techniques at work but on the upside you get to see how Lane connects them all together. One concept Lane uses a lot is rhythmic displacement. Since most popular music is in 4/4 time, playing odd groupings of notes creates rhythmic displacement. This creates an interesting effect since the accents fall on unusual places. The unusual accents “confuse” the ear and create an illusion of increased speed. This is a great remedy for those plagued by the mundane tuplet fever. It’s important to stress that it’s only effective over a steady backing relatively to which the displacement will occur. Here’s an excerpt from Nine=101. The first part is classic rhythmic displacement. Shawn uses slides to create groupings of 4,4,7,5,7,5 and 4. Lane probably didn’t plan on those specific groupings but the fingerings and slides he employs make for the odd groupings. The line ends with a two note per string arpeggio idea (Fig.2) that Lane tops off with an ascending one note per string (ONPS) idea. We’ll get to that later. Fig.1 Nine: CD 1:01
Fig.2 Nine: CD 2:10
The next line is from Trois Cept Cinq. This is a good example of some descending ONPS. These lines have a very fresh sound compared to the tuplet runs. After taking linear speed playing as far as is could go, Lane developed an original technique that allows for more interesting intervals. It involves triad patterns played one note per string, mostly descending. Basically, the first note is
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picked with an upstroke and the next are just hammered from nowhere. To ascend, he down picks the first two and plucks the third with his middle finger (right hand). In this line you get it all mixed up with some slides as well. For this, Shawn has his action set as low as it goes and favors a totally flat radius to accommodate this. The 0.08 string gauge doesn’t hurt either.
Fig.3 Trois Sept Cinq: CD 2:44
The next two examples are from One Note At A Time and Hardcase. Both are a nice combination of odd groupings and some ONPS action.
Fig.4 Hardcase: CD 4:43
Fig.5 One note at a time: CD 1:46
The last excerpt is from The Way It Has To Be. This is a great line which shows some of Shawn’s original approach to pentatonic playing. Shawn uses the pentatonic scale to great effect sounding nothing like the clichés associated with the scale. Again, Shawn makes use of odd rhythmic groupings but this time in a 2 note per string context. Notice the unique fingering and pick strokes. When playing the 11 th fret on the D and G strings he uses the 3rd and 4th finger respectively. A lot of position shifts as well.
Fig.6 The way it has to be: CD 2:17
Can’t do a Shawn Lane lesson without mentioning the wide stretch licks. Surprisingly for one with medium hands, one of Shawn’s trademarks is his use of wide stretch diminished lines, especially in his live solos. Those who have heard it usually refer to it as the “spaceships”. He achieves that sound mostly by the way he plays as opposed to the actual notes involved. By “way” I’m referring to his use of legato, slides, pick attack and “flow” but that’s still pretty vague. Shawn himself described this type of playing as “transcendental technique” – things that can’t be practiced slowly and gradually brought up to speed but could only be played at mach 5. Watch some videos of him and that’ll probably explain a whole lot better. Here’s the basic shape he’s using.
Fig.7 Diminished Idea
I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson. I think these lines present a good outline of Lane’s signature sound but of course there’s much more. If you’re interested in a more in depth look be sure to check out Shawn’s instructional videos – “Power Licks” and “Power Solos”. But after all is said and done...it’s still all in those hands. Click here to download a powertab file of the above licks
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