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The Essential Guitarist - Essential Shawn Lane Licks Page 1

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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