Joe Bonamassa is one hell of a guitar player! His super fast pentatonic lead runs are the aspiration of a lot of players. In this video we take one of his epic licks (as seen on his Guitarist video) and place it over a track to put it in context. We then break it down to really get to grips with the whole thing.
The first thing to do is have a few listens to the lick to get it in your head. You can either watch the video or click here to check out the Materials Section below to access backing tracks and interactive tab!
The key to this is learning the lick in sections and visualising the underlying scale shapes. The whole thing is based in E minor and uses mainly E minor pentatonic and some E natural minor scale notes. We'll go through each part below.
We also have a full tab of this lick in the materials section - but really try to memorise the shapes, not just the frets!
This lick starts in pentatonic shape 1 and goes into shapes 2, 3 and 4! Watch the video to see where the position shifts (ie slides) are. This is really important as it will set your fingers up correctly for playing the next part of the lick.
This part is fairly free with the timing, so just focus on getting the position shifts in the right place. Here are the shapes:
This part of the lick moves from pentatonic shape 4 to shape 5, and then introduces the minor scale too, and runs down the scale in 3rds. Here are the scale shapes:
This is where the lick gets really fast! It starts off on the minor scale again, then moves into pentatonic shape 1 and 2. This part is a lot faster, but in the speediest sections we're playing pentatonic runs, which you'll be able to loop when you're practicing.
For most of this section you'll need to use alternate picking to get that super clean and crisp sound. This is achievable because most of the runs are even numbers of notes on a string, however there is one run of 5 notes where you'll need to do some economy picking - ie pick across 2 strings in the same direction. Dan goes into great detail about how to achieve this in the video. Here are the scales used:
We really recommend taking the lick slowly to begin with and break it into the sections outlined above. The first two sections will take some time to get memorised so take your time with it and work with the moving tab below.
The third, faster, section might take some more work to get up to speed. We recommend practicing the speedy descending runs as their own exercise. Here are the scale fragments for those last four descending runs:
The first is the five note run, then followed by the three 6 note runs. All based around shapes 1 and 2 of E minor pentatonic. Take things slow, get the notes under your fingers, then gradually increase the tempo. Once you've got it fairly comfortable don't be afraid to really go for it and forget about getting it perfect for a while, this is a key part of practicing. Good luck!