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Gaining Ground – Select Licks

This is my first column in many months. Having recently finished a major site overhaul, it is nice to back writing again. I have gotten a lot of requests to transcribe some solos off the 2nd Dark Shift record “Gaining Ground.” You can check out the record direct www.darkshift.com, or through any major online retailer like iTunes, emusic, rhapsody, napster, etc… Before we get into transcriptions, I will talk a bit about the ideas, philosophy, and writing ideas that went into making a record.

Making a Record

Making a new record is always an interesting experience. In your mind you always want to do the best you can and hopefully come out with a product that people will actually like at the end of the day. You write a bunch of songs, rehearse the hell out of them, and then enter the studio. After a lot of work and stress, it all ends one day. You get the product back from duplication and then smile in relief that it is over. Mission accomplished… even know the real work has only just begun.

It is a very exciting thing to watch a record come together. Most people don’t truly understand all the work that goes into producing a record. Taking a vision from your head and making it a sonic reality can be a very gratifying thing. Vision is one of the most important elements of a record. “Gaining Ground” had one goal: to rock. As a band we wanted to make a record that was catchy, had lots of energy, was fun to listen to, and rocked the whole way through. Whether or not we accomplished that doesn’t matter really. Everyone experiences music differently. One thing that really stuck out to me at least was that a lot of heavy music in my humble opinion, and what the heck do I know anyways, lacks melody. That is something we wanted to tackle in our vision: make a heavy record that has lots of melody, not just on guitars, but on bass, and vocally. So that was the concept behind the record and what the songs were written around.

Writing Solos

After you have recorded most of the material (drums, bass, guitars, and maybe vocals), then it is time to record the solos usually. Recording Gaining Ground was a lot of fun, but also a challenge. I not only had to record solos, but produce, record, and mix the whole record. When it came time to lay down my parts, I was out of shape chops wise as I had been spending too many hours recording. So I went on a 2 1/2 week non stop chops rehabilitation in my practice. When I sat back down in the engineer’s chair, I was ready to go.

Since the record itself consists of a lot of high energy songs, it required some pretty energetic and explosive solos. The challenge was to try to come up with a good mixture of being catchy and maintaining the energy. One of the hardest things I’ve always thought is making ripping lines catchy. It is and always has been a constant battle for all us shredder type players. Luckily I planned ahead before writing solos and I made sure that all the riffs I’d be soloing over were riffs I thought that were catchy. Often a good riff helps make a good solo. Again, whether I ultimately accomplished my goal or not on this record doesn’t matter to me. It is the vision and the intent that counts and drives you to improve. As long as you do your best to fulfill your vision, who cares what anyone else thinks.

Ok, enough wind bagging about the process, let us get to the tabs.


This first lick is from the song “Trial By Stone.” This is personally one of my favorite solos on the entire disc. This is the opening lick. It is a pedal point based on the pentatonic scale. Play it with straight alternate picking.


Here is the opening arpeggio lick from “Mark My Words.” Basically the lick follows the chord progression underneath. On the second time I just slide up an octave and hit a descending arpeggio, which I was too lazy to tab out. :)


The next lick isn’t really a solo, but more a a lead. This is the intro lick from “Sweet Poison.” I also bring this melody back into the song later during the solo. What makes this melody cool to me is that it is a larger lick made from a short repetitive rhythmic motive. It is then sequenced around the pentatonic scale.


Here is the arpeggio lick from “K.M.S.” Again, just like in “Mark My Words” the pattern is almost identical and it follows the chord progression.


Ok enough solo licks. Here is a badass intro riff and lead from the song “Shock & Awe.” This is probably the most fun to play song on the record. We play the riffs slightly differently in form. We only do the contrary motion part on the 4th time through each riff. For simplicity I tabbed it on every 2nd time. The picking rhythm can be a real pain to teach your right hand. Work on getting that double down pick fluid.


Well that is enough tabbing fort this lesson. More to come next time. Enjoy!

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