Richards Guitar Studio

Premium Music Lessons and Rock School

Category: Drills and Exercises (page 1 of 13)

Tremolo Picking Guitar Lesson

Tremolo Picking Guitar Lesson – our new camera and audio/visual setup!

Nate Richards teaches a tremolo picking guitar lesson to get your picking speed moving. Get your thrash metal on!

And we are excited to show you our new audio visual setup with our brand new camera and film studio at RGS!

Nate is playing a new Jackson SLAT Soloist through a Fender Champion 100 amp.

This picking technique is in the style of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth and James Hetfield of Metallica. Give it a try and send us your questions or comments!

Drill #52 – Single String E Minor Scale


OK so you’re soloing is getting stale. You are running out of ideas, and your improvisation is uninspiring. Here’s a way for you to generate new ideas, reinvigorate musical expression in your lead playing, and also serve as a cool music theory lesson – the Single String E Minor Scale.

Why a single string? Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and John Petrucci all have one thing in common – they never stay in one “box” shape for very long. They move along the string laterally, instead of only playing scales across the strings. What does this do? This creates a new perspective for expression, a more “singing” quality lead playing, an awareness of the note names in a scale as well as the intervals/distances between the notes, and a single string scale opens up the possibility to perform phrases that are simply impossible to play in a “box” scale. Here are a few tips:

  1. Learn the note names, say them out loud, and practice bending to each note in the scale. Many of you will skip this step. You will also miss a huge opportunity to improve your soloing from an amateur level to an advanced level. BUT, those of you that DO practice this step, be sure to memorize the note names and even skip around a little to test yourself. Targeting specific note names is a huge part of advanced soloing that is invisible to the eye but is incredibly important down the line. But it starts with learning the note names.
  2. Improvise using this scale in E Minor, then G Major, then A Dorian, the D Mixolydian. These are just some of the relative modes, but you’ll find some good backing tracks on YouTube if you search for them. The reason for this step is to train your ear to hear the same scale, intervals, bends, etc in different contexts, with different root notes, over different chord progressions.
  3. Be creative with techniques. Implement as many techniques as possible and be as creative as possible. LIMITING yourself to a single string E minor scale will help you build creativity because you will be forced to make a lot out of a little, and find new ways of playing the same scale.

Have fun! – Nate Richards

Drill #51 – Paul Gilbert Style String Skipping Legato Guitar Lick


Today’s drill is a Paul Gilbert Style String Skipping Legato Guitar Lick using the minor pentatonic scale, hammer ons, and pull offs. This is also a great stretch exercise for the fretting hand, as the notes are configured in a 5-fret spread. Here are a few tips:

  1. Focus on the rhythm. This lick is easily destroyed by a “galloping” or even “limping” rhythm, meaning that there is a tendency to stop-start-stop-start due to the string skip. Go slowly at first. One idea is to pick all of the notes and do not do the hammer ons and pull offs until you can play it smoothly and evenly with picking. Then, add in the legatos and keep the rhythm under control.
  2. Watch the picking. As I always say, you must control the pick. If the pick is moving in an inefficient way due to laziness, lack of trying, or just error, you will physically prevent yourself from success. There is no substitute for hard work – BUT hard work with the wrong tools will only build you a solid, securely built MISTAKE that only crashes to the ground over time.
  3. This lick does not need to be played at light speed. Due to the large intervals, the string skipping, and the smooth articulation, this lick just SOUNDS fast, even when played at a moderate tempo. Once you push it to a speed where you lose control of the rhythm, pick, or articulation, it will actually sound slower because it is not in a machine-like rhythm. Slow it down a touch, and you’ll find that it actually sounds more impressive and faster when played at a more moderate tempo.

Nate Richards is the owner of Richards Guitar Studio – premium music lessons and rock school in Aston, PA. Serving Delaware County and beyond.

Drill of Week #50 – Bach Electric Guitar Excerpt


This post is not a tutorial or lesson. The Bach electric guitar excerpt here is from Invention No. 4 in D minor, and I give you advise in the video about how to approach practicing and performing this piece. You must spend a lot of time diligently practicing the tabs linked above, and focus intently on fingerings and the picking “rules” I lay out for you in the video. If you work this piece the way I recommend, I guarantee that your picking and scale fluidity/control will improve dramatically.

In college at West Chester University, I spent my summers living alone and taking classes since I was a double major with a performance minor and needed to pile on the credits to reach my 190 required (Major in music education, Major in music theory / composition, minor in classical guitar performance). One summer (I believe it was 2002 or 2003), I had no internet and no cable – can you imagine that! I would take a morning class, do my assignments in the late morning / early afternoon, take an afternoon class, and complete assignments by dinner. I would go back to my dingy apartment, make a delectable home-cooked dinner, possibly enjoy a few beverages responsibly, and play the hell out of my guitar into the wee hours of the morning.

One night in early summer, I had an idea to follow up on a Bach piece I once learned on the electric guitar (anything by Bach sounds amazing on electric guitar, in my opinion). I found 2 two-part inventions by Bach in one of my music theory analysis anthologies – numbers 4 and 8. There are 15 two-part inventions, and they are essentially short piano pieces with only two melodies working together (one melody in the right hand and one in the left hand) and Bach makes these incredible pieces with only a two-part format. So, no huge chords, no overly-complex inter-weaving of 4 or more parts (such as a soprano, alto, tenor, bass structure) – just two independent single-line parts in harmony or in dialogue. This works perfectly for electric guitar duo. Naturally, I had to see where this could go.

So I learned both hands separately of number 4. Then number 8. I transcribed everything an octave higher than written, as the guitar is a transposing instrument sounding one octave lower than written. Then I decided to notate them on my music publishing software I was using (and still use) called Sibelius. I wrote out fingerings for every single note, picking when needed, and rhythmically notated each and every ornament/embellishment indicated in the score. For those of you familiar with classical music, you might appreciate the incredibly tedious detail-work of researching and interpreting the abundant variety of Baroque keyboard ornamentation and performance practices, and then notating the exact rhythms and pitches of each and every ornament in all 15 of the inventions. I found a book in the School of Music Library on keyboard ornamentation with old facsimile copies of some manual on how to perform each ornament, made some copies, and used them as reference when I came across an ornament I was not familiar with. Yup – I am REALLY persistent.

I had two pieces completed, so I walked to Taylor’s Music Store on the main drag in West Chester, bought a cheap Schirmer copy of the complete 15 Two-Part Inventions, and decided that I would keep going down this rabbit hole. I started from page 1, learned each hand as a separate guitar part, and marked up my score pretty good with notes and fingerings, etc. I got into a groove of learning, practicing, and notating – rinse and repeat. I work best and produce the most content between the hours of 8:00pm and 1:00am – I’m a night owl for sure, and always have been. I would usually stop playing at around 10:00pm, and do the grunt computer work of notating from 10:00 until about 12:00-1:00am, depending on how much I had transcribed that day.

I wouldn’t make a final written draft until I could play the piece in tempo, since many times fingerings will change based on how fast or slow a passage is performed. So, I couldn’t actually write anything down until I could play it perfectly. I kid you not, in those 3 months my technique EXPLODED into a whole new dimension.  I had complete control over my scales, arpeggios, notes on the fretboard, key signatures, intervals, triads, altering fingerings in real-time, picking fluently across strings with no hesitation or excess noise, stamina, synchronization, and so on.

After 3 months, I had completed well over 100 pages (I think about 125 due to the 4-line staff of guitar notation and tab for 2 guitars, and another 20 pages when, after completed the 15 inventions, I completed Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach and Caprice No. 5 by Paganini – coming soon to the blog), with a fingering for every single note, notated ornaments for every ornament in the score, picking, and alternate passages when necessary (ossia measures).

THIS IS WHAT YOU CAN DO IF YOU TURN OFF YOUR PHONE, COMPUTER, TV, AND VIDEO GAMES. This was definitely one of the most productive summers of my life, although each summer at WCU was very productive with practicing and preparing for the next semester of performances. Now I can say that I understand how the classical masters accomplished so much in their lives – they didn’t have as many distractions and they were able to focus like a laser on their craft.

That’s the story. One of my prouder moments as a guitar-content-creator.

– Nate Richards

Owner, Richards Guitar Studio and Richards Rock Academy, Aston PA

Drill of the Week #49 – Major 7th Chord Inversions


Here’s the previous jazz 7th chords lesson I refer to in the video

In this lesson, we will look at Major 7th chord inversions on the guitar, and how they can be moved to various positions on the fretboard.

A Major 7th chord is made up of the Root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th of a major scale. In this case, I’m using GMa7 as an example (G-B-D-F#). There are four possible “bass positions” (four possible notes as the lowest sound over which the chord is stacked). The four bass positions are Root Position, 1st Inversion, 2nd Inversion, and 3rd Inversion.

Root Position

Root position is when G, the root, is in the lowest position (a.k.a. “the bass”). On top of the G bass note, the other 3 notes (B, D, and F#) are stacked in any order the guitarist wants, as long as they are all represented. I’ve chosen one possibility in the tabs linked above, but there are many, many, many possibilities if you experiment enough.

1st Inversion

The 3rd of the chord – B – is in the bass note position, and the remaining 3 notes (G, D, F#) are stacked on top, again, in whatever order fits well on the fretboard.

2nd Inversion

The 5th of the chord – D – is in the bass position, and the remaining 3 notes (G, B, F#) are stacked on top in any order.

3rd Inversion

The 7th of the chord – F# – is in the bass position, and the remaining 3 notes (G, B, D) are stacked on top in any order.


Understanding the concept of chord inversions is a huge undertaking. For right now, just try to grasp the basic idea of A) Chords have multiple notes that make up the chord, and B) they can be switched around however the guitarist wants, as long as they are all present. So, G-B-D-F# is a GMa7 chord, and it doesn’t matter which order they are presented on the guitar – if all 4 of those notes are in a chord, it’s a GMa7 chord.

– Nate Richards

Owner – Richards Guitar Studio

Older posts