Inside Vinnie Vincent’s Pentatonic-Based approach
Hey Guitar-Muse readers! This is the kick off for an exciting new Player Profile series that digs a little deeper into the licks of some players that you may or may not be familiar with.
Since this series is about guitarists off the radar, you may think it’s odd that I’m kicking it off with such as well-known player as Vinnie Vincent – but I always thought that Vinnie got the short end of the stick in playing circles. He had a completely distinct playing style from every other shredder at the time and was immediately identifiable in both note choice and density.
This lesson is centered on a theoretical approach that Vinnie talked about in his REH instructional video, Vinnie Vincent Metal Tech: Style, Speed and Phrasing, but I’ve used a unique lick of my own based on this idea below.
If 6 was 8…
Vinnie’s playing has a number of really interesting and unique elements, but in this post I’m just going to look at his cool pentatonic/blues based approach.
I’ll start by looking at a descending D minor blues scale.
This scale is made up of D (root), F (b3rd), G (4th), G#/Ab (Tritone), A (5th) and C (b7th)
In addition to inserting the 9 (E) and the 13 (B) which creates more of a D Dorian/Blues sound, Vinnie adds in the natural 3rd (F#) and the natural 7 (C#) for some chromatic color that gets some out sounds from the scale.
This makes it an octotonic (8 note) scale that adds all sorts of crazy sounds! Here’s a lick that I’ve adapted to Vinnie’s scale. In the video, Vinnie plays everything over an E5 – so you could use this over D5, or you could sub it into places where you’d normally play a d-blues scale.
And here’s the lick played at tempo.
And here, I’ve played it at a slower tempo and then more quickly.
Stylistic Elements of Vinnie’s Playing
While notes are certainly an important part of any players sound, the style behind the notes is what makes every player unique. This is certainly the case for Vinnie’s playing.
In going though Vinnie’s REH instructional video, I found that he improvises a lot of his playing as much on approaches as he does from various licks. If you slow down his demonstration licks at full tempo, he’s often playing small variations on them from what he demonstrates at slower tempos. This approach-based soloing method is a reason why. If asked to play any particular lick three times in a row, he’d probably play all of them slightly differently.
The lick above cycles on a D7 arpeggio with no 5th (i.e. D, C, F#). A lot of Vinnie’s phrases use this approach of building tension by repeating 2-3 note melodic cells.
Along this idea, Vinnie breaks up the rhythmic element of the note repetition. In the lick, I’ve broken the D7 arpeggio into groups of 3 and 5 to vary up the attacks. This is a common approach Vinnie uses (and one common to players like Shawn Lane as well). It can be a cool one to integrate into your own playing as well!
I’ve picked all of the notes in this example, but Vinnie would probably play the arpeggio with hybrid picking. (i.e. using the middle finger of the picking hand (m) with a combination of hammer-ons and alternate picking).
Also, I’ve played the scale in a straight descending pattern but Vinnie would probably play the notes in more of a melodic sequence.
In terms of tone, I’ve used a high gain tone:
The signal chain was FnH guitar > Apogee Duet > AU Lab > Ignite stomps TS-999
> Scuffham Amps S gear
On the video, Vinnie scooped the mids out a bit more, used some delay (and perhaps a little chorus) and a more aggressive noise gate (like a HUSH). If you want to want to copy his tone digitally, you could use the Jackal amp in S-Gear to get more of an 80’s high gain tone, but I preferred this one for my own playing.
The key thing with Vinnie’s playing is to attack the notes almost to the point of abandon! While it’s obvious that Vinnie has worked these things out with a metronome, he’s often cramming notes in and playing them as quickly and aggressively as he can. That combination of things, by the way, is very difficult to do. So as a first step, as counter intuitive as it may sound, the important thing to focus on is fluidity rather than speed. Practice the lick slowly and gradually build it up to tempo. If you try going too fast, too quickly – your hands will tense up and it will be harder to play the lick.
Also, if you want to get the lick down at tempo, you’ll have to work nailing the notes and the rhythm while keeping both hands at minimal tension and keeping the attitude happening at the same time. A great way to work on this is to practice playing the licks on an electric that’s not plugged into an amp. If you can get the notes to jump out acoustically, you’re already on your way to making it happen on electric.
Vinnie has some other great approaches on his video that I’ll cover in a future lesson. In the meantime, I’d recommend trying to work these other notes into your pentatonic licks. You can get some really interesting sounds out of his approach (even if you’re not trying to play them at the same light speed he does!)
We have more cool players and licks in the pipeline for this series. Check back with us next time when we look at shredder Alex Masi!