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  • 6/6/13 Soloing Strategies: Randy Rhoads | Guitar World 1/9


    Photo: Neil Zlozower


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    Soloing Strategies: Randy RhoadsPosted 03/06/2007 at 2:29pm | by Tom Kolb

    In the world of heavy metal, hot guitarists are a

    dime a dozen. Yet only a precious few stand

    the test of time and become enduring guitar

    gods. Randy Rhoads was one such player.

    Joining forces with singer Ozzy Osbourne in

    1979, Rhoads burst onto the metal scene like a

    bolt from the blue. He was blessed with dazzling

    chops and an innate comprehension of music

    theory, and his style had a perfect blend of

    flash and melodic structure. Flowing legato

    sections segued to impossibly fast, palm-muted

    picking passages; incendiary trills and daring

    chromatic maneuvers coexisted with classically

    influenced melodiesall of which were derived

    from a seemingly inexhaustible supply of scales

    and arpeggios and laid out across an ever-

    shifting rhythmic landscape. What's more,

    Rhoads was so precise that he could

    seamlessly double-track anything he played,

    for maximum sonic density.

    Sadly, only three recordingsBlizzard of Ozz,

    Diary of a Madman, and Tributecaptured

    Rhoads's genius before a tragic airplane crash,

    in 1982, cut his life short. But the musicianship that lies within those grooves is as stunning and

    inspirational today as it was then.

    Sequences and Scales

    Rhoads would often sprinkle a solo with a flurry of pentatonic pull-offs such as those in Fig.1. Built

    from the A minor pentatonic scale (A-C-D-E-G), this lick is inspired both by the opening moments

    of the first solo in "Mr. Crowley" and by the fill just before the last verse of "I Don't Know." It's

    interesting to note that while Rhoads possessed the facility to rip through lines such as these

    using alternate picking, he often chose a legato approach for a smoother, more flowing outcome.


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  • 6/6/13 Soloing Strategies: Randy Rhoads | Guitar World 2/9

    Fig. 2 features a three-notes-per-string legato scale run inspired by the solos in "Crazy Train,"

    "Suicide Solution," and "Mr. Crowley." This line zips up the A natural minor scale (A-B-C-D-E-F-G)

    in a blinding flash of hammer-ons. Make sure you hammer firmly onto every second and third note,

    striving for equal volume of the pick attacks.

    Blues Licks and Mixed Scales

    Rhoads was fond of the blues scale (1-f3-4- f5-5-f7), and often milked its flatted 5th for all it was

    worth. For example, notice the emphasis on the Bf in Fig. 3A, an E blues (E-G-A-Bf- B-D) lick

    inspired by the opening phrases of the "I Don't Know" solo. Rhoads often mixed blues-scale licks

    with diatonic scales, and modes such as Aeolian (natural minor), Phrygian (1-f2-f3-4-5-f6-f7), and

    harmonic minor (1-2-f3-4-5-f6-7). Reminiscent of the "Crazy Train" solo, Fig. 3B offers a

    composite of F# Aeolian (F#-G#-A-B-C#-D-E) and F# blues (F#-A-B-C-C#-E).


    Chromaticism is another hallmark of Rhoads's soloing style. His chromatic techniques ran the

    gamut from the simple use of tension tones (notes that lie outside of pentatonic and diatonic

    scales) all the way to full-blown chromatically modulating passages such as the ones found in

    Figs. 4A-B.

    Fig. 4A is similar to a move Rhoads used in "S.A.T.O.," where a minor-3rd hammer- on is moved

    down in half steps. Notice that the lick starts on two solid chord tones (G and E, the f3rd and root),

    then chromatically targets two resolving tones (D and B, the f7th and 5th). Fig. 4B features one of

    Rhoads's pet motifs: a descending fournote slice of a scale patternin this case, F-E-D-C of the D

    minor scale (D-E-F-G- A-Bf-C). Ascending chromatically, the palm-muted quadruplets hit sonic

    fruition with an Af-G-F sequence over the Fm chord.


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  • 6/6/13 Soloing Strategies: Randy Rhoads | Guitar World 3/9

    Fig. 5 features another of the guitarist's favorite chromatic ploys, this one involving major and

    minor triads, along with partial 7th-chord arpeggios, moving along the top two strings.

    In this example, an A minor triad (A-C-E) moves up in half steps, then segues to the upper portion

    of an Am7 arpeggio (A-C-E-G), which also ascends chromatically. Fig. 6 breaks the bounds of

    chromaticism with a pick-tapped trill that ascends in pitch via a gradual bend executed with the fret

    hand's 4th finger. Notice that, again, the example begins and ends on solid chord tones (G# and B

    [3rd and 5th], and B and D [5th and f7th]).

    Tapping and Trills

    Unlike many of his peers in the early Eighties, Rhoads avoided jumping on Eddie Van Halen's

    tapping bandwagon. When he did choose to tap, though, the results were stunning, as the

    sequence in Fig.7 reveals. In the style of the breathtaking climax of the "Flying High Again" solo,

    the example follows a double-tap/pull-off/hammer-on sequence constructed from triads that outline

    the changes. Some of the most dazzling Randy Rhoads moments are often mistaken for tapped


    One such passage is the open string- pull-off extravaganza that occurs midway though his solo in

    the live version of "Suicide Solution," where he dispatches a sizzling array of triads and partials

    along the 1st [Fig. 8] and 2nd strings. Rhoads also had a penchant for classically influenced trills

    (two notes played in rapid alternation). He would use them to outline the chord tones of specific

    changes, as seen in Fig. 9, where the notes of an Ff7 arpeggio (F-Af-Cf-D) are alternated with

    notes a half step below.

    The Solo

    The solo [Fig.10] is a 15-bar rocker in the style of songs like "I Don't Know," "Flying High Again,"

    and "Crazy Train." The first half (measures 1-8) sits firmly in the key of F# minor, riding a i-fVI-fVII-

    i-fIII-iv-Vsus-V progression (F#m-D-E-F#m-A-Bm-C#7sus4-C#). Measures 9-12 serve as a bridge,

    with modulating I-vi cadences (D-Bm and E-C#m) in the temporary keys of D and E major.

    Measure 13 signals a march back up (fVI- fVII-v-i; D-E-C#m-F#m) to the resolving i-fVII-i (F#m-E-

    F#m) chordal riff.

    The solo opens, in typical Rhoadsian fashion, with a head-turning pinch-harmonic bend. To

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  • 6/6/13 Soloing Strategies: Randy Rhoads | Guitar World 4/9

    execute this two-octave harmonic, attack the G string aggressively with the side of your pick,

    simultaneously brushing the string with the side of your pick hand's thumb; the ideal position for

    this contact is right above the rear edge of the neck pickup. Next comes a pull-off flurry made up of

    F# blues and F# Aeolian scales, followed by a tremolo- picked E major pentatonic (E-F#-G#- B-

    C#) climb. (Tremolo picking, in which notes are picked as rapidly and continuously as possible,

    was another Rhoads staple). An F# minor pentatonic (F#-A-B-C#-E) wrapup (measure 4) mirrors

    the opening lick.

    In measure 5, a short melodic passage capped with a quick trill nods to "Crazy Train," then segues

    to a brief Rhoads motif (see Fig. 4B). Instead of moving chromatically, as expected, the motif spills

    into a t h ree-notes-per- s t r ing B Dor ian (B-C#-D-E-F#-G-F#) run (see Fig. 2). C# Phrygian

    dominant (C#-D-E#-F#-G#-A-B; fifth mode of F# harmonic minor) provides the melodic framework

    for the chromatically enhanced legato phrasing of bar