Pages Navigation Menu

Way of the Dark – Shape Shifting

Many years ago whilst in a Darkwave band, there was a particular song we played that required a looping guitar part to compliment the other other sounds going on. From memory, this was when I discovered that playing an open shape further up the fretboard whilst leaving the open strings intact could sound really cool, and a bit spooky, too.

This lesson takes a look at a shape that, when moved up the fretboard, provides us with a lower and higher octave version of each voicing.

There is some stretching of the left hand involved, however, it gets easier the further up you go, so if you're struggling, I recommend sticking to the higher octave versions for a while and gradually working your way down.


Getting Into Shape


So let's get aquainted with the shape that we'll be using throughout. It involves a decent stretch between the middle and fourth fingers on the D and G strings with the addtion of the first finger one fret below the middle finger on the B string. Note that the A and high E strings are constant in all positions. Listen out and keep aware of your fretting technique. If the high E string is not ringing out, it means your pinky finger is muting it. To rectify this, maintain an upright fretting technique.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1 illustrates each voicing in its lower octave position. The toughest stretch will occur in the open position, but, as previously mentioned, with each successive shift up the fretboard, the distance closes considerably. In order to kill two birds with one stone, I suggest arpeggiating each voicing ascending and descending using alternate picking (Fig. 2). In this way, you can check if each string is ringing out clearly and practice alternate picking technique, which is a great addition to any guitarist's arsenal.

Alternate Picking Exercise

Fig. 2

Higher Realms


The beauty of this shape really shines once we move into the higher octave positions. You'll notice that the previous voicings have simply been shifted 12 frets from their original positions. This is because 12 frets of the guitar's fretboard span an octave, after which it repeats itself, so all you have to do is add 12 to the original fret positions e.g. fret 2 moves to fret 14, fret 4 moves to fret 16 etc.

Fig. 3

My particular favourite of the two is in the highest position, and this was, in fact, the voicing I used in the song I mentioned in the introduction.

The way I ended up doing it was as a 16th note arpeggiation using a controlled rake (sweep) backwards from the high E string (Fig. 4). Using this technique produces a melodic sort of sound that sure beats just strumming or picking in the conventional manner. It's important to distinguish this from using separate upstrokes, because otherwise its purpose is defeated, and you may as well use alternate picking.

Also of note is the use of an anacrusis, also known as a pickup bar. This involves coming in a bit later on in the bar to start the song. In this case, the riff begins on the 4th beat. The space after the rake allows everything to ring out for a while, enhancing the mood before repeating.

Fig. 4

And thus concludes this lesson. If you liked it, you'll really enjoy The Art of Gothic Guitar Volume One, available over at the Download Store.

Happy practice