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Techniques of the heroes: Randy Rhoads

Rating: 2 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: leokisomma, on Dec 26,2011, in category Guitar Legends Views: this lesson has been read 5024 times
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This lesson is the first in a mini-series on the late guitarist Randy Rhoads, who is no longer with us due to a freak flying accident. He is one of the main reasons why I started playing guitar back before I even knew what the open notes on a guitar were. He introduced me to guitarists like Shawn Lane, Jeff Beck, Paul Gilbert and my hero Joe Satriani. He gave me the inspiration to meld the styles of guitarists that didn’t even play ‘rock music’ into my own, and this series is my longer overdue, and in many ways heartfelt, tribute to him.

I will be going over some scales that Randy Rhoads used in this first part of the series ass I always do, so that you can get a feel for exactly what he was using before you see some of his music that I have transcribed. This way you will be able to recognise some of the theory being used and have a much better chance of being able to apply that theory on your own as well. Below this ext are some scales, all in the key of E, that I know Randy used in playing. Don’t worry of this terminology is a bit complicated; scales are just basically patterns of notes that you can use to find what notes fit a particular piece of music, and in the key of E means that the scales starts on an E note, and then repeats itself every time it reaches another E note.

First up in the Natural minor scale, which is one of the most emotional scales out there and is used frequently throughout rock music no matter what decade you’re from. Mr Crowley is a song Randy used this scale in.


Next up is the natural major scale, which is also used quite a lot in music, and is notably one of the happiest sounding scales in music.


Now here is another scale that Randy actually used on revelation (mother earth). This scale is slightly different to the two previous scales in that it is not in the same modal group.

Which means what exactly?

It means that if you were to change the root note, the note that the scale starts on, but then still follow the original pattern of note, you could get a natural minor scale by using the notes from the natural major scale, and visa versa. However, this next scale is in a different set of ‘modes’, so you can’t find it by using that same experimentation on the other two scales I’ve mentioned.

This one is called Harmonic minor.


Now to finish off the first part of this lesson I will give you a quick overview of what exactly Randy Rhoads used and how he used it. First up is that in comparison to other guitarists, such as Zakk Wylde (an avid Randy Rhoads fan) he used a lot less bass in his guitar sound. He also turned up the ‘middle’ dial (the dial that says middle over it, not simply the dial in the middle of the amp) on his amps, which is what gave him that ‘nasal’ quality to his guitar tone.

Most of you will be aware that Randy Rhoads used Marshall Amps, and probably most of you will be aware that he preferred having them painted white. However, one thing you must remember is that Randy Rhoads used Marshall Heads that he specifically requested that Marshall altered to give him more gain from the amp. This is one reason why it will be hard for you to get his tone immediately, as he was running through custom grade equipment, which is pretty much the highest grade there is. He used mainly either Gibson les Paul guitars or the now infamous Jackson Randy Rhoads flying ‘V’ style guitars that were custom made for him, which were also very high quality. You can find an entire list of his equipment on Wikipedia, but the important thing to remember is that the heart of Randy Rhoads’ guitar tone was how cleanly his guitar cut through the other instruments. Whether he was playing ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Diary of a madman’ or ‘Steal away (the night)’ his guitar was always cutting straight through the rest of the band so that you heard every little lick he played.

Tapping was another area where he differed from some, like EVH for example. He used his pick to tap instead of his fingers because he was learning classical guitar outside of his career with Ozzy, and he needed the long fingernails in order to pluck the strings effectively.

He also used diminished scales quite a lot during his solos, so any of you interested in learning some of his solos should look into the diminished scale as well. I will be putting up a lesson on it soon if I am able to do so.

As far as his style is concerned, I will be going into that in the next lessons in this series, but I will say this here and now. Randy was always a spontaneous player. He would be capable of immediately bringing a small lick or phrase out of his guitar to make sure that there were no gaps in the music. Speed was one aspect of his playing, but accuracy played a much greater part. You can play at 1000 miles per hour if you want, but if you crash then everyone will know. It’s better to start slow and keep your co-ordination at first than go too fast too soon, as you’ll just end up teaching yourself bad habits. Randy Rhoads used a lot of subtle tricks and complicated theory throughout his career, so if anything you should take extra special care when practicing his techniques. There are a lot of hidden traps you can fall into.

That’s pretty much it for this lesson, but I will have the next part up soon. I hope that this lesson has helped some of you out there.

Take care guys and I’ll see you next time!

Techniques of the heroes: Randy Rhoads part 2

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