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"Ron Thal Attacks"

Jeff Beasley holds B.A. degrees in Music and Classical Guitar. Jeff offers 27 years of experience in teaching, studio, and performance. He is endorsed by T. Sheppard guitars and is a member of the National Guitar Teachers Association. Jeff has taught guitar full-time for 17 years at A.B. Stephens Music in Huntsville, Alabama. He is currently priming the release of his first all-instrumental CD, "Tiebreaker", soon to be available at

Greetings to all you Musicians Hotline readers, and welcome to this month's lesson! I'm honored to say I've been collaborating with the incomparable Ron Thal of Bumblefoot, and will be doing so for the next couple of lessons. Ron is widely known as one of the cutting-edge guitarists on the music scene today. His playing and compositions are often humorous, yet always full of tremendous musical skill, depth and taste. Ron's talent has made a place for him as a modern guitar virtuoso, and has gained him comparisons to some of the greatest musicians in popular guitar music. Ron definitely expresses his own individuality in his music, not just in his super-human chops but also in his unique compositions. The examples in this lesson are unorthodox and at times super-human. The technical challenges presented here are formidable indeed, even for the seasoned player! So, good luck and let's get started!

Example 1: On Ron's 9.11 CD ((c)2001, Hermit Inc.), the song "Don Pardo Pimpwagon" is full of large intervals and chicken pickin' (flatpicking) mayhem. These approaches coupled with Ron's awesome speed make the following excerpts a technical tidal wave. Enjoy!

"Pimpwagon" guitar solo riff (0:13-0:23)

Example 2: Continuing with the same riff, we hear the incredible use of dissonance and Ron's ability to create an unusual chromatic resolution.

"Pimpagon" MP3 clip

Example 3: One of the many things that make me go "hmmm..." about Ron's playing is his use of a thimble on the 4th finger of the picking hand. The location of the thimble on the picking hand makes for easy accessibility and convenient use. In the song "Hands" (from the CD Hands, (c)1998, Hermit Inc.), tapping notes off the fretboard to achieve stratospherically high pitches is an excellent example of Ron's use of the thimble as a unique tool for slide guitar. The notes in this example that use the thimble are marked as the 24th, 26th and 27th frets. Ron explains his technique: "The tapped notes *sound* as if you were tapping where the 27th, 26th and 24th frets would be - but the notes are being tapped on the strings about 2 inches up from the bridge, so that the tapping cuts off the string from vibrating all the way to the bridge - it changes the intonation of the string and changes the pitch of the fretted notes to the pitches you'd find at the 27th/26th and 24th frets.  Vibrato on last tapped note is made from left hand, still holding the 18th fret behind the tapped note."  You must use the neck pickup to hear the correct notes on the string.

"Hands" guitar solo riff (3:43-3:45)

"Hands" MP3 clip

Example 4: Ron has an awesome picking technique and displays this in the song "Mine" from the Forgotten Anthology CD ((c)2003, Hermit Inc). Straight 32nds in a linear fashion show the depth of synchronization between Ron's left and right hands. Light-speed picking intertwined with fluid legato allow for the myriad of notes in a "roller coaster ride" melody. In this example the notes are grouped in a series of 8-, 9- and 10-note phrases, illustrated here with fragments of the first and last measures (there's some overlap in the diagrams here, too).

"Mine" guitar solo riff (1:33-1:43)

"Mine" MP3 clip

BBF explains: "The notes are in groups of 5, mostly alternate picked.  Every group of 5 notes will start on a down-stroke, then an up-upstroke, then down, up...  You have to fight the pull towards accenting in groups of 4 or 6 notes - takes some balance to keep the 5-note phrases stable..."

I'm really enjoying the interaction with Ron and the educational experience of his music. All of the examples he sent me for this month's lesson are fantastic. I'm so pleased to be able to share this with you, the reader/guitarist, and I'm sure with diligent study of Ron's music you will benefit as a musician tremendously. Milk each example and try to absorb all the meticulous details. Use Ron's abilities as an inspirational tool to motivate and push you to another level as a musician! You can learn more about Ron and Bumblefoot by visiting I'll see you guys next month with another Thal installment!

March 2004