Who is the most influential electric guitarist of all time? Hendrix? Clapton? Page? Van
Halen? Wrong. You’ll need some lethal debate skills to prove that any rock guitarist would
even have a stage to stand on without help from St. Louis’ own Charles Edward Anderson
Berry—“Chuck” to his fans and friends. With his rapid-fire two-string eighth-note riffs and
legendary stage swagger, Berry single-handedly put rock and roll guitar on the map. So,
if all guitarists have ol’ Chuck to thank, then who the heck influenced him?
You don’t need to be a musicologist to hear how Berry took boogie woogie piano riffs,
applied them to guitar, and cranked ’em through an amp so loud that asbestos flakes
likely snowed down on the Eisenhower-era gymnasium crowds he so thoroughly “reeled
and rocked” in the ’50s and beyond. Berry’s sound, of course, opened the floodgates to
so many wild electric guitar styles that today, unfortunately, most guitarists rarely look to
other instruments for inspiration.
Los Angeles-based guitar guru Jean-Marc Belkadi is one of the exceptions.
“The polytonal and bi-tonal licks I’m going to show you are directly inspired by listening to
pianists such as Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, as well as saxophone players like
Michael Brecker and Joe Henderson,” says Belkadi, one day before embarking on a
clinic tour of Europe (which would include a stop in his native city of Toulouse, France).
The examples Belkadi shares can be used in rock, jazz, fusion, even shred metal, and
they all have a cool, modern sound. And, thanks to sweep technique, they can each be
played quite fast. Also, any of the examples can be used as an exercise to improve sweep
timing, because keeping the notes evenly spaced as you rake your pick across the
strings in either direction is one of the trickiest challenges of the style.
Sensei to the Stars
You don’t have to be an amateur guitarist to need guitar lessons. Even the pros like a
good schoolin’ now and again. And if you’re a professional guitarist, singer, or actor in the
Los Angeles area who’s fishing around for a guitar teacher, it probably won’t be long
before someone refers you to Jean-Marc Belkadi. Like his mentor, the late, great guitar
genius Ted Greene, Belkadi is quickly emerging as one of the most in-demand and
respected guitar instructors in Southern California and beyond. Over the years, the
former GIT staffer’s roster of students has included Dweezil Zappa, Ricardo Montalban,
Rafael Moreira (Rock Star house band), Joe Holmes (Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth),
Joel Whitley (Stevie Wonder, Lauryn Hill), Justin Derrico (Pink), singer/actress/John
Denver ex-wife Cassandra Delaney, Matchbox Twenty drummer Paul Doucette, Sean
Matthew Landon (Michael Landon’s son), Austin Ward (Sela Ward’s son), and even
Martin Chirac (grandson of the former President of France, Jacques Chirac).
By loose definition, a polytonal melody travels through multiple keys, chords, and/or
harmonies in a relatively short amount of time, typically over a static background key. If
the phrase tags only one other tonality, it can be more specifically described as bi-tonal.
Tips From the Grand Master
When it comes to sweep picking, Frank Gambale is the style’s undisputed champion, in
both senses of the word. With his impossibly fluid lines and flawless command of the
technique (shows marked superiority), Gambale is unparalleled as a sweep picker. Plus,
he has always been the style’s most impassioned and articulate proponent (militant
advocate or defender). In the September ’87 GP, Gambale shared some of his insights
into his signature playing approach with an eloquent lesson article entitled, simply,
“Sweep Picking.” Here are some of the pointers he offered:
1.Keep the notes as separate as possible—almost staccato (short)—at first, especially
when crossing multiple strings. Newcomers to sweeping tend to run the notes together.
2.Watch your picking hand and make sure you are using a single movement when
sweeping across strings, not separate successive strokes.
3.Always practice with a metronome or drum machine, making sure that the notes are
clean and even.
4.Be critical and honest when evaluating yourself. It’s harder to sweep at slower tempos,
so start with medium ones (sixteenths at q=60-100 bpm)
Extreme Sweeping: Jean-Marc Belkadi’s Polytonal Plectrum Pyrotechnics
BY Jude Gold Guitar Player Magazine 2011 Vault Issue
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|EX. 1 "This is a bi-tonal lick combining
various C and Bb major triads", says
Belkadi. Try it over C7 vamp for a nice
C Mixolydian sound, or over a static
Bb major background harmony to effect
a more "outside" Bb Lydian vibe. Keep
the notes evenly spaced in time, even if
it means you have to slow the phrase
|EX. 2 Truly polytonal, this sweeper
contains multiple major triads (can you
ID'em all?) from the G diminished
"half/whole" scale ( G, Ab, A#, B, C#, D,
E, F). Use this colorful Belkadi phrase
for wacky sounds over G7 jams. Or think
of G13 b9 as the V chord and resolve
the angular lick with the saccharin
sweetness of a C major (I)
|EX. 3 Here's a fun "Swiffer" riff that
employs three major triads and jumps
aound the fretboard in leaps of a minor
third. For a trippy modal sound, play it
over plain ol' C major.
|EX. 4 Use this sweeping weapon to
mount a major 7 assault on the key of
A minor using saucy G# that imply
Am(maj7). This is also Belkadi's first
example that intermingles solo
(single-string) picked notes with multi-
|EX. 5 Another Am(maj7) excursion,
this passage has two things in common with
the previous example:1) The second bar is a
melodic mirror of the first (notice it is visually
symetrical to the preceding bar), and 2)
If you want to remain in the multi-string sweep
realm, you may play the first note in each
descending grouping as an extension of the
same upward sweep that carries you through
the ensuing three notes. (The second note in
each cluster will have to be played as a pull-off)
When ascending (bar2), simply hammer every
fourth note to stay in sweep land.
|EX. 6 "Here's a bi-tonal idea based up around
the 12th fret, says Belkadi. Again, notice the
musical mirror (bar2).