Home  ›  Q&A

Slash Licks When Transitioning Riffs

Question by Andrew
(Boston, MA)

I'm a huge Slash fan and although I'm not the most talented guitar player, I enjoy messing around with some of his riffs and licks.

I've noticed that in many of his songs, especially in the beginning in the opening riffs, when the song is about to shift into the first verse or something similar, the lead guitar (Slash's obviously) will break into a 4 beat (usually) quick little transition riff.

It's in so many of his songs, and I'm sure other guitarists use this too, and the sound is great. I just can't replicate it.

If you know what I'm talking about, can you tell me what he's doing, what scale he's improvising off of, and the keys to getting this great transition sound. Thanks a lot.


Andrew, I managed to find an upload of the studio recording of Welcome to the Jungle with Slash only. This really helps to clarify what he's playing during these transitions, as they get buried beneath the full band on the album track and live recordings.

What he seems to be doing most of the time is playing little flourishes around the blues and major/minor pentatonic scales, based on the root of the main riff.

Below is the scale I would reference when analyzing these licks. I call it the "blues major" scale, because as well as the flat 5th it includes the major 3rd and also a passing major 7th. It looks a bit strange compared to other scales because of the chromatic arrangement of tones, but much of Slash's repertoire is built around this scale...

blues scale with major 3rd and major 7th

For example (the video should automatically start just before the licks in question)...

Here he's inserted a simple bluesy pentatonic run as follows (root on G#, E string 4th fret, although I think he tunes down a half step)...

Slash lick from Welcome to the Jungle

Shortly after that, you can hear another flourish, again using chromatic movements from the blues major scale...

Slash riff in Welcome to the Jungle

Note the slides on the last four notes.

I find it useful to slow these licks down so I can break them down more easily. You can either use free editing software such as Audacity or buy a program like Riff Master Pro for more user friendly way to slow down music files.

See if you can come up with your own licks by playing a riff around that root E string and then applying the above scale in short, 16th note bursts.

Also, take a look at the guitar scale exercises page, as the first lesson covers run patterns, which is what Slash is using in a lot of these flourishes.

Hope that helps! Any questions, just ask below.

Share Your Comments

Click here to add your own comments

Thanks for answering my questions
By: Andrew

Thanks Mike,

from looking at a lot of Slash's music, I've seen that you leaves that pentatonic major/minor scale, again, I've just never been able to replicate the sound in my own music. Slowing licks down is a great idea and I'll make sure to study the scale you included in greater detail. Thanks a lot.



Click here to add your own comments

Ask Your Own Question