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Anatomy of a Guitar Lick 1 - How to Play Gary Moore's Parisienne Walkways Fast Run

One of those guitar licks that's remained Greek to me forever, here we'll pull it apart and take a deep look into the difference between nearly playing and really playing it!

The fast passage from Parisienne Walkways
A real fistful to tackle! Practise small and slow to start!

Back to the Drawing Board!

Lightning-fast, the single bar shown above and played at 1m34s (click the video below to hear it) of the original Thin Lizzy recording can be learned by anyone if approached in the manner we'll examine below.

Click to hear that ripping lick!

This is a lick I thought I could nearly play back way in the 80s but it's also one I've never managed to bring to the stage where I can really play it! Here's the last time I tried playing along with this one in what feels like a different lifetime back in 2009. I was aiming for a cover rather than a copy but you'll see below that I was way off with the lick under consideration!

A few pounds lighter back then!

Let's see what breaking it down and approaching it the Taplature way does for things! Demonstrations for all the examples used here are available in the video below:

Click to view the companion video to this article

Stage 1 - Making Sense of the Timing

The lick fills a full bar of 12/8 timing (which can be viewed as 4 beats in swing rhythm). First up was to zoom in using the wonders of modern technology to isolate each of the beats which I've presented below in audio format and bite-sized Taplature loops.For ease of access I've initially "magnified" and drawn out each beat (as viewed in swing rhythm) into a full bar in 3/8 time (3 beats/foot taps per bar).

Breaking it Down - Beat 1

Beat 1 slowed down

1st beat of fast Parisienne Walkways lick shown in 3 count timing
Beat 1 - Nothing too frightening here

Breaking it Down - Beat 2

Beat 2 slowed down

2nd beat of fast Parisienne Walkways lick shown in 3 count timing
Beat 2 - Starting to speed up now

Just a few semiquavers (16th notes) here to navigate rhythmically. The 3 fingers per string legato might take a little more practice if you've never tried it before! If this is causing you problems then see here for an in-depth examination of the technique required!

Breaking it Down - Beat 3

Beat 3 slowed down

3rd beat of fast Parisienne Walkways lick shown in 3 count timing
Beat 3 - Upping the speed again with semiquaver/16th note triplets

The "third beat" (of this full beat) includes a mix of semiquavers and semiquaver triplets. This might be confusing if you've never come across a combination like this before so we'll take a deeper look into it now.

(Click here for demonstration) What we have above is a beat containing 5 semiquaver notes played in 5:16 rhythm (five sixteenth notes per beat). When viewed in Taplature format things aren't too complex; we'll play 2 even notes on the down foot and 3 on the up foot. Here's how we can learn to do that in a systematic way:

Understanding 5:16 timing -

5 Semiquavers per Beat

Let's examine two example beats, each derived from the 5:16 pattern under examination. First we'll take the first half of the beat (the down foot) and replicate that on the second half (the up foot):

Pull-offs in semiquavers/16th notes
Pulloffs in semiquavers/16th notes

2 even notes on the down foot and 2 on the up foot give us a standard semiquaver pattern I often translate into "Chicken Chicken" (click here for demonstration).

Doing similarly with the second half of the beat (the up foot) and replicating that to the down foot gives this pattern:

3 finger per string pull-offs in sextuplets
3 finger per string pull-offs in sextuplets (6 notes per beat)

3 even notes on both down-foot and up-foot gives us a 6 even notes per beat rhythm (sextuplets) which I usually call "Hickory Dickory" (from the nursery rhyme). When you are familiar with each, the "trick" is to alternate the down foot rhythm of the first example with the up foot rhythm of the second, giving us a rhythm across the beat of "Chicken Dickory". The best way to get this to work is to first practise speaking just the words "Chicken Dickory" in time with a bare foot tap. Until you are sure this is perfect then trying to play the notes correctly may remain out of reach!

Semiquavers played in 5:16 timing
Perfect 5:16 semiquavers (16th notes)

Finally we can add this beat back into the full 3 beat pattern, making our 3rd building block!

3rd beat of fast Parisienne Walkways lick shown in 3 count timing
Beat 3 - Hopefully makes sense by now!

Breaking it Down - Beat 4

Beat 4 slowed down

4th beat of fast Parisienne Walkways lick shown in 3 count timing
Beat 4 - Rapid fire until the end!

This beat also contains the 5:16 rhythm we just examined above which can be learned using the same method.

Now Build it Up!

In the usual Taplature fashion we'll now start building the individual beats together, first in pairs:

Looping beats 1 & 2 of Parisienne Walkways fast lick
Beats 1 & 2 looped - Half the battle

Looping beats 3 & 4 of Parisienne Walkways fast lick
Beats 3 & 4 Looped - the other half!

Beats 3 & 4 looped (Click here for demonstration)

... and once each of these works individually, then putting all 4 beats together for the full lick!

Looping all 4 beats of Parisienne Walkways fast lick
All 4 beats in sequence!

The Final Product!

At last we can plug this 4 beat (4 bar) lick into its rightful place giving the full effect. Here I've continued out of it to land on the A power chord at the start of the next bar and used the lead-in to loop back in to the main lick. I've also changed my foot tap to a swing beat, meaning we replace 6 foot movements with just 2 for each of the examples we've seen. That might take you a bit of thought and practice to get used to; it's simpler and feels more natural to me when you can do it this way but it will rely on a thorough understanding of what we've seen so far!

The full Parisienne Walkways lick in Swing Timing
The full Parisienne Walkways lick looped with "lead-in"

Download the MIDI backing used in the video below:

parisienne walkways fast lick
Download 7Z • 3KB

The Steady Path to Success!

With a grip of basic rhythm skills (swing rhythm and semiquavers, click links for crash courses if you're struggling), there shouldn't be anything here that's off-limits to most if approached correctly!

Don't worry if you're not as fast as Gary Moore yet (I'm pretty sure I'm not either as I type this before recording the accompanying video). Don't even worry if you have to go at micro-speeds to get it right. You'll be learning all the way! What's important is that we keep improving and the only way to know that for sure is to monitor our progress. Keeping track of our top speeds on the full lick and its building blocks lets us know when our practice is working, and when it's not!

Keep climbing and eventually you'll reach the top!

It's you against yourself when it comes down to it and bear in mind that even a jump in top speed from 30 to 40bpm is a 33% increase! What's more, improving your technique (both mental and physical) with this pattern will have knock-on effects in many other areas of your playing. I've added sheets to let you keep track of your progress on all the examples included here to the free download "Discover Taplature" sent to all subscribers to this website. Grab your copy today and watch yourself improving!

"Discover Taplature" - Free 68 page Ebook plus Companion Video

Click above to download!

It's over 30 years since I first tried making sense of this lick but you can do it today using the method above. As to how long before you can play it up to speed with the passion of Gary Moore ... that's down to you!

Any queries or problems with anything in this article, see you either in the comments below or in the Taplature Forum!

Enjoy! Old Swanner.

Related Article: Learn to Play the Sweet Child O' Mine Wah Wah Lick Related Forum Post: Be Careful with a Fool - Johnny Winter Guitar Lesson (another blistering lick in swing timing)


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