The name Tony MacAlpine is synonymous with modern musical virtuosity. Whether performing as a solo artist, band member, session player, touring hired-gun, or as a producer, Tony MacAlpine continues to prove that he truly is one of rock's most amazing and versatile musicians. He incorporates classical, jazz and fusion influences into the hard rock/metal genre on both guitar and keyboards.and a number of other band projects. In addition, MacAlpine has contributed both guitar an... (more)
Tony currently offers 33 guitar lessons at JamPlay, with 33 lessons in our Artist Series.
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Dig into the style and technique of one of the most accomplished and creative guitarists of his era! Ever a true clinician, Tony MacAlpine breaks down over 30 song passages from his extensive catalogue while offering pointed instruction on melodic development, composition, soloing, picking and legato techniques and more!
Get a taste of what to expect from Tony's Master Course.
Sit back and relax before the mayhem begins! Tony talks about his career and music, and offers some solid advice for the aspiring musician in us all.
Dive head first into Tony’s style with some signature string-skipping action. Tony’s string skipping technique is unmistakably recognizable and this short passage is a great place to start when working on this kind of playing.
The driving, staccato rhythm found in Concrete Gardens will make you feel like a superhero. Tony keeps things efficient with alternate picking, and crisp with the use of palm muting.
Using a sequential idea repeated on different sets of strings, Tony shares another idea that requires not only some strategic picking, but also some key hammer-ons, in order to make it flow correctly.
While the drums and rhythm guitar are driving like a freight train, Tony throws this clean, chorus laden tone over the top, creating a rich texture that he likes to refer to as “icing on the cake.”
This motif is sure to make your head spin. It goes up as it goes down, is highly syncopated, and is utilizing the dirty, low 7-string sound.
Get ready to challenge both your brain and your fingers. This line requires quickly switching between finger patterns while maintaining a consistent picking pattern.
Tony has a way of using rhythm and repetition along with complex harmony structures to create things that stick in your ears. There are some seriously weird harmonic ideas going on in this melody. In an important way, the rhythmic consistencies, though odd as well, hold it together and make it approachable.
Let’s rewind a bit and check out the opening rhythm to this fascinating piece. Combining multiple techniques, including muting and hammer-on’s, this line feeds off of and accentuates the bass and drum parts happening in the track.
When applying altered tonalities, you’re intentionally trying change what the normal flow of the music would be. In essence, you’re in one tonal space, but you’re borrowing notes from where the song is going in order to set up what you haven’t played yet! Here, we start in a major key but it begins to sound oddly harmonic minor in the way the chords move under what Tony plays. You’ll hear two big pay off notes in the sequence that bring all the crazy ideas together!
Break away from terrifying guitar ideas in this segment with a simple, catchy melody that outlines the strongest notes in a basic chord progression. Tony plays a good ‘road-trip type’ groove with it, and shares a part of one of his most requested songs. This is a fantastic melody and progression to dive into if you want to gain insights in developing your own melodies. Also, pay careful attention to Tony’s subtle phrasing nuances as he works through the slow and flowing melody.
Tony first outlines the chord progression and explains how it inspired the solo he plays over a passage from his popular song “Dream Mechanism.” He drives home the point that, for him, some of the most inspiring melodies come from simply following where a chord progression wants to go. You’ll hear Tony’s Classically-influenced composition tendencies combined with some great straight ahead rock.
Upon first glance, this line looks and sounds like a raking or sweeping idea. Closer examination by Tony reveals that it can be more fluidly done with legato playing. These arpeggios are what tie the broader melody of the song together, so it is important that they are clean, not too percussive, and sit just right in the groove. They go by fast when played up to tempo so be sure to pour over the meticulous breakdown that Tony offers.
There’s a lot to unpack in this flurry of notes. You’ll be employing three-note-per-string sequencing, precision alternate picking and rapid position shifts. The position shifts actually create an opportunity to have more uniform fingering throughout. Rather than trying to stay in position, the player can simply repeat the same fingering over and over again making faster speeds easier to attain. This is one of those runs that does a great job setting up a soaring target note.
You’ll get to stay in position, play in harmonic minor and utilize some punchy triplet ideas within an otherwise slower sequence. The rhythmic variance is challenging from a picking perspective and it is easy to tense up when trying to harness these short bursts of speed. Tony recommends taking the triplet transitions out of context to practice them first so you get the feel of how the pick is supposed to speed up. Then, when you’ve got these down, work them back into the full sequence.
Tony breaks down a run from his song “Poison Cookies” that has garnered many questions since he introduced it on his album Concrete Gardens. It goes by so fast live and on the record, that it appears to be more complex than it actually is! You’ll notice with Tony’s slow breakdown of the line, that it is largely triad-based and utilizes a strategic blend of legato playing and consecutive picking. Tony also covers the harmony of the chord progression and how it ties into the line itself.
Continuing with his glimpse into the song “Poison Cookies,” Tony looks at the build up to the solo section as an example of repeating rhythmic motifs that move from chord to chord over a progression. The main focus in learning this passage should be on making sure the rhythm is showcased as that is what is going to ‘hook’ the listener’s ear. Part of representing the rhythm correctly means paying particular attention to pick accenting and palm muting, even when the line speeds up towards the end.
Tony examines the chorus outro into the run from his song “Poison Cookies.” When this passage is played live, it is played with multiple guitar players. Tony discusses the keys to locking in with other players, especially in a lead guitar context and highlights several target notes in the line that serve as landing points for all players involved. To get the full effect of this lesson, practice playing with Tony as well as over the backing track.
This catchy line is sure to have you coming back for more. Built off of the open B string, the straightforward rhythm and melodic movement just feel good under your fingers. The string skipping and speed of this line may be challenging, but with some work, you’ll get there. This line really holds the band together, and is a key element to the feel of the song.
With lines like this, many guitar players default to sweep picking. Tony asserts that in this case, these arpeggios really need to be approached with alternate picking in order to get the proper note separation. Sticking with alternate picking also helps to employ some of the other techniques Tony is using in this passage. As he outlines an epic chord progression, you’ll get to incorporate advanced muting techniques and strategic legato playing over an expansive arpeggio line.
Get a crash course in melodic development using what Tony calls a “mini ballad” or a song within a song. The idea is that you create a melodic phrase that stands apart from the rest of the song and make a hook out of it. It not only provides a nice solace in the middle of an otherwise high-intensity environment, but is a fantastic exercise in putting melody first. If you can think of your guitar as a voice, you’ll be one step closer to coming up with great melodies.
Whole tone scales are notoriously difficult to apply. Tony shares a great example of incorporating this scale in his tune “Epic” by emphasising other, more melodic notes not included in the whole tone scale. He also creates a catchy sequence that follows along with other band members. The result is a chaotic yet calculated sound that brings the whole band to a single moment.
The title of this track says it all. The long ringing tones of this rhythmic line are nothing short of epic. While this piece is relatively easy, some of the muting could present a challenge. The harmonies present will also force your ear outside of the box. The band all seems to be doing something different, but holding your own as the guitarist is crucial to achieving the aggressive sound Tony is going for.
Tony uses neighbor tones in this lick to create a smooth, vocal-like line.
Tony teaches portions of the rhythm section from Napolean's Puppet.
Taking parts from Napolean's Puppet, Tony teaches a line that utilizes the whammy bar.
Tony teaches a legato line taken from Napolean's Puppet.
Tony teaches part four from Napolean's Puppet. This one will require a good level of dexterity and knowledge of alternate picking to accomplish.
Tony teaches the solo from King's Rhapsody which encompasses multiple lines simultaneously.
Tony teaches Line 2 of the King's Rhapsody solo which encompasses an ensemble like sound.
Tony uses an octave based melody in lesson 32 to teach the third line of the King's Rhapsody Solo.
Tony MacAlpine puts on a live concert and then answers your questions. Come see amazing live performances of his songs, and hear his distilled wisdom. Tony truly is one of the best guitar players in history.