Rick Beato breaks down Nuno Bettencourt’s jaw-dropping solo from new Extreme single Rise, and yes, it is still impossible to play

Extreme announcing their long-awaited return with new single Rise was the biggest story in guitar that week not because it had been 15 long years since their last studio album, but because it was a reintroduction to the frontier-guitar genius of Nuno Bettencourt, who had just tracked the year’s best guitar solo – and maybe a solo for the all-time list.

Maybe it’s too soon to call it on the last point, but we’d bet good money that when the year ends, nothing is going to come close to the show of electric guitar pyro that Bettencourt puts on in Rise. 

Rise was the first single to be shared from the Boston hard-rock band’s forthcoming studio album, Six, and it features Bettencourt in blazing form, constructing a bridge between old-school hard rock with some avant-garde methodology, i.e. using the minor blues scale for basic vocabulary, tremolo picking and divebombs a la Eddie Van Halen, before taking this into a sound and technique that is totally alien and beyond the ken of regular mortals. 

Deploying his sui generis picking and muting at hyper-quick speed, Bettencourt takes this solo into the realms of you have to see it to believe it. If it were a lesser player, you’d be wondering if the pedalboard was offering assistance. 

As Rick Beato says in his latest YouTube video, it’s the solo everyone is talking about, and the producer, sessionist and Gibson signature artist took some time to break this one down and offer his insight.

For anyone looking for a leg up in learning Rise, Beato offers a secure foothold, walking through the riff in drop D, discussing the chord progression and why that works – as ever with Bettencourt, it’s always clever musicianship, all composed to give the track the tension and energy it needs. Then Beato arrives at the solo.

“Wow! Okay, so the first half of the solos is just incredible,” he says. “It’s very, very, very Nuno. But with the Van Halen tremolo picking. I love this. It’s such an aggressive style, but it’s very much like his Get The Funk Out style in that it’s really his own thing, and it’s so… digging in! And aggressive!”

This is classic Bettencourt. However, as Bettencourt promised upon the album’s announcement, this is Extreme. Expect the unexpected, and the aforementioned section of the solo that Beato calls “false fingering”, which sounds like a technique players like Shane Theriot gleaned from listening to saxophone players. Either way, It’s something Beato is familiar with, only that Bettencourt’s speed just kills him.

“The note choice and everything, when he plays those blues licks, they’re just blazing,” says Beato. “But then you get to that false-fingering part, which is beautiful. This is the kind of stuff I like to do. I can’t do it fast like him. You can hear that there’s a pattern to it.”

It’s hard to play, and if you are trying to play along, don’t practise it for too long because you’re gonna get tendonitis

Rick Beato

And this, says Beato, is the key. This is the Rosetta Stone, the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx. But it is knowledge that is only going to serve you well once you have developed the chops to play it at tempo. As with all the impossible guitar parts, Bettencourt’s Rise solo becomes possible once you take it slow and work on building it up to speed. But it’s not just getting it to speed; it’s not just getting your fingers to the notes: it’s replicating that same level of attack and conviction that’s the difference. 

Beato gives us the note pattern but sounds a note of caution for those of a mind to lose some serious hours trying to get this one down.

“It’s hard to play, and if you are trying to play along, don’t practise it for too long because you’re gonna get tendonitis,” he says. “Because I think I got tendonitis just from trying to play it slowly here. It’s kind of a complex pattern, but once you get it I think you’ll be able to play if fast if you practise it.”

Read more: Song Stories

Extreme live

(Image credit: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Nuno Bettencourt tells the story of Extreme's More Than Words: "The melody was dictating where the chords were going. I remember telling Gary, ‘Look, I’ve got something pretty interesting here'"

Then you’ve got to get the tone. Beato says there’s a delay pedal on it. There sounds like there’s some modulation. Getting that string contact correct is the biggest step. From there, everything else is possible. From there, well, it’s another technique to use however you choose.

Beato might not have the solo down yet. But guitar teacher and YouTuber Jimi Wolf has got it tabbed for those looking for a challenging practice project for the weekend. Wolf credits Bettencourt as “a master at creating audio illusions” with his instrument, and suggests approaching the second half of the solo with economy picking. 

That sage pastoral advice from Beato still stands; start out slow, work the pattern, take your time. It looks like it'll be fun one to play once you've nailed it

When Rise was released, Bettencourt admitted that he wanted to push things a little with the instrument, that he was cognisant that the loss of Eddie Van Halen left a void in guitar culture. We needed players to step in and do something spectacular.

“When Eddie Van Halen passed, it really hit me,” said Bettencourt. “I’m not going to be the one who will take the throne, but I felt some responsibility to keep guitar playing alive. So, you hear a lot of fire on the record.” 

Promises made, promises kept so far. Extreme’s new album, Six, is out on 9 June via earMUSIC. 

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.