Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 7th Episode.
We’re already at the 7th installment of this 13 episode series of rock guitar improvisation ideas.
If you’re joining in this week, you can check the previous 6 blogs on rock soloing ideas here.
Let’s explore some more soloing concepts.
Combine even rhythmic divisions with the occasional triplet or even quintuplet.
The top guitarists on the planet all implement this concept in their soloing style.
You can hear combinations of even divisions (8ths, 16ths…) with triplets and quintuplets in the solos of Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Greg Howe, Guthrie Govan, Ritchie Kotzen, Jimmy Herring, Shawn Lane, and every top-level guitarist.
How do you practice this or make this part of your style?
Take a 4 note grouping, for example, C D E F
Play these as 16th notes.
Take a 3 note grouping, for example, C D E, and play those as a triplet.
So you get four 16ths on beat 1, triplet on beat 2, four 16ths on beat 3, and triplet again on beat 4. Keep alternating.
Do this with a metronome.
If you want to practice combining 16ths with quintuplets, alternate between CDEF and CDEFG
Keep in mind that these are just examples.
You want to get creative with this.
You could do CDEF and GAB (16ths and triplet)
Or CDEF and GABCD (16ths and quintuplet)
The notes don’t have to go in order. You could make it more intervallic.
You could also play the 4 note grouping as 8ths instead of 16ths, etc.
The most challenging part you will face: performing the triplets and the quintuplets evenly.
The following blog gives you an exercise to practice this:
Practice Rhythm: Counting while Walking
Rhythmic displacement of a phrase
This is a big chapter I teach in my lessons, which would take a couple of blogs only to discuss this one concept.
The principle is this: you play a certain melody line, and then later on you repeat that exact same melody line, but start it on another beat or off-beat.
You can hear this concept in the soloing of all the jazz greats, including John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.
The rhythmic displacement of the melody changes the character of that melody.
It almost sounds like a different melody.
Here’s another fun application of this.
While your rhythm section is smoking during a jam or live show, play a melody line that everybody knows (like “Frere Jacques” or “Twinkle Little Star”), but deliberately start the melody on the 2nd beat of the bar, or on the 2nd eight of beat number 3, or anywhere than beat 1.
These are really creative soloing ideas.
Then there is also this more advanced application you can hear in the improvisations of guys like Chick Correa or Herbie Hancock.
The idea is that you take a melodic sequence or scale pattern.
Here’s 2 examples of pentatonic scale patterns:
In the 2 above examples, when you play them through, you’ll hear that both examples consist of a 4-note melodic pattern that moves as a sequence through the A minor pentatonic scale.
It’s also fairly easy to hear the 4-note sequence repeating because the notes are played as constant even 8th notes.
But what if you played the notes of the above scale patterns, not as constant 8th notes, but as this following rhythm:
Now the sequence would get displaced because you’re playing a 4 note melodic pattern with a 5-hit rhythm pattern.
So note number 1 of the second 4-note grouping (or in other words: note number 5 of the melody), would now fall on the last eight of the first bar.
When the rhythm repeats, or in other words, bar 2: would now start on the 2nd note of the next 4-note melodic sequence, and the whole melody gets displaced with one 8th note.
Every bar, because there are 5 rhythmic hits/events in each bar, would displace the 4-note melodic sequence with another 8th note.
If this is too much or confusing, you can hear how it sounds like in the video below.
Displacement of melodic sequences is too big a chapter beyond the scope of this blog post.
I promise there will be another blog in the future, specifically only covering this technique.
Be aware and Listen!
Listen to your band.
Listen to the people you play with.
I can’t state this point often enough, because very often, I hear guitar students miss tons of fantastic opportunities to pick up on rhythmic cues or ideas their rhythm section just played.
It is very obvious in jam sessions or guitar lessons who really listens to what’s going on, and who is just in his own little world going through the motions.
If you’re too much in your head, and not communicating (which requires more than anything “listening”) with your band members, you will miss really cool things they are doing, which you could feed off of with your solo.
The more you feed off the cool rhythmic and harmonic information they are giving you, the more interesting your solo will sound.
If you use their cues as a source of inspiration to build your solo from, this also relieves you from constantly having to reinvent the wheel.
Listen to the people you are playing with. Don’t miss the cool things they do. It’s the people you play with, who make soloing fun.
You want to play phrases that tell a cool story along with their chord progressions.
This is how you make magic happen.
One (not so subtle) example of this, that comes to mind, would be Jimi’s performance of Machine Gun on Band of Gypsies.
Jimi copies the drummer’s “machine gun” like snare hits at 9:42.
Another example would be where the vocalist sings a line, and you immediately right after copy his melody on your guitar.
Or the bassist suddenly plays a certain line, and you copy the rhythm of his line.
The musicians you play with, typically play tons of cool cues you can pick up on and play with during a jam.
Rely more on your ear when you improvise.
This is as opposed to just playing preconceived (or pre-programmed, prefabricated) riffs and licks that you get stuck in.
For the record: there is nothing wrong with using familiar licks or riffs.
That is called “building a vocabulary” and it’s an important part of building your soloing identity.
However: in this particular case, I’m specifically referring to guitarists who get stuck only playing visual scale shapes and patterns they are familiar with, instead of letting their ears guide their fingers to great melodies.
A checklist of points to ponder:
- Ear training is important and pays off big time in improved soloing.
Check here for ET (ear training) drills and info.
- Really focus on crafting great, moving melodies on the spot, relying on your ear to guide your fingers.
- Avoid just playing visual patterns and stock phrases that are merely inspired by scale shapes. Shift your focus from visual to aural.
- Avoid basing your phrases on riffs, fills and other preconceived, or prefabricated lines and clichés you’re used to playing. There is nothing wrong with having the occasional phrase like this. This only becomes an issue, if that is the only thing you’re doing.
- Avoid the temptation to want to play something fast just for the sake of it, or to try to do anything just for the sake of it.
Focus on your ear, and try to have your ear guide your fingers to cool melody lines.
- Again: Shift your focus away from visual… to aural.
Move around more.
Avoid staying in the same range too long for too many phrases in a row.
A good solo moves. It goes somewhere.
Go all the way from the low notes on the low E string, to the high notes on the high E string.
Hit me up anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
These free lessons are cool, but you will never experience the progress, joy, and results that my students experience in lessons when you’re learning by yourself from blogs and videos.
That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas than you can get from a blog or YouTube video.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.
If you want to see amazing results and progress in your guitar playing, buy your first lesson here and get started ASAP.
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