Repetition Of Musical Ideas Creates A Sense of Direction In Your Solo
I touched upon this in a blog in the past, and I want to get a little deeper into this improvisation technique.
All too often, when guitar students play guitar solos, their improvisations sound like they are meandering about without any clear direction.
The main reason for this is a lack of repetition.
So we’re talking about 2 different types of repetition here:
- Repeating notes numerous times in a row within your melodic phrases.
- Repeating the ending of your previous phrase as a starting point for your next phrase.
Have Note Repetitions In Your Melodic Phrases.
Not repeating notes in phrases makes it sound like you’re not making “strong statements”.
You’re just moving on from a note to the next note to the next note without really saying anything.
It’s really striking and interesting how much stronger a phrase sounds if it contains note repetitions.
It makes it sound like you “REALLY” meant to say that phrase.
When you repeat a particular note in a phrase a couple of times in a row: don’t play the repetitions rhythmically evenly.
Play rhythmic games with the notes you repeat. This sounds more interesting.
Start the New Phrase with The Ending of The Previous One
A great soloing technique: start your next melody line with the ending of the previous one you played.
Think of this technique as a tool in your bag of soloing tricks.
This is not something you “have to” apply all the time.
It is just a technique that you want to be aware of, and that you want to use whenever you feel like it or whenever your solo calls for it.
There are 2 things you establish with this technique”
- A sense of direction
- A sense of connectedness.
Both these elements are essential to good storytelling.
A solo should be like a story you tell, phrase by phrase.
An important point about this technique is that your next phrase should start with more than merely the last note in your previous phrase.
You should repeat enough of the musical material of the previous phrase to make it obvious that you’re repeating the ending of your previous phrase.
To make the analogy to language, you want to say:
“Yesterday I went to the music store and I bought a new amplifier. Yeah… I bought a new amplifier because my previous amp died of old age”
“Yesterday I went to the music store and I bought a new amplifier. Yeah… amplifiers can be really darn loud when you crank them”
The 2nd example isn’t really going anywhere.
You sure are starting your next statement with the last word of your previous statement. However: it is not enough repetition of words to really build further on the previous statement.
Every sentence is an entirely different topic in that example.
We don’t talk like that. We talk in paragraphs: groupings of sentences about a given topic.
In the first example, however: there is a strong sense of storytelling.
The 2nd sentence builds further on the first one.
That is why in your solo, it’s not good enough to just start with the last note you just played.
The repetition needs to be “recognizable” and “obvious”.
The only way to achieve that is by using more information of your previous phrase into the new phrase.
1-Note Rhythmic Phrases
your solo should also have the occasional 1-note rhythmic phrase.
In these kinds of phrases: your focus is on rhythm, not on melody.
The principle is simple: play rhythmic patterns on 1 note.
The whole focus for this is on the picking hand, not the fretting hand.
You of course want to play around with:
- how long or short you make the note,
- how little or how much space you leave in between the note repetitions,
- how hard or soft you attack the note,
- which rhythmic combinations you put into your patterns,
- where you place the pattern,
- speeding up or slowing down notes,
- playing them offbeat, behind the beat, ahead or on the beat,
By the way: playing numerous 1-note rhythmic phrases in a row is a great tension builder.
It makes the melodic phrase you play after, sound like an explosion, like a relief.
The following videos show these 3 repetition techniques in action:
Have fun with this.
If you didn’t know about these techniques yet: be prepared to hear your solos sound a lot stronger very soon. 🙂
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