Timing. Phrasing and Groove
So you have learned all those scales and chords and you are starting to be able to play quite a few songs and maybe even a few tasty guitar solos. Now we should consider your position as a guitarist in a band. No matter how good you get you will only sound as good as the band you are playing with ~ maybe a bit of an over simplification but stick with me for a while and I’ll try and explain……Imagine you are a top surfer with all the right gear ~ wet suit, “boutique” surf board etc. You take yourself along to the beach at Saltburn (a small seaside town near us) on a calm day with the “surf” barely reaching 2 foot. Will anyone watching be able to tell how good a surfer you are?Now take yourself off on a brief and imaginary trip to a sun kissed exotic beach in Honolulu where the breakers are bigger than your house. The scene is set and now with your skill and expertise you will be able to ride those waves effortlessly and you will amaze anyone watching with your undoubted courage, skill and prowess.
Let’s to return to your band ~ consider the groove being pumped out by your bass player and drummer, and maybe some tasty chops from your rhythm guitarist or keyboard player. The singer has done his / her thing in setting the scene for your guitar solo and everything is sounding great ~ now it’s over to you and everyone is watching and listening in anticipation for your guitar solo ~ time for you to “ride the wave”.
Now you have to take all that you have learned and apply it to the special and unique moment you find yourself in. Like the time you were the imaginary surfer on that giant breaker in Honolulu you must now apply all that you know to “riding the wave” created by your band. You must use what they are giving to you, the platform they have built, to your advantage. You will do this by taking all the scales, licks, arpeggios, chords that you know and applying them to the groove, pulse and rhythm of the music ~ locking everything you do into the sound being created by the band as a whole ~ “riding the wave”.
All those hours of practicing your scales, licks and arpeggios mean that you are (hopefully) now able to deliver them without thinking too much. So now your brain has the spare capacity to listen, feel and respond to the groove, pulse and rhythm of the music ~ to be CREATIVE.
So how do you develop your sense of timing, groove and rhythm?? Let’s start by thinking back to when you were learning to play one of your favourite guitar solos. You will have spent, hours, months, years (yes I’m still doing it!) figuring out all those notes then trying to apply them through your fingers to your guitar – not easy. Well let’s take a look at it all from a number of different perspectives. Firstly, put yourself in the drummer’s position ~ try to understand the music from their perspective. Listen to what they are doing ~ are they playing anything different during the guitar solo? Now do the same for the bass player and any other instruments in the band. Finally, listen to the guitarist again and see how they are using the music created by the band to their advantage – how they are “riding the wave”.
Finally, there is a term originating from Psychoanalysis which you may have come across ~ Gestalt ~ loosely translated as “the whole is greater than the sum of all the parts”. Consider that in relation to your playing in a band setting……..
Well after that brief period in imaginary projection and reflection it’s back to real work again I’m afraid….
Firstly, you could return to playing the solo in question along with the original track ~ over and over again. Then maybe record yourself playing it, take a break then sit back and listen critically to your playing ~ don’t be too hard on your self but try to hear any subtle difference between the sounds you are making and the original. I find in my teaching that this is the most difficult thing to get across. The student knows the scale and they can play the notes for the solo in question ~ but it just doesn’t sound right. The difference in one sense is tiny ~ down to very fine touch, subtle feel and correct phrasing. However, in another sense these details are precisely what makes a great guitar solo ~ so ignore them at your peril!
If all else fails ~ try this……..
Here’s the old music-talent coordination test used by Carnegie-Mellon’s School of Music (CMU), believed to have originated at either its predecessor Carnegie Tech, or at Rochester (Kodak?) School of Music,USA
- Use one foot to stomp quarter-notes in 4/4 time,
- Use the other foot to stomp half-notes (either 1 & 3 or 2 & 4, your choice),
- Use one hand to tap 8th-notes.
- The other hand does triplets, while maintaining the first three………good luck!!!
Or if you think this is too hard maybe you’d like to try drumming??
I hope this gave you some food for thought?? You will find many other free worksheets, and videos for all levels here