Tips for improving phrasing

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Thread: Tips for improving phrasing

  1. #1

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    Tips for improving phrasing

    Listening to the Marco Sfogli album has me seriously considering tossing all of my guitars in the woodchipper. His phrasing is absolutely amazing - he constantly tosses out so much interesting sounding stuff that's different, but still manages to sit easily on your ear.

    How do you guys (I'm looking at you, Lyle) go about crafting lead and harmony lines that aren't just ripping through the usual shapes?

  2. #2

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    I look at it like this:

    There are a few note choices that catch the ear. Namely 3rds, 5ths, 7ths, and 9ths.

    I look at how I can "grab" one of those notes in a run. Or even exagerrate where I'm going to get to one of them.

    I also look at certain patterns of playing scales. Like playing arpeggios in different patterns that add a staccato to them to make them sound less like the arbitrary repetitive note progression they've so popularly become.

  3. #3

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    Try working out the vocal lines to a number of pop songs. Lyle's cover of California Girls was spectacular and I think you could really hone your phrasing doing something similar.

    Edit - also, there's a huge difference between playing the notes of a line, and really accentuating how it's phrased. Little things like slides, bends/prebends, hammer ons and pull offs, bar dips, and other slurred techniques can really add a lot of vocalness to a phrase.
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  4. #4

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    Think like a horn player.... take a breath and when you need to take another, take a break from your solo. A horn player has to take a breath to keep going, that breath forces them to put some breaks into their phrasing.

  5. #5

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    I think this a really broad subject, but i'll try to give some recommendations:

    - Try to lean towards playing melodies in your head rather than flashiness. Seems like a no-brainer, but really, a simple melodic line played with conviction is way more powerful to the average listener than a constant stream of notes. Marco said himself that throughout his learning years, he focused on creating memorable melodies, and the chops came gradually with practice.

    - That brings up what Drew said. Vocal lines from a lot of pop songs are examples of good phrasing. A lot of that catchy melodic guitar playing (Marco, Timmons, Petrucci) has just as much in common with pop as it does rock, at least melodically. So go and jam to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", and experiment with embellishing the melodies.

    - Also, singing the stuff helps you understand how it should be articulated. Dynamics is one of the requirements of achieving maximum tastiness. So when you're singing Celine in the shower, pay attention to which notes are emphasized in the phrases.

    - Practice harmonizing melodies in 3rds (singing, too). This isn't going to directly improve your phrasing, but it will help you familiarize yourself with the relationships between notes in a scale. This will help you translate what you hear in your head to the fretboard.

  6. #6

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    I started remaking old 80s pop tunes and other random stuff. For one it helps me build drum parts, honing multi-track skills, etc but it also helps phrasing in that you start to bring in vocal melodies into your playing.

    The other is listen to horn players. Lots of horn players. I tend to think like a horn player when I am noodling over something.

    What I also like to do is take my track in the car and hum melodies over it. I may not know the notes when I get back home, but I remember the phrasing and transfer that to the guitar.

    Now granted I am not the greatest player/phrasing guy, but I am starting to like what I am putting to tape lately instead of wanting to burn my guitars and knitting.

  7. #7

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    I don't think like a guitar player when it comes to melodies, strangely enough. I try to think like a singer, and I try to make my lead lines sound like they would if they were being sung. Work out vocal lines of songs, that's always a good way to do it.

  8. #8

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    A useful tip I read years ago was to sing over the solo backing and try and recreate what you sang. Most people are pretty decent natural singers and won't sing up and down scales, they'll create interesting melodies that are catchy.
    Also try a looper. If you want to improve your improvising then you're going to need to practice a lot. Playing over backing tracks and songs is good but when you have a looper you can pick a progression with whatever chords you want and then play over it. I find it's helped me play over more complicated progressions.
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