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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?
 

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Bro of Bros, Bro.
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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.
 

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Is Actually Recording
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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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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.
 

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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.
 

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Oxygen to CO2 converter
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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.
 

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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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I have angered the Noodles
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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.
excellent point. i grew up as a trumpet player, and actually started out college as my major, and that has a huge effect on how i think about playing the guitar. it helps me slow down and actually put rests into what i'm playing
 

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Listen to your recording, if any small splice of it causes you to wince then that part should get removed.

I had a cool song one time, halfway through there was 5 seconds that werent good, after awhile of listening to that song I started to anticipate that the whole song sucked. Eventually I yanked that 5 seconds out, I put in a non-sequitur in its place so I wouldnt have to spend alot of time editing. The non-sequitur was a complete interruption but even that was better than nothing.

Sometimes the boring or embarrassing segment is something clever, you should remove it though, think of the fans, they dont want to listen to nonsense 100 times over and over.

Sometimes the entire song is boring, it may be clever to another musician, it should get removed. Sometimes the band has to break up because of this.
 

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Guiterrorizer
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This thread is fantastic! I also want to work on my phrasing.

Chris, do you normally start your leads with a melody in mind or do you go through known patterns until something stands out?
 

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Serious Bedroom Guitarist
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I found a really interesting post on a blog about how you should practise your phrasing separately from other techniques (scales, bends, vibrato etc.).

This is just how my 2 yo practices speaking, it's all a great flow of something that sounds just like Swedish but is just jibberish words (phrasing practice), but when she uses real words it's just one-word sentences (vocabulary pratice).

Just blogged about this: Practice Like a Child - Improving Your Phrasing | osiris guitar
 

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Discussion Starter #14
This thread is fantastic! I also want to work on my phrasing.

Chris, do you normally start your leads with a melody in mind or do you go through known patterns until something stands out?
When I write melodies, it's usually something in my head - or I'll just listen to the track w/o any leads at all, and think of things, and then go back and transpose them from my noggin to my fretboard.

I don't really have a problem there, my issue is that when the tempo gets up and I'm going for a shreddy bit, my phrasing gets boring as fuck. So if I have two melodies that I want to connect with a fast ascending run, it'll be something that starts on the first key and ends on the last key, and it's usually just a fast minor scale run that I'll triple-up the notes per string on. It sounds cool, but not nearly as interesting as someone with a good sense of shred-phrasing comes up with, know what I mean?
 

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Guiterrorizer
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I think I kind of get what you're saying :lol:. For me, I rarely ever sit down and hash out ideas so it's usually repetative improve until I hit something.
 

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I'm not a great lead player by any means but one of the things I've found that really helps me when I'm trying to write is looking at the section I want to solo over modally instead of just what Key am I playing over. I really got into Greg Howe a few years ago and starting taking lessons with a guy that was just an amazing player and he had the Howe/Kotzen/Brett Garsed style of playing down (Jason Macedo). He showed me how important it was to be able to play "modally" instead of "key based" whenever possible. It really opened up a lot of possibilities to me and now I approach solo sections in a completely different manner thatn I did earlier on in my playing days.
I remember the first time Drew came over to my place and we jammed, he mentioned that he had not played with someone that approached his lead playing in such a different manner than he did, (and that was right when I was deep into this stuff). I wasn't playing anything particularly difficult but my approach was so not "the typical metal players" at that point, yet I was still playing like a metal player (if you get my drift), kind of like a metal fusion approach.
IMO It's definitely worth the time invested. :yesway:
 

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Bad : anything CC Deville ever played
Good: any thing Marco Sfogli plays
 

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I really got into Greg Howe a few years ago and starting taking lessons with a guy that was just an amazing player and he had the Howe/Kotzen/Brett Garsed style of playing down (Jason Macedo). He showed me how important it was to be able to play "modally" instead of "key based" whenever possible.
Can you give us a quick example of what he meant by "modally when ever possible?"
 

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Modally, meaning the tonal center is shifted to a different note in the scale.
 
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