Timing in solos

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by thesamhill, Feb 16, 2018.

  1. TwangyWhammy

    TwangyWhammy Friend of Leo's

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    I began copying lead-breaks by listening to rock/blues guitarists I was drawn to, back in high school. I played along vinyl recordings over and over again until I got it right. Sometimes I would lift the phonograph needle back to a certain difficult segment and just about wear-out those vinyl grooves, haha. I never gave timing a single thought for some reason. My focus was always on nuance - how melodies or phrases were expressed and the impact that had on how I feel. I wanted to capture the delivery at an emotional level, and didn't think about the notes or the timing as much. When a lead solo in a slow ballad felt so good that it hurt, I would gauge my rendition by judging if it hurt just as bad to listen to. :D

    Many years later (having developed my own style) in a recording studio, the technician commented that my 'timing' was all over the place and insisted that I play the notes only ON the beat. The part I was doing was a lead-break, and the end result sounded wooden and sterile - but technically correct. It was then that I realised that many of the great lead-guitar players were masters of 'breaking the rules,' but they did this tastefully without falling off the train tracks.

    .
     
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  2. Guitarteach

    Guitarteach Poster Extraordinaire

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    I get trapped into just stringing riffs and runs together in time and sometimes forget to tell a story or actually take the tune to the next place it needs to go.

    I’ve found I can get back by playing like I was singing it (or by imagining. really great singer singing it or a harmony), that brings the musical phrasing and gaps back and generally leads to ideas that develop over several bars rather than all fitting neatly in just one and two.
     
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  3. raysachs

    raysachs Friend of Leo's

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    I suck at playing fast. Even when I had the chops for it, I could never play with any speed and have it sound musical. And over time the chops died because I never found a good way to use them. All of my best sounding solos involve lots of changes in tempo, spacing, pauses, bends, slides, sustained notes with vibrato, etc. and I never think about how I’m using that stuff - I just try to tell a story, speak in sentences, etc, and the different little techniques just happen where they happen. Sometimes I find myself starting to play faster, but it’s usually when I’m bored and just noodling. And then I make myself slow down and really feel each note and phrase, and that’s when the good stuff happens, or at least has a chance to happen. BB King could say more with a single note than most players can with 100 and on my best days I can say more with 4 or 5 than I can with 20-30. But I have to remind myself of that sometimes...
     
  4. cousinpaul

    cousinpaul Friend of Leo's

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    Eighth notes can be used to build tension. A long sustained note dropped on the one will really have some impact after a string of eighths. Same could be said for a flurry of sixteenths. I know tension and release is only one way to look at building a solo but I find it useful. When you start to combine time, note choice, dynamics, etc, you've got a lot of tools to set up your big moments.
     
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  5. Robert H.

    Robert H. Friend of Leo's

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    Just a suggestion - Robert Cray is an absolute master at phrasing which sounds like a vocalist’s phrasing. He slows down, he emphasizes notes, he catches up to the beat - in short his playing is lyrical. So many there’s too - horn players as others have said. Listen and play along. You’ll get a feel for what they are doing.
     
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  6. Axis29

    Axis29 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

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    Think of a solo as a vocal line. Play only as many notes as you can while breathing out normally, when you inhale, rest.

    I have a habit of telling younger guitar players that rests are also musical notes.

    Rock was originally based on Blues. In Blues, solos tend to be approached, as FMA says above, like a horn or wind instrument. The lines are treated like a vocal line. Part of it is because they will repeat the melodies and the melodies are usually created with the vocal lines.

    So, by singing the solo, then playing it, as NDCaster suggests above, you will naturally add space and breathing room.

    I think Bluegrass developed more from UK based stuff, Irish, Celtic, Scottish kinda stuff. They tend to surround the melody with lots of other notes and don't leave as many rests. It's hard to unlearn a habit like that. You can feel like you're cheating or being lazy, or maybe just underplaying. But, if you can master it, you will eventually become a more complete musician!
     
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  7. Guitaryellow

    Guitaryellow Tele-Meister

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    Watch some Jump Blues on YouTube, great for everything.
     
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  8. viccortes285

    viccortes285 Tele-Afflicted

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    What helped me improve was playing along with the backing tracks or the song. You can feel the strumming and can try many solos.
     
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  9. rainbowbear998

    rainbowbear998 Tele-Meister

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    There’s lots of really good advice here - I played bass guitar in a jazz big band in high school, and one of the things the band director did at the start of each rehearsal was make everyone do breathing excercises. I never got it at the time, but since then I’ve been spending a lot more time playing lead guitar, and it makes perfect sense - breathe in at the start of each phrase, and if you start to get uncomfortable holding your breath in, it’s too long. Take another breath at the start of the next phrase.

    It seems simple, but I think this is what a lot of people are alluding to when they say “listen to horn lines” or “start thinking like a singer” - you just need to think in terms of phrases and physically breathe around them.
     
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  10. JimmyGuitarist

    JimmyGuitarist TDPRI Member

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    I've taken the less is more approach to news levels recently and people seem to like it much more than what I used to do. I play no notes at all and am perfectly in time.
     
  11. TwangyWhammy

    TwangyWhammy Friend of Leo's

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    But the 60 cycle hum ruined your rendition. Should've used the noise gate pedal...
     
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  12. Digital Larry

    Digital Larry Tele-Afflicted Gold Supporter

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    I also have played a lot of bluegrass (guitar, mandolin and bass) over the years but I always had a really hard time improvising at that speed so I never did. Recently I sit around playing the electric guitar unplugged and I realized, "damn, I don't have any vibrato going on", and I think this is because I'm playing it just like I play the acoustic. So I decided to work on that.

    In the past few years I started to go see this local surf-psychedelic group "The Mermen" and their guitarist Jim Thomas is a master of economy (most of the time). I started thinking to myself "it's OK to play fewer notes" and to actually think about what's coming next instead of just reflexively making my fingers play scale patterns (which I'm actually fairly good at, within my own stylistic limitations). This last week I tried slowing down even more... so much that the cliches I was about to play DIED before they got to my fingers.

    I just spent thirty minutes listening to John McLaughlin on YouTube - Mahavishnu, Shakti, etc. that guy can play a million notes per second and it's pretty exciting some times, and maybe it's a little too much sometimes.

    What's the point I'm trying to make? Part of it is that my fingers can go places semi automatically and while it's fun to do, it's probably murder to listen to as it just sounds the same all the time. I'm getting a bit more creative by slowing down and sometimes playing in the same area on the fingerboard but varying rhythms, or building a little mini-theme, without trying to go fast or have any specific result at all other than landing on the right note at the end of a phrase.
     
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  13. boneyguy

    boneyguy Doctor of Teleocity

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    There is only one way to approach this and it's through listening. Listening to recorded music....listening while jamming with musicians who know how to phrase appropriately for a given style of music. This is how it's been done for millennia....listen and imitate. Of course there is value in approaching it in a scholarly fashion as you've hinted at but ultimately if you want to play with authority and authenticity in any style you've got to put in the hours of listening and copying the phrasing.
     
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  14. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    Didn't read whole thread, so it may have been mentioned, sue me. A lot of blues-based music will be in 12/8, or sometimes notated "4/4, with a triplet feel". And the triplets swing, by removing the middle note. Bap, bap-bap, bap-bap... Then the break might play every note in the triplet run, which is a lot of notes, but still very different feel than 16ths. (I think of funk when I envision 16th notes).
     
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  15. stringslinger

    stringslinger Tele-Holic

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    Listen and absorb some Blues. And learn other melodies from any and all genres. Beatles, Movie Themes, Jazz Standards, etc.

    The one advantage you may have is the technical facilities to keep up 8th/16th note lines. That's awesome! Now learn when not to play. Or another saying, don't worry about what to play, but how to play it.
     
  16. Sounds Good

    Sounds Good Tele-Holic

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    I think with some solos some continues or fast parts are ok, but aim for melody more not scales, then sometimes when played in they can enhance the slow parts plus add an element of surprise.
     
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  17. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    I think of it as Phrasing. Robben Ford is a master at it IMO. Also to me a proper solo tells a story. a bunch of scales doesnt do that.
     
  18. GuitOp81

    GuitOp81 Tele-Holic

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    I believe that playing vocal lines helps a lot, just learn the lines sung by your favorite singers. It's amazing what even an average singer can do within the span of an octave/octave and a half.
    There is a lot to learn from proper use of repetition and variation and all the great players do that a lot, really a lot, using rhythm, accent and tone in a way that doesn't make you even realize how many times they play the same phrase in the same solo.
    Even learning from players with great phrasing helps, some has already been mentioned but I believe that one absolute master right now is Derek Trucks, really out of this world.
    Finally, try to learn something from players and styles that put rhythm before notes, Fred Wesley comes to my mind, he can solo for minutes with a handful of notes and it feels like a story has been told.
     
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  19. Sounds Good

    Sounds Good Tele-Holic

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    One thing if using scales in solos is the weird and wonderful concept i like to call it, like whole step, diminished, augmented ideas can sound great if used in the right places with blues and many types of playing, here is an example for blues i found.

     
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  20. thesamhill

    thesamhill Tele-Holic

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    Thanks all- Here's my report:

    I started with the suggestion of listening to a song, then humming a solo part, and then trying to play it. Findings are below:



    Finding 1: the notes I sing in my head tend to be much farther apart than what I'd been playing. If I just let my fingers do what they want, I tend to go rapidly up and down with notes that are pretty close together. So lots of variations of things like 3- or 4-note ascending groups (G A B C, A B C D, B C D F# G) or I dunno what they are called- I think of them as "back-and-forths" (G B A C B D F# D G).

    HOWEVER when I hum something I want to hear as a solo and transcribe it, the notes are a lot farther apart. Meaning I'll hum something like (G3 D4 G4 A4-B4 D5) (I had to look up how to do the octave notation- music theorist I aint, lol).

    I think what's happening is that I'm always trying to run up or down to the notes I actually want to hear- trying to find interesting ways to get to the notes I care about and then to "present" them by doing some sort of "emphasis noodle." (OK, I really should learn some actual music theory instead of of just making up random terms for this stuff...) I'm working on just going to them and leaving more silence around them.



    Finding 2: humming solos often have same note back to back, usually with a slide or bend up into it on the second time. So like a D on the 7th fret of the G-string and then a slide up from the 2nd to 3rd fret of the B string.

    The way I play now, I never play the same note back to back. So I think I'm subbing for that "slide up double note" (sheesh) that I actually WANT to hear with longer phrases that I hope are interesting- when I should just be playing that slide-up note and letting it ring.



    So overall, I'd sum things up like this: I've arrived at the "less is more" conclusion that pretty much everyone had been saying from the get-go. And once again, I had to get there MY way- meaning, I banged my rock-hard head against a wall until it finally gave way :)

    Thanks again!
     
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