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  1. #1

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    Hey guys.


    I wanted to ask you about phrasing - what are your strategies and approach to phrasing, but from a different perspective.


    Let's leave the scales, arpeggios, triads, guide tones aside for a moment. Let's also leave the rhythm.


    I mean your approach to the placement of the phrase in the bars. And then how do you "hear" the phrase?Is it a two-chord combination and are you trying to combine the two chords?
    Or do you rather hear the phrase as a 4 bars utterance (a combination of several smaller phrases) that resolves on the last (fourth) chord?
    Or maybe you hear phrasing completely independent of the bars and are only looking for a good resolution, a landing point? Or maybe the motives and you are looking for motives above harmony?


    I will be grateful for your tips, because hearing phrases and melodies regardless of the chords is the most important thing in all this. So it's like playing what you hear in real time. But I have no idea how to do it.

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  3. #2

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    I phrase as I breathe. I leave pauses in order to breathe (I was a horn player). If there are lyrics, I echo or paraphrase their groupings. Phrases that are too long are tiring for the listener. And the player. IMHO.
    Last edited by citizenk74; 09-16-2021 at 04:04 PM.

  4. #3

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    Imo the shortest phrase would probably be a bar. So you could start there by trying to sequence phrases of only a bar. Then it gets hipper when you phrase differently than how the changes are grouped. You'll notice the greats do that. Instead of playing start of phrase 1 right at the 2 chord, start of phrase 2 right at the 5 chord, resolution phrase right at the start of the 1 chord, they'll offset things and for example start late and obscure the bar lines while their line takes precedence.

  5. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    Imo the shortest phrase would probably be a bar. So you could start there by trying to sequence phrases of only a bar. Then it gets hipper when you phrase differently than how the changes are grouped. You'll notice the greats do that. Instead of playing start of phrase 1 right at the 2 chord, start of phrase 2 right at the 5 chord, resolution phrase right at the start of the 1 chord, they'll offset things and for example start late and obscure the bar lines while their line takes precedence.

    Hey, thanks for the interesting tip. I read, I read, but I don't understand
    So - I start the phrase on the second chord and land on the first chord of the next four bars (i.e. on chord number five?) Do I understand it well? If so, can you explain it better? Thank you!

  6. #5

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    I would suggest practicing on just basic 2-5-1s. I forgot to mention that phrases are often made up of smaller motifs that are sequenced. Start by playing it basic. Your whole phrase will be the length of the 4 bar 2-5-1. 1 bar for the 2, 1 bar for the 5, and 2 bars for the 1. Play a motif on the 2, change it slightly for the 5, and then resolve it on the 1 chord.

  7. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    I would suggest practicing on just basic 2-5-1s. I forgot to mention that phrases are often made up of smaller motifs that are sequenced. Start by playing it basic. Your whole phrase will be the length of the 4 bar 2-5-1. 1 bar for the 2, 1 bar for the 5, and 2 bars for the 1. Play a motif on the 2, change it slightly for the 5, and then resolve it on the 1 chord.

    I understand. Thank you!

  8. #7

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    No prob! Here are some examples of phrases at 7:45. Disregard the chords in orange.

    Last edited by Clint 55; 09-16-2021 at 02:22 PM.

  9. #8

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    For the melody line I channel Frank Sinatra. For the solo I channel Jimmy Raney.

  10. #9

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    If you flip through a fake book and play the heads you’ll get all kinds of ideas for phrasing. If you internalize a bunch of them I’ll bet you’d find your phrasing getting more interesting when you improvise. I think the best improvisors know a lot of heads. (I’m not one of them.)

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Clint 55
    I would suggest practicing on just basic 2-5-1s. I forgot to mention that phrases are often made up of smaller motifs that are sequenced. Start by playing it basic. Your whole phrase will be the length of the 4 bar 2-5-1. 1 bar for the 2, 1 bar for the 5, and 2 bars for the 1. Play a motif on the 2, change it slightly for the 5, and then resolve it on the 1 chord.
    Useful info. Thanks

  12. #11
    Yes, building four-bar phrases is a great tool. Once upon a time, I followed this topic very closely. The theory of music says that a 4-bar utterance is as if the most natural for the listener in the perception of what was said.

    Once, even here on the forum, one well-known user wrote that he could not imagine building phrases other than just as a 4-bar utterance.

    Sco is the master of this "technique". It shows perfectly on Uberjamas.

    In this approach, the tempo of the piece is important. Because, for example, in slow bpm you probably play 2-bar ideas. In the faster ones, 8. But, Generals, the vast majority are 4 bars. At some point I even started listening to music this way and I "feel" it subconsciously. Anyone have the same?

  13. #12

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    A couple of ideas that have worked for me:

    1. Before you try to actually play a solo on guitar, I would listen to the song and sing/hum/scat the phrases you hear in your head. Most often, your humming will be musical, and you are more likely to “hear it” in your head before you can play it on the guitar. When I was first learning, my teacher told me to sing each note as I played it. Great advice, and it allows your fingers to think as quickly as your ears. It will get easier the more you do it, so hang in there.

    2. Play heads! As someone mentioned earlier, go through the Real Book, pick songs you like, and learn all the heads. Before you know it, those lines will incorporate themselves into your improv.

    3. Arpeggios. Know them, get comfy with them, be able to run arpeggios without thinking. Start with M7, m7, Dom7, and m7b5 arpeggios. After you get those under your fingers, work on being able to play them with a b5 or a #5. As you encounter more altered chords, work on creating arpeggios for those. But don’t be too quick to get to the more dissonant sounds…..really master playing “inside” first. And remember, if you get lost during a song, arpeggios will save you.

    If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. It took me 30 years of playing to incorporate all this stuff into my subconscious. That’s the goal….know harmony so well that the rules just kind of fade away…

  14. #13

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    I've been playing Polka Dots & Moonbeams lately so look for versions to check out. Came across this. It's a simple melody but trying to phrase it like Chet is more difficult then it may seem; at least for me. You really get to hear how he manipulates the timing here...pushing and pulling.


  15. #14

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    freud -

    This won't help at all.

    I've experimented with trying to play definite phrases, basing phrasing on certain motifs, and so on... and deserted all that stuff because it felt, and sounded, unnatural.

    Now I just play things like I hear and feel them. Much simpler that way and ultimately more effective. Happier, too, if the truth be known.

  16. #15

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    When lucky, the phrases start to talk to each other.
    When not, they just go.. somewhere. - I call it "practice" then
    Well, it takes some special state of mind to make it happen. Then it kinda seems like its another tune for the song... a bit busier though.
    Those times I almost never bother to push for playing something from the training. That would make the whole thing collapse fast.
    So the trick is to keep in mind what was played and try to respond somehow with the next phrase.. and next.. and next... and have a finish that makes sense.
    Yeah, when lucky, this happens by itself. When not lucky but having this goal in mind and pushing it to happen, it can sound artificial very often.

    The point is - there are no rules to figure out an awesome melody. It can be "constructed" all kinds of ways. There is no "do this and not that and you get a good one".
    Same is with improvising. No rules but got to have lots of combinations available when called for.

  17. #16
    Emanres, thanks for the interesting answer. The trick is probably to be able to continue each phrase in a natural way. So, after one phrase, play the second which is a continuation, and then continue in some logical direction.
    That's why I wrote earlier about phrasing in 4 bars. It's just easier to control it this way. The idea of ??the first bar continues in the 2nd and 3rd bar and then resolved in the 4th. I know that this is a big simplification and there are a million deviations from this "rule". But this is just an example of how to organize your phrases and melodies.

    So I asked this question, how do people do it to learn something new.

    Can you just give in to an idea / melody and follow it like a surfer on a wave? Maybe yes.
    Singing phrases helps. Then the continuation of a given phrase is more natural and logical because it leads to the voice, not the fingers.

  18. #17

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    ^ I like the sound of being able to flow like you mentioned a surfer on a wave - adapting to what you played and have that influence what comes next. That's hard to do. It's possible to sound good by structuring things, but being spontaneous and have the line build on itself sounds great too. One thing I've noticed that the pros do is that they make mistakes, but when they do, they drop it in a sneaky way and don't let it mess up the continuation of the line. Then it ends up sounding more authentic. Cool upper level trick imo.

    Quote Originally Posted by jameslovestal View Post
    Useful info. Thanks
    No prob. Trying to be more structured in my lines instead of just going here's the chart, make up a solo.

  19. #18

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    Ok I'm using this video again. In Bill's demonstration at 13:55, he's making up ideas that are related to each other and that build on each other. Then at 14:11 he makes a mistake, but instead of going and sounding newb (why would he do that, he's Bill) he immediately recognizes it and drops it in this sneaky way where all it sounds like is he's truncating a phrase. Then he continues flowing with his lines.


  20. #19

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    Another trick I came up with is I noticed that I have a tendency to play hokey phrases sometimes, although it can sound fine in the middle when I'm running the notes. It's at the end where I'll end on a lil hokey motif. I found if I make the last 2 notes a larger interval, it immediately sounds more bopish.

  21. #20

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    I think of a solo as someone talking about a subject. You can practice constructing it, forms, paragraphs etc, the same way a speaker would organize their speech.

    For melodic playing, and when trying to make a solo more musical and essential, the most useful thing i have found is to just spend time playing the melody, and comp the chord progression. Then try to combine the two. Then transpose it in a few keys. Work with chords, chord tones, the songs melodic and rhythmic motifs..

    Transcribe singers, and start to sing what you play. It automatically becomes something closer to vocal music, which is the mother of all melody.