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20 Tips For Better Phrasing

Josip Pešut

Bye Josip Pešut

This article is only a tap into topic of phrasing. I will mention some of the options you have, and go deeper into them with other articles.

Take 2 notes – the note from which you begin, and the note on which you end a phrase. Those notes will be your referance points, while you focus on everything that happens between them, in order to enhance your phrasing diversity and vocabulary. In this article, I'm going to point out 20 things you can work on to make your phrasing more interesting and colorfull

1. Scalar progressions
This is most obvious way to phrase. Play all notes between starting and ending note in scalar form, in descending or ascending order, or even not. It may be whatever lenght of notes or their order your imagination wants – wholes, halves, eights, sixteenths, tuplets. You can also mix all of those in phrases. You can experiment with legato and with picking.

2. Using rests
Sometimes rests can make a strong statement in a phrase.

3. Thrills
Using short and long thrills can be very colorfull. You can do it with notes of any interval you desire, and be sure to try all of them!

4. Bends
Bending notes is always effective. It can be done in slow and in fast solos. You can bend any note in the phrase you like, and you can bend it up to 2 whole tones, or even more, but be sure to keep the accuracy of pitch.

5. Pedal notes
These ones are found most oftenly in neo-classical phrasing, but it can be used in any genre of music. Work with pedal notes below, above and in the middle of your referance notes.

6. Slides
Sliding from note to note is sometimes way more expressive than just hitting the next note. You can combine sliding with tapping technique, as well, when you do it with your tapping finger. Having spontaneous slides to the note, or from the note can sometimes enforce your that note.

7. Changing the 'return note'
I don't know any other term for this note, but it often occured to me that, when I get into certain phrases, I have one or more notes on which I often return. My phrases got lot more interesting when I began to change those 'return notes' into higher or lower, when I actually returned to them.

8. Reaching higher and lower notes
You can make some runs that go into higher notes than your beginning or ending notes, and then get back to your ending note. And of course, you can make runs that go into lower notes than your beginning or ending notes, and then get back to your ending notes. The idea of this tip is not to get stuck only in between the first and last note.

9. Vibrato
One of the strongest tools you have as a guitar player is firm and creative vibrato. Try slow vibrato's, fast ones... Mix vibrato and bends. There is a sea of options in this one. Take one note and play with it for hours, you might get really surprised with what may come out!

10. Repeat
Repeat certain parts of phrases in right rhythm and you might get really effective, dazzling solo.

11. Dual melody
By dual melody, I don't refer to polyphonic melody, meaning, you get only 1 note playing at the time, but you make 2 melody lines.

12. Tapping
Tapping may sound really exotic. You can tap on the same notes you already played, you can tap on the notes next in the scale, you can tap on notes one octave higher, or any other.. There are many options on this.

13. Chords
It is really powerfull to put a few chords on higher notes when you're in the middle of the solo, but this has to be really carefully worked out.

14. Open string notes
If the notes of one or more open strings fit your key, be sure to try using them

15. Same notes
Try playing same notes on different strings, or same notes on same string. Try playing them in various speeds. Tremolo pick them, slide to them, bend to them, play them with your teeth!

16. Octaves
You can play up to 2 octaves in the same time (if you have enough wide fingering range). Adding octaves to your melodies is really powerfull.

17. Harmonics
You can play artificial, natural or tapped harmonics instead of regular notes. Even try playing several natural harmonics on different strings at the same time. You will get really interesting sound. See where do you have natural harmonics available on your guitar, and how they can fit in your phrase.

18. Prolonging the notes
Try prolonging the note into next measure of your phrase, and then resolve it.

19. Intervals and multiple melody lines
Having more than one guitar playing certain melody line, in different intervals, is really effective. Be sure to try how each interval sounds, and think of where you'd like to hear it.

20. Whammy bar
Whammy bar can be your source of really intense, emotive and innovative phrases. See what you can do with it when transitioning only from one note to other, as well as when 'whammying' whole phrase. There are countless things to do with whammy bar – dive bombs, screams, weird vibratos, artificial chorus.. really anything!

Mix all of those tips. Don't get held on only one of them. Of course, when you learn, you should have all of your focus on only one, but when you actualize the phrase or solo, have all of those options in mind!

About the author:

Josip Pešut is a guitarist, composer, songwriter and arranger from Zagreb, Croatia.

Official Josip Pešut site:
Visit the site and enjoy playing Josip's 'Licks of the month'!

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