Hello…Claude Johnson here (who else, right? lol)
Just a fair warning – this is a fairly advanced lesson, so
if it goes over your head, please check out some of the
other lessons on my blog, or, of course, MY DVD COURSES.
I am going to be showing a lick using 3-note-per-string pentatonics,
combined with an advanced irregular rhythm. These pentatonics
will stretch your fingers if you’re not used to them…However,
the real challenge and lesson here, is to master the rhythm behind
When a guitarist starts getting good and expressing themselves,
their licks start getting more complicated.
Like Jimi Hendrix said, the point isn’t to get complicated on purpose,
but instead to put as much of yourself as you can into the music.
Still, complicated licks seem to be the result of lead guitar virtuosos.
I’ve seen tabs of Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy page’s wild solos – and there
were tons of complicated rhythms with uneven groupings.
This makes sense to me because how else would the uniqueness
of each artist manifest through the notes? It’s like looking at a great
painting – you wouldn’t expect everything to be drawn in neat little
square boxes, right? Same as in music – the rhythms of a great solo
aren’t necessarily going to fall into neat little symmetrical rhythmic patterns…
I have a few different thoughts about how guitarists should relate to
On one level, it doesn’t really matter what the rhythm structure is for
your licks. Just play from the heart, and as long as you’re sincere in what
you play, you can forget all the analysis.
On the other hand, having more knowledge about rhythm can help you.
For example, if you play a complicated lick and then decode it, it can help
you understand that lick on a deeper level. You’ll be able to play it more
consistently or create different variations of it based on your understanding.
Also, having a strong rhythmic feel can help you to play more in the pocket,
and also can boost your creativity.
Here’s a lick I came up with yesterday and it was somewhat of a challenge
to tab it out because of the irregular rhythm to it. That’s kind of what
prompted this article.
To my ear, it doesn’t SOUND irregular… It sounds smooth. That’s the same
phenomenon going on with the great guitar players – their playing sounds natural
and beautiful, but when written out on paper, it gets “jumbly”.
Here we have a mix of quarter notes, eighth notes, and eighth note triplets.
As an exercise, try the following COUNTS:
1 – trip-le-tee – 3 – trip-le-tee
1 AND – trip-le- tee 3 AND trip-le-tee
Ok, now here’s the lick I wrote:
Click here to download a MIDI file so you can hear the audio.
The trickiest part rhymically is the 12th fret low E string – because we were
playing 16th note triplets , now we have to go back to an 16th note for
just one note, then back into the triplets again. Listen to the audio
for the right feel.
Don’t let the 16th notes scare you. Just pretend they are 8th notes at faster speed.
For example, the first 4 notes of the lick are a 16th note followed
by a 16th note triplet. (A 16th note triplet means 3 notes fit into the
space of 1 eighth note)
The first 4 notes are basically just the second COUNT pattern I showed ( 1-AND trip-le-tee),
except the first note is a rest. So its like “AND trip-le-tee”…
Same thing with the tricky part in the middle – you’re going from a triplet
to a grouping of 2 – only here, there is just 1 of those 2 notes before you
go back into the triplet feel again.
If you can’t get it exactly, don’t worry, just try to to experiment with a
few irregular rhythms of your own.