Rhythms for Melodies, Part I

There are 2 aspects to creating interesting lead lines and melodies. One
is the actual notes… You can play around with various scales, seqeuences, arpeggios,
intervals, motiffs, and patterns.

The other, equally important aspect is the rhythms of the melodies.
You can drastically alter a simple sequence of notes by changing around the rhythm
of those notes.

With that in mind, let’s examine a few rhtyhmic feels.
In the following example, we are in the key of C major, playing straight up
the scale. Let’s look at 3 rhythms.

The first one is straight eighth notes. Very plain and simple.
Next we go to eighth note triplets – a little more interesting. Finally,
we have a “hard swing” rhythm which consists of a dotted eighth note
followed by a sixteenth note. In other words, its a swing rhythm
where the first note is 3 times as long as the second note.

For me, it is helpful to feel this rhythm as simply a 16th note
“pickup note” before each main beat. In other words, if I’m counting
ONE TWO THREE FOUR, there is a short 16th note before each
count, like ONE uh-TWO uh-THREE uh-FOUR. Listening to the MIDI
example below should make the feel clear.

Anyway back to our example – after playing the hard swing rhythm,
we switch back to the triplets. Notice how nice and natural the
“hard swing” rhythm and the “triplet” rhythm
sound when you put them next to each other.

Play this example and then try improvising in the key of C major,
alternating back and forth between hard swing and triplets.


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