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The Woodshed: Geometric vs: Melodic

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JJ Rocks Article # 77:
From St. Croix Music Magazine, Issue # 18, March, 2008
There is a reason that most guitar licks sound different and not as melodic as a solo that an experience horn player would blow. Thats because sax, trumpet and many other horn players start out by playing melodies and guitarist are accustomed to playing licks that are based on geometric shapes derived from basic scales. They may sound cool to the average listener but not very melodic to a musician raised on melodies. But there is an easy remedy for this common musical ailment without changing your love for those great guitar licks but only adding a little melodic content.

I feel that guitarist should focus on learning as many melodies as possible even if they dont ever intend on being the person who plays them in a band. You should start with melodies that you are familiar with like TV themes or Christmas songs. Then examine small parts of the melody and its intervals. Its important that you dont play enough of a melody that it becomes recognizable in your solo because the goal is to break away from that staircase effect of just running up and down scales and not displaying your knowledge of melodies. This also applies to the lick collector who spends their life building up their bags of other peoples licks. Thats a sign of a non melodic and not creative guitarist.

So lets start by playing the first four notes of a melody that you have just learned. Now start and end on a different notes in the melody. The main idea is to add more interesting intervals to your solo so you sound more unique and creative. You can also try playing a section of a melody backwards. Remember, you are just looking for more interesting intervals to add to the licks you already know. Use more duration on one note and then counter that with double striking another for even more uniqueness in your style.

In the example Timebomb which I have again placed in the article below, I have used many common guitar licks but also sandwiched some melodic ideas in between them. This is a good way to start to hear what Im trying to teach in this article. My most melodic playing is probably in my jazz tunes (check out the jazz/ reggae version of The Pink Panther in last months column). But since this months song is more blues rock I tend to play more guitar sounding licks with only a bit of melodic adventurism. Of course this song has been featured before in my students guitar challenges but I had to bring it back because no one has nailed the solo yet. It you can play the solo I will write an article about you for our now 57 countries to read.

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