Introducing Rhythm: it is not just for backing a Soloist

Rhythm and having a good understanding of rhythmic concepts is often seen as being less important than playing through numerous scales fast or just seen as being the staple of the backing guitarist taking a back seat whilst the soloist grabs the limelight. This is not strictly true. In fact some if not all the greatest Soloists demonstrate a complete mastery and understanding of rhythmic concepts and that is ultimately what makes them the great players that they are or were.

Sometimes it is not just about how many scales you can cram into your solo its about selecting what you play and when you play it. I will cite just one example here to demonstrate my point. Stevie Ray Vaughan was a marvellous guitar player take for example his Track ‘Crossfire’. The complete  solo sections were played  in the Key of E minor pentatonic with occasional addition of the bV Blues Note from the Blues Scale. This is in reality only 5 or 6 notes in use here. Many lesser soloists could have sounded a bit dull just using such a limited pallet of sounds but what makes his solos work is the complete understanding of rhythm and the range of rhythmic choices available from which he used to make the motifs ( small statements) in the solo. Both solo sections are full of interesting rhythmic choices to make numerous small statements all linking together into a whole. To some extent the Solos presented here all borrow heavily from the work of previous past masters such as Albert King but he was just another example of a master of Rhythmic Playing as well. Both of these players understood that Rhythm was not just to back a Soloist but a step towards being able develop cohesive solos themselves.

Over these posts we will be looking at some rhythmic concepts in 4/4 time and 12/8 time which are the 2 most common time signatures for Blues based music. I will be presenting musical examples in Standard notation and tablature to demonstrate some of the many possibilities for rhythm. It is designed as a practice excercise from which to springboard your own ideas of further research. Musical examples are not supposed to be memorised they are just to get you thinking about the rhythmic possibilities for motif development. They are not a solo in themselves but should be considered bar by bar or phrase by phrase. I have included phrase marks to differentiate  when one phrase ends and another begins. Some of the excercises use particular phrases used by some of the greatest players to the extent whereby they have become almost trademarks of particular players that I admire the most.

The following excercises may be useful as practice pieces. Break each excercise down into small phrases and practice each to get used to the various rhythmic possibilities. Take each phrase and mess about with by making your own alterations.  Once you understand how each rhythmic phrase is constructed it’s easy to start making your own up.

The first exercise is in 4/4 time and contains many stylistic features of well known players. View PDF Excercise in 44 time for transcription.

The second exercise is in 12/8 time. View PDF version Compound 128 time in G minor

It was difficult to present the examples as listenable and meaningful material simply because the idea of this was to present you with a broad range of musical ideas in one document/ one place. In music there is more often than not a degree of repetition needed to make a musical statement stick, so the idea of changing and moving through a vast arrangement of ideas without too much repetition does not bode well for a listenable musical statement. However I have tried my best. It is unlikely you would use all the rhythmic patterns presented here in one go for a solo but remember that they are examples and not completed solos in their own right. They  are meant to represent and be used as springboards for your own rhythmic ideas.

Here is another piece in 12/8 time which is slightly more Rock orientated. Here is the downloadable pdf of the score.

The final rhythm exercise is based on triplets and the different types of rhythmic possibilities that these give you. Again there is just too much variation for this to be considered a solo in itself. This exercise is crammed with all sorts of ideas based around triplets. The aim of the exercise is to get you thinking about the range of possibilities available to springboard your own ideas and riffs.

Find the transcription by following the link.

triplets-vrs2 for ‘Triplets’

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