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Phrasing (with and without backing track)

This has mostly to do with guitar solos/leads.

As far as I've heard, it seems to me that there are 2 types of leads. Improve'd and Composed is what I will name each of them.

To me, the difference clearly stands out. A lead that is 'composed' as I called it will tend to have the rhythm guitar progressing with the lead. While Improve'd will have a repeating rhythm. (maybe a few minor variations)

I'm currently writing a song and I'm at a part where I think it wants to go into some lead playing. I have a rhythm part (which isn't totally set in stone) to play under it.

Most of the bands/guitar players I seem to enjoy go the 'composed' route with their solos. Like the lead an rhythm are purposely written to acompany each other. (the lead will do something, then the rhythm will 'echo' the effect, or progress from where the lead left off, or follow the lead completely into a different area)

I guess it's hard to describe exactly what I'm trying to say.

For an example, Gun n' Roses "Sweet Child".. I think I would say that is more of an 'improve' solo. It has a 'stagnating' rhythm playing under it. Yngwee would probably fit in this category as well.

An example for the 'composed' solo is kind of hard for me to decide on because I can't say I know of any that most people will have heard. Many classical pieces would probably fit in this category. (like strings strongly following along woodwind leads, with brass emphasizing the high points and stuff like that) It's all written out to work together. (not just, "here's a rhythm, play a lead") I think 'Children of Bodom' use to do this on their old albums in a similar fasion and very well done.

Anyways, on to my point.

I'm trying to figure out how to go along writing this lead I want to write. It seems to me that 'composed' lead are more memoriable than slapped together improv. (except for what some of those legendary 'improv' guitar players have done)

Maybe writing a lead without a backing track is the way to go for this sort of thing. (I like solos with distinct qualities.. for instance.. 'distinctly classical', or 'distinctly celtic'. That sort of thing is kind of hard to do with a backing track. I think I would rather write a rhythm to go along with a lead rather than the other way around.

I don't know if I'm staying on topic with what I had originally intended for this thread. But what are you thoughts or ideas?

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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/18/2006 3:56 PM

Steve Cass (14763) wrote:

I think I get what you're saying as far as composed and improv styles. I definitely prefer the composed as well. Well at least as far as recorded music that is meant to be published for the masses. I guess there really isn't anything else for me other than, 'compliment the melody, comliment the rhythm, present some style or another'. But also, I've never really been much of an off-the-cuff lead player. I've always composed and wanted to spend time on a piece if I could.

But I find myself in the position of having to play some improv solo stuff in the church band, and it's definitely helpful to do the improv thing. I guess I just find my limitations more rapidly when I do.

But I understand what you mean as far as recording goes. The improv type meaning just playing these long scales and licks without much regard to the rhythm structure or melody.

It's interesting you mention Sweet Child O Mine. Here's an example where you actually have both styles within the same song. It starts out with the lead rhythm thing and when you get to the next solo section, the lead is more in line with a composed one. It's over a verse section, and he's playing a very laid back and melodic major scale-type of riff. And he starts in again that way when the 'bridge' section kicks in, only it's in a minor key at this point. Then he really kicks into more of the freestyle improv type licks the rest of the way out.

Is this the type of description you'd make?

Anyway about constructing your lead. Hard to say. There are so many successful 'formulas' for this. If you create it without a backing track, though, you may not be as influenced by the song as you wish you were. You can still find that distinctive style for the lead as you create the sound in your mind's eye against the backdrop of the song by 'auditioning' sounds in your brain.

On the other hand, I just may not see your point!


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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/18/2006 4:50 PM

Bryan Morrison (9786) wrote:

Yeah, I think you're right about that Guns N' Roses song. I got to thinking about that after I had used it as an example. It is kind of a mix of both. Exactly as you described.

You did hit it right on button. I'm just kind of lost as to how to go about doing something like this. No matter what I try, it doesn't seem like it fits in 'just right'. Like I'm starting on the wrong note and building off the wrong foundation.
The plan is to start off with a lead on its own.. then start building on the rhythm side of things. I'll probably progress the rhythm further than what I have the lead then let improv kind of take over.. Then maybe change the rhythm where the lead permits afterwards.

Thanks for your reply. I guess it's kind of an iffy subject to discuss. Everybody looks at music in a different way.

Take it easy.


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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/19/2006 7:26 PM

Steve Cass (14763) wrote:

I guess it's kind of an iffy subject to discuss. Everybody looks at music in a different way.

That's really so true. I mean, many people think I'm really crazy and unoriginal when I admit that much of the way I go about creating (lead riffs, songwriting, whatever) is by learning (filling up my own library) by dissecting that which is already 'successful'. I guess you could call it 'formula robbing' or something. I like taking successful things and changing them or modifying them. One thing's for sure, there's nothing new under the sun except for how I perceive. I think that many people are influenced like this.

The hard part is always transferring what's in the head to the hands!

So anyway, maybe you should try on this song by replicating a known good formula.


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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/19/2006 11:12 PM

Bryan Morrison (9786) wrote:

Yeah, that is so true. One could spend months beating their head on the wall trying to come up with something 'original'.. when they could have came up with the same exact thing(without even knowing about it) by 'altering' something else.

I'm starting to think that could be where I'm lacking for new ideas. I should focus on what others' are doing a bit more. Actually, now that I think about it, that has been kind of a trend in my own success for song writing. I always seem to come up with something good almost instantly after I have focused on somebody elses song(s).

Like the last song I wrote, the main rhythmic pattern was kind of a rip from another song, but it was completely different. If I had never listened to that song, or learned it then that particular style of phrasing or whatever it was never would have come to me.

Thanks for the ideas, Steve.

Take it easy.

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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/20/2006 11:53 AM

Jon Riley (9697) wrote:

Not much I can add to Brian Elzey's response (with which I agree 100%) - but I'm not quite sure what you mean by "rhythm".

Solos (composed or improvised) are played over a set of chords, which are normally the chords of the verse or chorus. (Very rarely, a whole new sequence is used for a solo section.)
Those chords indicate the scales to be used in the solo.
If you're composing a solo line, then you can start to build other things out of the backing chords: harmonised lines. (I assume this is what you mean by "building on the rhythm side of things.")
The point I'm making is that the lead part doesn't come out of thin air; it's based on the chord sequence. So (in this sense) the rhythm comes first, not second.

The only time when chords follow the lead line is when you are composing a song from scratch. The traditional technique is to come up with a melody (vocal or instrumental), and then fit chords to it. The jazz approach is to then take those chords, and improvise new melodies, or melodic fragments, over them.
The chords still govern the improvisation.

Jazz is based on entirely improvised solos, which (of course) demand complete familiarity with the chord changes, and with whatever scale(s) they indicate or allow.

Composed solos are more common in rock - which is not a bad thing, because the function of the solo in rock is different to what it is in jazz. Rock in general is a more "composed" music than jazz. Rock fans like to hear the same things (great melodies, riffs or hook licks) over and over. Jazz fans hate to hear the same song played the same way twice.

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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/20/2006 1:04 AM

Brian Elzey (4318) wrote:

I think good composed leads vs improvised can go hand in hand. For about the first 10 years of my playing I only played things that were previously worked out. But that's mainly because I didn't know how to improvise very well. And how do you improvise well? By knowing scale/chord relationships. By listening to the rhythm. By hearing what else is going on in the music. The skills you need to be a good improviser are basically the same skills you need to write good composed parts. What really is improvising? It's composing on the spot. Now that I have some experience in improvising, I can write much better parts as well. I think the two are inseparable.

But another part (and this is cliche') is to hear it in your mind. I was writing a song for my band the other day, and while listening back to the rhythm I heard a great melody line over it. So then I sat there and figured out what my mind had allready come up with. Perhaps you could use this on a larger scale. Have a beginning to a solo in mind. Then, play it in your head but let it keep going. Hum along to it. I find that when I do this not only do I hear the lead going places in my head, but it is being played over a mental backing track as well. Try and figure out the root notes of where that mental backing track was going, and it may lead you in some new directions.

By the way, I've heard some of your stuff on WN, and your a fine player, esp for your age. No doubt you can compose some cool stuff (no reference to the band No Doubt intended!).

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Re: Phrasing (with and without backing track)

4/29/2006 1:42 PM

Will Kriski (169) wrote:

Many musicians are not at a level where they can spontaneously create a memorable solo. If you can create a melodic idea, then develop it (repeating the idea by altering the melody or rhythm over the chord changes), and alter the dynamics, speed, etc then you are on track to spontaneously record an improvised solo. If not, there's nothing wrong with working out parts or all of a solo beforehand if you are going to record. While this can be frowned upon in jazz, even jazz musicians will work out ideas (by improvising ahead of time over the chord changes) before recording themselves).
Your message was a little confusing about the chord changes - let me say that the chord changes are usually fixed (ie. they don't change) however in jazz, good comp'ers (pianists or guitarists) can react to what the soloist is doing or vice versa but this usually involves either alterations to the chords (keeping the same basic chord eg. altering a dominant 7th chord), or reharmonization of a chord. This is fairly complex and probably won't happen in rock songs. So in summary, if you have chord changes, work out at least the basic structure or flow of your solo if you are going to record it.
Hope this helps!