Continuing his look at navigating the fretboard in string-pair cells, Shaun Baxter reveals a neat way to play longer lines that hold the listener’s interest.
Shaun Baxter continues to explore his stringpair cells – this month, it’s larger note groupings.
avoiding the awkward third to second-string jump), providing physical and visual convenience. it’s a technique that is very convenient on guitar and allows us to adopt a musical approach that’s used by every piano player.
When composing the examples for the previous series, i soon became aware that a lot of them featured large groupings (6,7, 9, 10, 11, 12 etc); so, i decided to save those up for this particular lesson. The rhythmic note-groupings that we are going to look at in this lesson are not divisible by the underlying count (in this case, 16th-notes played to a 4/4 time signature). So each one creates an effect known as ‘rhythmic displacement’; a phenomenon that occurs when a different note appears on the downbeat each time a musical figure is repeated (thus changing the focal point for the listener).
For example, in Diagram 2 on the opposite page, look what happens when we repeat a five-note figure to a 16th-note count (four notes per beat).First the 1 is on the beat, then the 5, then the 4, the 3 and then the 2, before eventually returning to the 1 to start the sequence all over again (in this case, from the second beat of bar 2).
The advantage of using this approach with string-pair cells is that we can repeat exactly the same idea (in this case, over three octaves) while avoiding sounding predictable. It’s an approach that provides us with range, length of line, melodic interest and rhythmic interest; and produces an inner musical logic to each line, which helps to make it sound cohesive and ‘right’ for the listener. In other words, the notes sound as if they belong together. Another bonus is that it reduces the amount of thought required. Instead of having to keep thinking and creating for the whole duration of the line, we merely have to construct a single musical motif and then shift it up or down in different octaves.
Although it brings many musical advantages, it can be technically challenging if you are new to this particular technique as it requires a form of rhythmic spatial awareness. The acid test is that you must be able to tap your foot on each quarter-note throughout. This means that, rhythmically, you remain well-grounded; a bit like an acrobat who knows where the floor is mid somersault!
If you experience difficulty doing this, you should break down each example beat by beat, establish the contents of each quarter-note, and then practise inching your way from one beat to the next. As in the previous series, all of the following examples are based around string-pair ‘cells’ that will work in A minor
(see Diagram 1). The intention is to help you to start building up a useful repertoire of shapes and lines for you to be able to draw upon when improvising. Once you have done this, make sure that you can transpose your new vocabulary to any key. Note, in the following examples, although string-pair cells are used in each example, it is the rhythmic grouping, not the string-pair cell, that is encased in a rectangle within the transcription. Finally, where accents are shown in the transcription, do your best to make these notes louder than the rest: it’ll make all the difference to the overall effect and make it sound less like exercises.
although it brings many musical advantages, it can be technically challenging if you are new to this particular technique.