How To Use Rhythmic Displacement To Come Up With New Riffs

author: Byronmarks date: 03/15/2013 category: guitar techniques
rating: 7.3 / votes: 23 
How To Use Rhythmic Displacement To Come Up With New Riffs
In this article I want to examine an often neglected topic that can instantly bring new freshness and variety into your guitar playing without having to acquire more technique. Rhythmic Displacement happens when the feel of a musical element is altered in such a way that the listener hears the groove shifting, as if there were a meter change or an odd bar added to "throw things off". In reality the meter is not different at all but the emphasis, which is now on a different down-beat or a back-beat, is felt. The shift, which creates rhythmic tension or dissonance, will usually resolve itself to allow the listener to feel that things have "gotten back to normal". Taking a riff or phrase and shifting it, even by an eighth of a beat, can make the same riff or phrase seem completely different. For this article, I'm going to focus on using rhythmic displacement strictly with rhythm guitar but this technique can certainly be applied to lead guitar as well. In the following examples Im using eighth note rhythms only, but you can experiment with using as many different subdivisions as you like. Example 1: A riff that starts on Beat One of the measure.
|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|----2---2-------2-------2---2---------|
|----2---2---R---2---R---2---2---R---R |
|----0---0-------0-------0---0---------|
In Example 2 an eighth rest has been added on beat one and the riff now starts on the And of Beat One,creating a slight rhythmic dissonance.
|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|---------2---2------2-------2---2-----|
|----R----2---2---R--2---R---2---2-----|
|---------0---0------0-------0---0-----|
In Example 3, the riff now starts on Beat Two of Measure 1, which is going to give the impression of the riff being in odd time. The biggest difference between Example 3 and Example 2 is that even though Example 2 starts on an Off Beat, it still ends within the same measure. Example 3 is going to go "over the bar" and end on the and of Beat 1 of Measure 2.
|--------------------------------|
|--------------------------------|
|--------------------------------|
|----------2---2-------2------2--|
|--R---R---2---2---R---2---R--2--|
|----------0---0-------0------0--|

|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|---2---2-------------------------------|
|---2---2------R---R----R---R----R---R--|
|---0---0-------------------------------|

|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|---------------------------------------|
|---2---2-------------------------------|
|---2---2------R---R----R---R----R---R--|
|---0---0-------------------------------|
Lets now combine two examples into one idea! Combo Example 1 starts with the main riff starting on Beat 1 for Measure 1 and then adds the shifted riff to the and of Beat 1 for Measure 2, creating a slight dissonance, but also a call and response motif.
|-----------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------|
|--2---2-------2-------2-----2------|
|--2---2---R---2---R---2-----2---R--|
|--0---0-------0-------0-----0------|

|------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------|
|------------------------------------|
|------2----2--------2--------2---2--|
|---R--2----2---R----2---R----2---2--|
|------0----0--------0--------0---0--|
Combo Example 2 also starts with the main riff starting on Beat 1 of Measure 1 and then shifts to start on Beat 2 of Measure 2. This is going to create a bigger sense of dissonance, because the second half of the riff is now going to go over the bar, ending on the and of the first beat of Measure 3. This is going to create the illusion of the riff being in odd time.
|-----------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------|
|-----------------------------------|
|--2---2-------2-------2-----2------|
|--2---2---R---2---R---2-----2---R--|
|--0---0-------0-------0-----0------|

|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|----------------------------------|
|-----------2---2---------2------2-|
|---R---R---2---2----R----2--R---2-|
|-----------0---0---------0------0-|

|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|--------------------------------------|
|---2---2------------------------------|
|---2---2-----R---R----R---R----R---R--|
|---0---0------------------------------|
These are just a few of the countless possibilities and combinations using Rhythmic Displacement. Once you feel comfortable with the concept, implement it using as many different subdivisions as you can come up with (Whole, Half, Quarter, Eighth, Sixteenth notes...) For true daredevils - try out Thirty Second, Sixty Fourth Notes and beyond. Have fun and take your playing to new places! See ya next time! By Byron Marks www.byronmarks.net
More Byronmarks lessons:
+ Practicing Guitar When You Don't Have a Guitar With You Correct Practice 07/19/2014
+ I Like to Move It Move It: Rhythmic Displacement Pt. II Guitar Techniques 06/06/2013
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