The Front Porch Jamming Concept

Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, The Orioles, the Yankees...Everyone breaks things up into teams, compartments, and sections.

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Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, The Orioles, the Yankees...Everyone breaks things up into teams, compartments, and sections. While the ability to build compartments has enabled our natural world to evolve and survive, often it's helpful for us guitarists to blur the line between the distinctions of rhythm and lead playing.

I call it The Front Porch Jamming Concept.

As a long haired teenager, I developed this idea while swatting mosquitoes and playing blues on the front step. It's served me well, both in band situations, and during long sets playing solo guitar on the street.

Problem #1

It's sometimes difficult for a guitar player to smoothly transition between a rhythm and a lead part.

Problem #2

This difficulty is further magnified when the guitarist is the only musician playing. When you're sitting on a park bench jamming away, and it comes time for the solo, the floor usually drops out from under the song, as there's no supporting rhythm. The solo sounds empty, thin, and pathetic. In turn, you might try harder, forcing the tone, and rushing the timing. Then, that song will go somewhere in a hand basket very quickly. And it won't be Kansas.

However, the greats never have a problem in this regard, especially the power trio wizards like Jimi and Stevie. But how can we begin to learn this skill?

Solution (One Of Many)

To apply the FPJC (I love acronyms), we can begin as follows:

Start with a simple blues shuffle in E. Make it groove, and feel it in your bones. Popular application tells us that the E minor pentatonic scale is our go-to pattern to create a solo over a vamp such as this. As we're thumping out that shuffle pattern, we will begin to create fills with the associated E minor pentatonic. Instead of stopping the rhythm, and soloing, we're simply going to add a few notes from the scale, and then go back to playing rhythm.

The important point to remember is to keep the groove going.

How? First, don't play a complicated line. Just two or three notes that fall outside of the shuffle pattern will suffice. Secondly, concentrate on the momentum of the song. You'll be shuffling DA da DA da DA da DA da, so reflect that in your fill. This can be achieved by playing similar rhythmic patterns, and also by keeping the rhythm part playing in your mind while you execute the fill.

I know this sounds goofy, but the ability to refer to a mental reference, be it for rhythm, timing, or tone, is invaluable. Put differently, if you use your hands or tapping foot for a reference, as soon as you make a mistake, or miss a beat, you're sunk. While the mind may be full of dark demons and little voices telling you that the rice crispies are poisoned with the rare albino dung beetle that looks like rice, it can be more accurate than relying on your hand.

As you play these fills, strive to convey the idea that the rhythm hasn't stopped, but that it's merely changed forms.

As you apply this, experiment with playing farther and farther away from the home base shuffle pattern. Concentrate on maintaining both the song's rhythm and form (I-IV-V) as you create melodies. You may find that there's a point where you stretch things too thin, and can't convey the sense of momentum. Pull back in, and try again. But do try. Trial and error are the names of the game here.

You'll know you've mastered the idea when a listener can dance to your rhythm and lead playing.

The Front Porch Jamming Concept is just pretending. But like a magician pretending that the rabbit really did vanish, conviction results in convincing.

Wrapping Up

  • The Front Porch Jamming Concept aims to help guitarists maintain a sense of song rhythm and form during their solos by anchoring lead parts to a strong rhythm.

  • Applied properly, the concept can allow a solo guitarist to improvise while continuing the momentum of the song.

  • It can also help band musicians by keeping solos in context of the song, no matter how razzle dazzle. Flashy is great, and when meaningful, it's inspirational.

  • I recommend starting with an E blues, and it's associated E minor pentatonic scale. Build fills from this scale, while maintaining the rhythm and momentum on the song.

  • Drinking lemonade while sitting on your front porch seems to be helpful.

  • Rock on!

    Keep up the good work, and I'll see you next time. For more ideas, don't forget to check out my blog!

    Copyright 2008 Josh Urban - All Rights Reserved

    Josh Urban (photo) is a musician with a unique perspective on music. Always a thinker, he gains insight wherever he can find it, be it in the clubs as a working musician, busking on the city streets, or teaching in the classroom. A naturally enthusiastic fellow, Josh is always fired up about bringing the lessons he's learned to his readers. Maintaining a website, a blog, and a monthly newsletter, he aims to make musicians stop, think, and play with a little more intensity, integrity, and inspiration. You never know who's listening.

  • 34 comments sorted by best / new / date

      Divinephyton
      We'll they are good tips, but most of this stuff should come naturally to a player listening to his music instead of trying to show off about how good he is as a player... But for the people where it maybe for some other reason won't come naturally, these are good tips
      phillyguitar
      Scourge441 wrote: Good stuff, but I agree that this should come naturally to most decent guitarists.
      I disagree with this, I myself have experienced some of the same problems going from a band to a solo guitar situation where whats natural is to rely on those other members of the band to back you up. Drum and bass, lead and rythm guitar, everyone feeds off each other and relies on each other for support in a band. When you play alone you have to exercise a lot of discipline. If anything, changing a song to play it solo feels less natural than it would to be with the entire band playing. You can be an amazing player and still have to work on things like this. My only comment on this article is that Jimmi Hendrix, Stevie Ray etc. all had bass players and drummers to help them out. I would prefer a distinction between "bands with one guitar player," and a completely solo guitar experience.
      kradamek
      strong_wizard wrote: Stevie Ray Vaughan was good at it.
      as was jimi. they probably jammed by themselves and by the time they hit the big time it was so easy fo them
      drugless_stoner
      cool tips man, i tned to do the same thing myself to spice up breaks in songs, for example, i do a lot of finger picking, you know, play the chords and sing teh song, then when it coem for a fil, or a solo, just change the chords slightly, add in sustained chords, 7ths...etc, you keep the rythm and chord sequence going, but there is a distinct change in how its sounds
      Jrimert
      phillyguitar : Scourge441 wrote: Good stuff, but I agree that this should come naturally to most decent guitarists. I disagree with this, I myself have experienced some of the same problems going from a band to a solo guitar situation where whats natural is to rely on those other members of the band to back you up. Drum and bass, lead and rythm guitar, everyone feeds off each other and relies on each other for support in a band. When you play alone you have to exercise a lot of discipline. If anything, changing a song to play it solo feels less natural than it would to be with the entire band playing. You can be an amazing player and still have to work on things like this. My only comment on this article is that Jimmi Hendrix, Stevie Ray etc. all had bass players and drummers to help them out. I would prefer a distinction between "bands with one guitar player," and a completely solo guitar experience.
      First off, I'd like to say I was expecting a little more out of this article.. It's helpful in a way, but probably left some people in the dirt who don't know there E minor Pentatonic scale.. I don't blame you for staying on topic and not going off on tangents.. But little things like that could help newbies.. Secondly... I'd like to respond in Jimi and Stevie's defense... Try looking on Youtube... Listen to Stevie's 12 string SOLO performance of "Pride and Joy." Also, listen to Jimi's 12 string SOLO performance of "Hear My Train A Comin." While I do agree for the most part they played with bass and drums live to help keep the beat, they still both had the amazing talent to keep songs interesting alone. Notice how they don't just play the same thing over and over... Like what the author was saying, keep the beat, but fill in with some notes... Don't go overboard.
      theshroomman
      Y0UNGBL00D wrote: i do this naturally. on my front porch actually. and it more often than not turns out satisfactually. it's almost instinct practically, not that much of a catch for me. but if you ask ol' cactus lee, the man who's wrists now atrophed, who still just shuffles along in E, it goes naturally like birds and bees. ok ill stop
      haha
      DirtyDeeds
      i'm not here to bash and I understand theres a lot of kids and beginners on here, but isn't this basic logic to not sound bad when playing by yourself?
      PitLurker
      I've been doing this actually! And guess what.. I've even started making lemonade for it. Cool eh?
      Galvanise69
      Yeah i always tried to keep the melody in my head and it worked, but how does one play an E blues shuffle? and what is the pattern for a pentatonic? i know my theorys pretty weak...
      Rivers
      The Man Himself wrote: I think solo's can be the best part of a song. Two solo's that I love are Frusciante's studio solo for Californication and Kirk Hammett on Fade to Black. The reason I like the californication solo so much is cause its so well done, it feels like it takes you on a journey but yet its not flashy and really simple.
      Frusciante's solos really do take you on a journey.
      guitar_amateur
      dark demons and little voices telling you that the rice crispies are poisoned with the rare albino dung beetle that looks like rice
      omg NO, not my rice krispies!!
      imdwalrus
      Good Stuff. But I do agree with divinephyton, if this stuff doesn't come naturally, then maybe you shouldn't be showing off your stuff, or atleast trying.
      fretsonfire74
      Divinephyton wrote: We'll they are good tips, but most of this stuff should come naturally to a player listening to his music instead of trying to show off about how good he is as a player... But for the people where it maybe for some other reason won't come naturally, these are good tips
      +1
      Scourge441
      Good stuff, but I agree that this should come naturally to most decent guitarists.
      Y0UNGBL00D
      i do this naturally. on my front porch actually. and it more often than not turns out satisfactually. it's almost instinct practically, not that much of a catch for me. but if you ask ol' cactus lee, the man who's wrists now atrophed, who still just shuffles along in E, it goes naturally like birds and bees. ok ill stop
      Maverick49
      Great article. I know some amazing lead players who are terrible at rhythm and vice versa. One of my main strengths as a guitarist is that I have specialised in this type of switching back between rhythm and lead, so much so that I'm about to start my own power-trio!
      yoyodunno
      As i've gotten better i just do this mix of rythym and lead naturally, but good tips.
      blacksides
      you can show off in yer solos if you want to, just make your solos more rhythm based. follow the rhythm of the song, don't just play 16 notes. you can impress people more if you can make your solo part of the song, but also make the song better. don't make songs vehicles for solos. listen to some jazz music. jazz musicians can solo for an entire song, but follow melody and make it fit the song, instead of the other way around.
      Ibanez Junkie
      I agree with everybody. This just kinda comes to me ('cept on my BACK porch). But...this could be good help for a player having trouble with the concept, or maybe a new player.
      David Fyfield
      Why do you whant to solo and prevent the singer from singing? Often solos just show off a tricky play,saying "listen to me aint I clever" and does not add value to a listeners ear. Before you solo ask youself is this realy advancing the pleasure of the listener or just effecting the solo players ego? If all the band agree then seek an audiences opinion. If strangers like the solo then still think about not doing it. If you just can't imagine the song without the solo then go for it. This is just my opinion Do others share this ?
      mattyp90
      David Fyfield wrote: Why do you whant to solo and prevent the singer from singing? Often solos just show off a tricky play,saying "listen to me aint I clever" and does not add value to a listeners ear. Before you solo ask youself is this realy advancing the pleasure of the listener or just effecting the solo players ego? If all the band agree then seek an audiences opinion. If strangers like the solo then still think about not doing it. If you just can't imagine the song without the solo then go for it. This is just my opinion Do others share this ?
      Kind of, but what you're really saying is that a solo needs to be good. If it's good then listeners will like it and it deserves to be there, obviously if it's rubbish then there's no point sticking solos in for the sake of it, most would agree. Personally, I write a lot of songs and I'm always more inclined to put in a really good chord progression, different from the rest of the song, with a fitting melody rather than a fully-fledged solo. I might not enjoy playing it more, but I usually enjoy hearing it more.
      -metalhead-
      David Fyfield wrote: Why do you whant to solo and prevent the singer from singing? Often solos just show off a tricky play,saying "listen to me aint I clever" and does not add value to a listeners ear. Before you solo ask youself is this realy advancing the pleasure of the listener or just effecting the solo players ego? If all the band agree then seek an audiences opinion. If strangers like the solo then still think about not doing it. If you just can't imagine the song without the solo then go for it. This is just my opinion Do others share this ?
      A solo doesnt have to be a showing off move. A solo is something a listener can enjoy listening to, and thinking it could be him. A solo can make youre song more full and complete. Dont shit on the guitar solo, its one of the most important things a guitarist can do and learn.
      The Man Himself
      I think solo's can be the best part of a song. Two solo's that I love are Frusciante's studio solo for Californication and Kirk Hammett on Fade to Black. The reason I like the californication solo so much is cause its so well done, it feels like it takes you on a journey but yet its not flashy and really simple. whereas the fade to black solo grabs you by the balls. Its not that kirk was trying to show off its just that is the direction the song went which was just building up for a massive outro. and besides who rags on solos? as a guitarist I love solo's more than anything else, it gives you so much freedom you can take it anywhere, make it as intense as you want or relaxing. solos show the belly fire inside of the guitarists, its raw, its the guitarist wanting to give all he has to the song. So ****in ignite your belly fire and shred that ax dude, its actually pretty fun.
      FunKRocK
      Yeah dude, stevie ray was killer at doin this. And E minor really is the best key to solo in.