3-Note Sequence Ideas

In this lesson I am going to show you a way to take a common three-note sequence and turn it around to create a new sequence that sounds much more interesting.

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In this lesson I am going to show you a way to take a common three-note sequence and turn it around to create a new sequence that sounds much more interesting.

Understanding Rhythm

First, let's compare standard 8th notes and 8th note triplet rhythms. I think it is very important to understand rhythm and timing. Many guitarists (particularly self-taught ones) play lead guitar without thinking about timing at all, but mastery of rhythm allows for much greater expression. Example One demonstrates standard 8th notes (2 notes per beat). Example Two uses 8th note triplets (3 notes per beat). Note: make sure when you practice this that all three notes are evenly spaced! Free E-book version of this lesson with bonus licks and embedded audio examples.

The 3-Note Sequence

So now that we have taken a look at the 8th note triplet rhythm, let's try it out with a common 3-note sequence in the A minor Pentatonic scale. The basic gist of this sequence is that you play three ascending notes from the first note of the scale, then three ascending notes from the second note of the scale, then from the third, etc. Example Three - typical 3-note sequence ascending the A minor pentatonic scale. Example Four is the descending version of our typical 3-note sequence. A couple of things to keep in mind:
  • Practice this using all 5 positions of the minor pentatonic scale
  • When you use this idea in your solos you don't need to play through the whole scale or it will sound like an exercise - small passages are fine
  • Become very comfortable with this sequence so that you can break into it (and out) at will
  • An additional benefit to practicing these sequences is increased coordination and synchronization between your right and left hand

    Turning It Around

    Now we are going to look at turning our 3-note sequence around to create something new! In our first sequence we were playing ascending groups of three notes while moving up through the scale and descending groups of three while coming down the scale. In our next examples we will play descending groups of three notes while going up the scale and ascending groups of three notes while coming down the scale. I call these "reversed 3-note sequences." I understand that it may be hard to understand this just from reading my description, but it will be clearer once you run through the following examples a few times. Example Five moves up the A minor pentatonic scale while playing descending 3 note groups. Example Six moves down through the scale while playing ascending three note groups. Get the Free E-book version of this lesson with bonus licks and embedded audio examples. I hope you have enjoyed this lesson and that it gives you some new ideas for soloing. If you find it difficult to play the examples in time, simply practice them without worry about the timing at first. Then once you become comfortable with the sequences you can focus on the timing. As always practice the concepts and ideas discussed here to generate your own licks in different keys and with various positions of the pentatonic scale. Happy jamming and see you soon! 2009 Paul Tauterouff All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. Paul Tauterouff is a professional guitarist/ teacher in upstate New York. Visit http://paultauterouff.com for more information on Paul and to check out his free guitar lesson newsletter.
  • 29 comments sorted by best / new / date

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      justinb904
      simple idea but it holds it's own, especially when you apply it to other scales/modes and such
      ajreciever14
      wow, this is the only article on the front page that isnt fiction. kudos to you keepin it real. (im so lame)
      myusic909head
      I've been playing the regular 3 note sequence for a year now and its been great to me. I CAN'T WAIT to try out the descending sequence while going UP the scale. Brilliant. Thanx bro
      libertines4ever
      it's all about turning round that's matters and of course the triplets they're important to bring the soloing to a new level love the turning round bit I just think you could've pointed out a bit more what is new (for some people who rate it bad cause they only see old pentatonics) and that you've got to play it to understand it fully (ok you did that but maybe emphasize it - bold, big letters so that people can't over-read it) otherwise great lesson, just a shame that some don't read every part of it nice and refreshing
      jetwash69
      Clabbe wrote: damn isn't it anyone who read notes around here ? i only see tab's
      If you post just notes and not tabs, then there's lots of places all over the neck where each note could be played--tabs let you know which place the author intended each one to be played. This is especially important with chords, which can be voiced in so many different ways for each chord.
      Clabbe
      damn isn't it anyone who read notes around here ? i only see tab's
      Paul Tauterouff
      Great suggestions on how to expand on the idea! I am glad you guys are enjoying. There will be a follow up to it in the future.
      huevos
      ikedawg wrote: Its a good starting point. Do 4 note patterns, and then you'll all kinds of possibilities.
      You could go with sixteenth notes, quintuplets, sextuplets, and so on (is it hepta or septalets?). Then you could use it in modular playing, harmonize it, with the possiblities going through the roof. I like this article; it reminds me that there's no limit to music, but constraints are good sometimes.
      Paul Tauterouff
      It's about the reverse patterns. Please read the entire article and then pick up the guitar and play the last patterns under "Turning It Around". They are not all that commonly used and are also great to help with picking accuracy due to the string skips.
      Paul Tauterouff
      You couldn't see the value in turning around that three-note sequence to come up with new licks? It's not about the lick, it's about the concept. Apply it to all of the pentatonic and other scake patterns and mix it up and you have endless ideas.
      wesselbindt
      Aneoclassicguy wrote: you didnt sayd anythin. The only thing here were licks from the pentantonic scale
      Well he pointed out that you can do sequences in 3-note patterns too. But that's quite obvious.
      chaos13
      Yeah you definitely have to play this to get the full value of it, but once you do, its great. Nice job
      Mr. Smiley
      I can definitely see myself using this. I also think it's a good way to practice scales.
      ikedawg
      Its a good starting point. Do 4 note patterns, and then you'll all kinds of possibilities.
      vIsIbleNoIsE
      Ribcage wrote: As long as the guest column is not Fiction, I like it.
      too much fiction around here now
      Colohue
      MetalBucket wrote: You have to read the whole article, play and experiment with it before saying something... Great Article!
      Exactly. Anybody who doesn't see the benefit of this likely hasn't really tried.
      MetalBucket
      You have to read the whole article, play and experiment with it before saying something... Great Article!