Phrasing

author: UG Team date: 07/31/2003 category: guitar techniques

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OK, a lot of cool lead players like Steve Vai and Marty Friedman use a really cool idea called rhythmic displacement. What this means is that they are playing phrases with a different number of notes than the amount of notes in each rhythmic division. For example, Figure 1 is "3 over 4" - 3 note phrases over groups of four: (N. B: Even though I've written 8th notes, play them as 16ths)
Figure 1:
    >        >        >        >        >        >
    ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
    |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
E-|17-15-12-17-15-12-17-15-12-17-15-12-17-15-12-17----
B-|---------------------------------------------------
G-|---------------------------------------------------
D-|---------------------------------------------------
A-|---------------------------------------------------
E-|---------------------------------------------------
If you play this with a metronome set to even 16ths, you'll notice that by accenting the 1st note of every phrase (the A at the 17th fret), the accents are constantly moving, they're falling on different parts of each beat. Another common rhythmic displacement is 4 over 3, playing four note phrases over a triplet rhythm as in Figure 2:
Figure 2:
    >           >           >
    {  3  }  {  3  }  {  3  }  {  3  }
    -------  -------  -------  -------
    |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
E-|17-16-13-12-19-16-13-12-20-16-13-12-|-------------
B-|------------------------------------|--------------
G-|------------------------------------|--------------
D-|------------------------------------|--------------
A-|------------------------------------|--------------
E-|------------------------------------|--------------
OK, now for something a little tricky: 7 over 4! (Again, play em as 16ths and not 8ths)
Figure 3:
    >                    >                    >
    ----------  ----------  ----------  ----------
    |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |  |
E-|15-13-12-------------15-13-12-------------15-13---
B-|---------15-14-12-------------15-14-12-------------
G-|------------------15-------------------15----------
D-|---------------------------------------------------
A-|---------------------------------------------------
E-|---------------------------------------------------
Anything more displaced than 7 over 4 is starting to get a little ridiculous. But if you're a real masochist, why not try this one? It's 4 over 5: (Again 16ths and not 8ths)
Figure 4:
    >          >          >          >
    {     5    }  {     5     } {    5     }
    ------------  ------------  ------------  ETC...
    |  |  | |  |  |  | |  |  |  | |  |  |  | 
E-|20-19-17-0-20-19-17-0-20-19-17-0-20-19-17---------
B-|---------------------------------------------------
G-|---------------------------------------------------
D-|---------------------------------------------------
A-|---------------------------------------------------
E-|---------------------------------------------------
- James W., wakefjl@sjc.vic.edu.au
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