How to Master Sequences for Lead Guitar
Bringing it all together!
The goal in these writings is to give the student a system to organize their ideas, and combine them in useful ways. We have used sequences as a way to explore ideas and construct licks that you can master quickly! This is different from scale routines, which are designed to mathematically organize the ideas, yet never fully understand how they can be used in your lead guitar playing. Together with scale forms and runs, it is confusing to the student. Because of these difficulties, we have provided many articles on how to combat this problem. Before moving to the last set of examples, we will briefly review the ideas set forth, so you can see how they can be combined.
In part 1 of these articles, we explore the basics of 6 note sequences, and how to construct them. 6 notes, ascending or descending are picked out of a particular scale. Part one technically uses 3 notes, and you play them in sextuplets. If this all sounds confusing (as these things generally do!), here is an easy way to think it through:
Descending run (E minor), these numbers indicate the scale tones of E minor:
Start on Scale Tones!
The first article gives you formula for practicing scale runs. Of course, you can use this with any scale, starting on any scale tone, and playing it anywhere on the neck. Once you are comfortable with the formula, move into part 2, which takes the original design and tweaks it a little bit. In order to make the musical line more natural, we want chord tones stressed on strong beats. To accomplish this task, we start our run as we always do, but we force the pattern to stress a chord tone on the next downbeat, regardless of the flow of the sequence.
Stress Chord Tones = Mastery
This is the most important lesson to gain from this article. Stress the chord tones. Although you may consider it cool to play any note any time, stressing chord tones will make your playing sound like you are a master! And as such, thinking this way, together with implementing it into your playing will help your lines really sound right. A run will now look as such:
Chords on Strong Beats
The examples in part 3 reinforce the same ideas in part 2, that is, chord tones on strong beats, breaking the mathematical sequence for the sake of melodic contour. The lines shown in this page are ascending, most the previous ones were descending. Part 4 shows more of the same examples, as well as a short discussion on what happens if you break the pattern, stressing whatever you like.
Going even more in depth, part 5 takes each line, just as before, repeats the first two notes (filling an entire bar), repeating the whole 6 note line once more. After which, we play 2 notes of a sequence that is coming in the NEXT bar. Once more, we use the scale tones as indicated below. We are using the idea of stressing chord tones on strong beats (from part 2), and now we are repeating some of the sequence to fill out the bar.
Now we move into constructing lines that sound even more free. How do we achieve this? We don’t repeat the melodic phrase. We start a new 6 note phrase on beat 4, beat 3, anyplace we so choose. It must be said that doing this in the isolation of a practice room is easier than playing it live, or with drums. This is because your lines will create tension over the barline. These ideas do not fit nicely inside each bar. They carry over, creating movement, feeling free. This type of playing is certainly advanced, and will take some time to get your head around. The first few examples of this can be found here.
In this article, the goal is to combine all the preceding ideas of construction and put them together into coherent lines for solos. The examples below will show how to do this. In our advanced sequences article, we explored the idea of creating stress by continuing the melodic line over the barline, and in those examples, we did not emphasize scale tones. The purpose of that was to emphasize only the idea of starting a new sequence and carrying it over, and trying to get the ‘feel’ of such an idea correctly. Now, our examples will do much the same, only now, we will use scale tones on all sequences. Let’s get started!
- Example 1
In this example, we start on the root of E minor (E), descending 6 notes down the scale. On beat 4, a new sequence is formed, starting on the scale tone B, the 5th. This sequence carries over the barline until beat 3 of the next measure. Notice that every new sequence starts on a different beat, but is also an important scale tone.
- Example 2
The second example is presented exactly the same as E minor, but transcribed for B minor. Continue to experiment using these ideas in all keys, all positions, and in various scales/modes.
- Example 3
Back to E minor, we start a sequence starting on the 5th, descending to D. In these examples, you can construct 5 sequences based on 6 notes. If played with scale tones, they will really soar!
- Example 4
Transcribed to B minor, this example is similar to example 3. Again, practice these lines all over the neck. Do not take for granted that the fingerings in the tablature will fit your hand. There are many ways to play these lines. Even more ways to organize them. Experiment with the most economical ways to construct and use the ideas.
- Example 5
The remaining examples will show ascending examples, in B minor as well as E minor. They can be arranged in any key, any mode, and in any position on the neck. This particular one starts on the root of E minor, with a 2nd ascending line starting on beat 4, stressing a strong chord tone, carrying over the barline into another sequence on beat 3, and so on.
- Example 6
Another example in E minor, this time starting on the 3rd of the chord. New sequences form on beat 4 of measure one, beat 3 of measure two, and so on. In each measure, the sequence will start one beat earlier until the repetitions get back to the 1st beat. Try playing these lines with a drummer, you should start to understand how much these lines break the barline!
- Example 7
This example is similar to number 6, transcribed to B minor. Starting on the root. It’s important to realize, the same principals apply. All the examples so far are available to listen to in a video post below.
- Example 8
Starting on the 3rd of B minor (D), we have one final example. Following these ideas, and exploring your own creativity, you arm yourself with endless variety in your lead guitar playing. Again, these licks began as simple mathematical practice routines, transformed into very free playing that is quite difficult.
Click the video below to hear all examples
This is a pretty long post, so I thank you for reading and watching the video! In case you need more tips, read below!
Closing ideas (what to get out of these and what to do!)
- Understand that each article is showing one application of a lick. Although one application is ok, there are many many more.
- Practice the ideas set forth in each article.
- Play the examples in all keys
- Change the rhythms
- Combine one application as well as with another, this will really give you some original ideas!
- Learn the forms all over the neck. DO NOT just learn one position of a lick.
- Play with other people! Share your ideas!
We have recently published an ebook on Mastering Sequences here. This ebook contains 48 examples with tab, as well as with video links played at various speeds, with backing tracks as well!
Thanks for reading!