Classical Sequences for Rock & Jazz Playing

January 30, 2014

imgIN THIS LESSON we’ll be looking at some sequential phrases found in classical music that have influenced the rock and fusion guitar vocabulary. These examples are excellent for the development of both hands, so sharpen up your pick and let’s get our chops up!

imgEx. 1 is based on a repeated note pattern found in 19th century piano and violin literature. If we apply this pattern to an A whole-tone scale (A, B, C#, D#, F, G), and extend it a bit, we get Ex. 1a: a challenging, 1970s King Crimson/Robert Fripp-style lick.

imgOpen-voiced triads are very common in the violin music of composers such as J.S. Bach and Niccolo Paganini, and rock and fusion guitarists like Eric Johnson and Steve Morse have adopted this approach into their own playing very effectively. Ex 2. is a Morse-style passage that has a very classical sound and is a real workout.

imgEx. 3 is a popular, classically inspired shred guitar pattern.

imgBy changing the scale from C major to D dominant diminished (D, Eb, F, F#, G#, A, B, C), and tweaking the fingering scheme a little, we arrive at Ex. 3a, a hip altered V7 to I line that’s very reminiscent of Mike Stern’s playing.

Try these examples in as many keys and scales as possible for maximum technical and conceptual benefit, and then try creating new patterns of your own based on classical phrases. Enjoy!

Scott McGill is an instructor and BA (hons) Course Leader at the Brighton Institute of Modern Music in England.

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