John Petrucci(3)

Guitarists often spend a lot of time studying the melodic and harmonic applications of scales, but it’s also worth focusing on rhythmic ways of playing scales, as the same group of notes sounds vastly different if framed in a different rhythm. A good place to start is with a three-note-per-string scale such as this A major pattern [Ex. 1]. Notice the pattern doesn’t continue up across the second and first strings. As you’ll see, these 12 notes and four strings offer more than enough opportunities for rhythmic excitement.
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The obvious rhythm to apply to a three-note-per-string scale is the triplet. We’re talking about the ever-popular three-notes-per-downbeat approach [Ex. 2]. Four notes per downbeat—or sixteenth-notes—is probably the next most common tactic [Ex.3], but, by shifting the accent from every fourth pitch to every fifth (while remaining in 4/4 time), you can transform this ordinary scalar sound to that cool, less predictable “five against four” vibe [Ex.4]. (You’ll find a metronome is helpful for keeping track of the downbeat as the groupings get more complex.) Next, try shifting those accents to every seventh or ninth pitch of the scale—or, literally apply odd time signatures, such as 7/8 [Ex. 5].

Eventually, you’ll want to be able to apply these patterns and groupings to a scale in more of its positions. Three-notes-per-string scales naturally lend themselves to triplet sixteenths as you ascend the scale up the fretboard [Ex. 6], but remember, the point of this lesson is to experiment with more adventurous rhythms. Mix it up! Play that last example as straight sixteenths, accenting each downbeat [Ex. 7], and it’ll sound so different you’ll hardly recognize it.