Phase Training Excersises

hockeyA Short Handed Goal

In hockey a ‘power play’ occurs when a member of one team is being penalized with temporary removal from the game -leaving one team short handed. It’s a great sports moment when a team scores a short handed goal, succeeding at the game despite having fewer players than needed.

Three Note Drill

I see a similar situation in lead guitar playing when someone plays an amazing solo with just a few notes, like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd or the great Jimi Hendrix on his tune entitled Fire. When using the pentatonis scale a s a basis for a solo, try limiting yourself to a small cluster of 3 notes only at a time. Be strict with this concept of sticking to three notes and forcing yourself to create good sounding phrases with your original selection of threee and only three notes. This is exactly the type of disciplined paraxctice technique that someone would learn in a music school, so concentrate hard on theses drills -knowing you are learning to speak your very own cool language.

Box Patterns In The Key Of A

It’s great to know all of the things you have learned in this course, the six scales, chord shapes and approach notes, phrasing, etc. but the bread butter of all rock, pop and contemporary styles is based squarely on pentatonic box patterns. For most players pentatonic patterns are the multi-tool and Swiss army knife of modern playing and are what of as ‘first line of defense’ concepts.
For this study, the exercises will be in the key of A and dealing with creating 3 note phrases associated major ,minor and dominant chords in various pop/, rock or blues type settings. The audio tracks below employs my ‘Stop And Go’ method used in previous lessons. Each audio track below contains a series 4 bar phrases using a smaller set of 3 scale tones, 3 notes only. Each phrase is followed by 4 bars of space for you to play an exact copy of what you just heard as it should be precisely echoed back your guitar.

Alternatively, treat the ‘Stop And Go’ method as an exercise in trading solos, or a ‘question and answere session’ with another guitarist. You listen to his solo, then your solo is a musically appropriate answer, similar to the solo you heard.

Phrase Training Exercise 1: Pop or Rock Style

Use the 3 notes A, C and D as taken from the A minor pentatonic scale as pictured there. Play a musical answer for each 4 bar solo you hear paying special attention to how the root note affects the musical phrases. The phrases you’ll be working with all gain their strength from resolving to that A root note while using only the notes in the 3 subset.


Phrase Training Exercise 2: Shuffle or Blues Style

At first, treat these exercises as strict ear training exercises for you to duplicate on the guitar then think of these drills as increasing your command over box patterns. It is quite surprising to see how powerful and musically rich groups of three notes can be to a good lead player. With this particular 3 note set, take special noticed of the strong pull back to the A root note created by the b7, in this case G, and the b3 blue note or C natural in the key of A.


Phrase Training Exercise 3: Latin Rhythms

These phrasing exercises will form your core of understanding the feeling and true, real world use of the minor pentatonic box pattern. With this new 3 note pallette, again note of the strong pull back to the stability and finality of A root note created by the b7 G note. Because of its strong and powerful sound, these phrases feature the 5th note of the scale, E in this key of course. When you improvise with the track force yourself to stay within the 3 note groupings, think aboiut the amazing amount of melodic intrest and hot sounding phrases possible with only 3 notes.


Phrase Training Exercise 4: Contemporary Feel, Major Sound

The final 2 exercises uses small major scale based melodic devices that I often call ‘phrase boxes’ because of their ability to create just the right phrase or hook when I need it. You’ll recognize this type of simplified approach to thinking and selecting notes in the playing of your favorite guitarists when creating effective and musical major scale phrases.

The following exercise uses 3 notes from the A major scale (5th, 6th & the A root ) to create a beautiful, bouncy sound while still emphasizing the A root note. This type of lick is useful in pop, rock, rhythm & blues, and even jazz for creating sweet or happy sounding licks. Because of the snappy, popping sound of these major pentatonic licks, musicians often call this type of phrase a popcorn part.


Phrase Training Exercise 5: Contemporary Feel, Major Sound

For the final exercise on this page I am using a very useful 4 note subset: A root note, 2nd, 3rd & 5th, which is phrase box derived from an A major pentatonic pattern. The phrases sound decidedly major and I have used this little idea to great effect for that perfect pop or rock music major scale melody.



These phrase building exercises should be repeated often and at length as they will form your ‘bottom line’ of thinking and functioning in lead playing situations. In individual, private lessons I often refer to these subsets as “Sweet Spots” or “Phrase Boxes” to emphasize their usefulness, effect and ease of implementation. Naturally, you’ll think of these 3 or 4 note melodic devices as being part of a larger scale pattern. This way longer, more involved note passages will present themselves to as a way of balancing and elaborating the basic intuitive playing you’ve been developing here. Finally the true feel, personality, sound and powers of the individual scale members reveal clearly themselves in this type of practicing.

Return To Lesson.


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