Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Insanity 101: Magic with Melody Fragments"

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
 Originally published at Insane Guitar, 2002.

Let’s say we start with a basic melody line. Then let’s say we cut out a signature section, something like this:

(click here for sound)

Play this a few times through and improvise for a while. Now, amid whatever shred-fest you’ve jammed out to go along with this, try referring back to this fragment. Seasoned guitarists like Neil Schon, George Lynch, and Steve Stevens are known for this sort of repeated reference, often spicing it up with octave displacement and micro-themes played between long scalar runs. Try these following examples, which feature octave displacement:

(click here for sound)

Scalar runs:

(click here for sound)

And even “alien” harmonies:

(click here for sound)

This last fragment uses the initial melody fragment plus a parallel harmony (minor 3rd). Using
“perfect’ parallel movement, rather than diatonic movement, is a great way to achieve bizarre harmonic effects – though it’s probably easier to pull it off either by double-tracking (when recording) or using a harmonizer (when playing live), rather than playing such odd diads. Experiment with different intervals and get a feel for the flavor of each.

Meditate on this for a while, and next month we’ll explore a little game invented by Mozart.

1 comment:

  1. Octave Displacement is a wondrous technique. Scofield does this with 7ths to get great angular effect. Eric Johnson is a master of doing it to open up the sound and get up the neck fast. Love that you emphasize repetition. Great soloists take a good idea, repeat it, permutate it and take you for a few surprises along the way.