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Nick Jennison - The Ultimate Guide To Melody & Phrasing: Part 2 - Intervals & Subdivisions

Lesson Notes

Rhythm subdivisions can be thought of in simple terms of approaching your solo using either 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 notes or triplets. Each subdivision can be characterised by its potential to add controlled elements of stability vs tension to your lines and phrases.

1/4 notes - By always landing with the resolved notes on those those strong down beats this is a very safe and stable sound which we are creating. A little too safe perhaps, but has its place.

1/8 notes - This provides us with an off beat with which to explore instability. Starting a melody on the off beat whilst landing those big bends and key notes on the beat is a great way to use 1/8 note phrasing.

Triplets - Whilst rhythmically unstable, the note placement can be regular and stable.

Mixing these subdivisions (as per the tab) within the same melody is a powerful device for developing a melody by subverting the melody to add instability.


Roots - targeting these can sound very ‘obvious’ and is wise to use sparingly.

3rds - with these we are highlighting the character of each chord but with a less ‘on the nose’ form of stability.

5ths - note as stable as the root or third, the fifth of each chord feels like it should resolve naturally to its respective root so gives a sense of direction.

7ths - these are slightly less stable in the world of rock but still pleasing to the musical palette.

9ths - are angular sounding and a little less functional; giving a welcome instability.

4ths - these are quite unstable; with a pull to the 5th or 3rd and a great way to sound ‘out’ whilst remaining in key.

Thinking in terms of mixing close and distant intervals within your phrases is, again, the balance between stable and unstable. For the purposes of this lesson, we are thinking of wide intervals as those being a diatonic 5th or above and the narrow intervallic movement being less than a 5th.

Large intervallic jumps, used exclusively, can sound surprisingly stable.

Arriving at our note of choice can be approached either from melodic steps below (ascending to the target note) or from above (descending to the note). Encircling the target note with notes above and below our chosen pitch can add additional power and authority to our lines.

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