Advanced phrasing and avoiding cliche(safe) licks...

Discuss playing styles and techniques, or share your own here.
McTastyfrets
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Ok, this is sort of a 2 part thread:

1. Just wondering what everyone's thoughts are on developing advanced phrases, both from a compositional standpoint, and a live improvisational view. I've been playing for about 14 or 15 years, but I'm finding that I am kind of at a point where I need some direction and I'm on a plateau where it seems I am not advancing...

2. How does one avoid going back to stock licks that we know will work and are safe?....I need a way to not automatically play those licks.... It's getting to the point where I get frustrated, then I get bored and I get very disinterested in playing...Hit me with some fresh ideas.

Thanks...
PifleChien
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Hey, you're probably a more advanced player than I am, but from what I have gathered so far, the answer is incredibly simple to state: just force yourself not to play cliché!

That would mean playing less, putting yourself in an uncomfortable physical or musical position... Playing the left hand over the neck and focusing more on the music than purely on developping an unorthodox question... Listening to the instruments, playing and playing *on* randomly constructed chords, singing rather than playing...

[unnecessary sarcasm ON]Now that's one problem Malmsteen never had![unnecessary sarcasm OFF]
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Big Bad Bill
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McTastyfrets wrote:Ok, this is sort of a 2 part thread: 2. How does one avoid going back to stock licks that we know will work and are safe?....I need a way to not automatically play those licks.... It's getting to the point where I get frustrated, then I get bored and I get very disinterested in playing...Hit me with some fresh ideas.
I get a backing track and improvise over it with a anything but pentatonic or blues scales-they just produce cliche-after cliche. If I choose a minor scale, I play it with a fingering I wouldn't usually utilise-for example, spreading it over the whole neck, avoiding (or using!) three note per string fingerings, using pedal tone licks, using a sequence like "down four, up one" for segments of the scale.
grimmelshausen
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If you haven't already, learn all of the different modes (lydian, phrygian, etc...) and learn how to solo with them. They will give you that more "mature" sound on the guitar. Experiment with passing tones and try throwing some chromatic runs into your playing to give it that "out of the box" feel. Your solos will sound much more dynamic.

One trick that I learned to help solidify that "brain to fingers" link is to sing a melody and record it. Then learn it on guitar, paying special attention to the emphasises and accents in the recording. Your goal is to be able to play what's in your head. Then you can focus on training your brain to be more musical instead of having to worry about what your hands are doing.

Also, listen to non-guitar players and learn how to play like them. This will expand your repertoire by integrating music styles that are not common for guitar players. It really turns heads when some dime-a-dozen teenage guitar player throws in a Miles Davis lick.

Hope that helps.
McTastyfrets
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grimmelshausen wrote:If you haven't already, learn all of the different modes (lydian, phrygian, etc...) and learn how to solo with them. They will give you that more "mature" sound on the guitar. Experiment with passing tones and try throwing some chromatic runs into your playing to give it that "out of the box" feel. Your solos will sound much more dynamic.

One trick that I learned to help solidify that "brain to fingers" link is to sing a melody and record it. Then learn it on guitar, paying special attention to the emphasises and accents in the recording. Your goal is to be able to play what's in your head. Then you can focus on training your brain to be more musical instead of having to worry about what your hands are doing.

Also, listen to non-guitar players and learn how to play like them. This will expand your repertoire by integrating music styles that are not common for guitar players. It really turns heads when some dime-a-dozen teenage guitar player throws in a Miles Davis lick.

Hope that helps.
thanks for the info...The stuff in your first paragraph I learned ages ago...Just learning those things in and of themselves do not help with phrasing and avoiding cliche licks. They are merely tools you can use to create new runs, riffs, and phrasing ideas...
TheSquareRootOfElvis
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Here are a few ideas I have tried ( apologies if some have already been mentioned):

1) Change the tuning on your guitar. Then your old patterns no longer work.

2) String your guitar upside down. Its radical but again, those good ol' licks just won't work anymore.

2) learn another instrument and focus on playing only whats in your head in it - AVOID licks. Eventually that approach will transfer to your guitar playing

3) Sit in a darkened room ( OK it doesn't have to be darkened ) and only play a note or a sequence of notes when you can hear them clearly in your head ( play to a backing track if you want ). If you hear a cliched lick in your head..don't play it. It'll be slow at first but eventually it will come through in your playing.

4) Imagine you're speaking through your guitar when you play. You can imagine actual phrases in your head and try and play them or you can be less literal and just have your guitar speak phrases that have no specific meaning but have an emotional content.

5) Listen to horn players or singers and try and hear the way they approach playing/singing lines.

6) Take one or more strings off your guitar ( even better - just mute them with blu-tac or something ) so you have to THINK about what you're playing and where your fingers need to go.

7) Play alot without a pick or play slide or something. You'll be forced to think about your instrument differently and you'll find that after a session of playing with your thumb and fingers or a slide you can maintain that new approach to the instrument when you go back to playing normally.

8 ) This may sound nuts ( like all the other ideas haven't ) but imagine your playing backwards! Imagine you want to get that cool backwards sounding guitar playing ( Hendrix style ) but you haven't got the time to flip the tape over.....you have to imitate it.

9) If you play electric guitar...spend some time playing an acoustic. Alot of the easy electric licks just don't work well on an acoustic. Or, if you usually play with a distorted sound - play clean...and vice versa.

10) Use way out guitar effects you don't normally use.

11) Find styles of music that your favourite licks just don't work over (e.g. jazz licks don't often work in a country setting) and play along with those.

12) Take your pants off, put them on your head and stand in a bowl of cold ham & pea soup.


Best of luck.
Balex the Shizzle
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I've given this piece of advice before - people gave me funny looks... :shock: :lol:
Try playing guitar with something other than your normal pick, like a lemon. Play with something that will hinder the way your hands move, and make you think more about what you play instead of bursting into the same old licks because your brain runs out of time to think of something new - experiment.

Also, if that doesnt help, you could try and force yourself to phrase things differently to how you would, grab for different notes, possibly in different octaves and things, when you are starting to sound cliched, if you begin to play a cliched lick, twist out of it midway through and hit a harmonic or something and change to a totally different sounding idea or phrase.

Basically, just dont accept it if you start playing something cliched that you dont like - change it.
PifleChien
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I just came up with this: Play cliché, but a semi-tone above or beneath the tone. This should create the cognitive dissonance!
grimmelshausen
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12) Take your pants off, put them on your head and stand in a bowl of cold ham & pea soup.
Excellent advice! :D
smj
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TheSquareRootOfElvis wrote:
5) Listen to horn players or singers and try and hear the way they approach playing/singing lines.

11) Find styles of music that your favourite licks just don't work over (e.g. jazz licks don't often work in a country setting) and play along with those.
#5 is right on the money... I would add piano players and drummers too. Most good jazz players know how to play around the beat... behind it, on it, or slightly ahead of it.... over the bar line phrases... etc. Someone like Vai is pretty straight on the beat. Someone like Keith Jarett plays really behind the beat.

#11... man I can really hear a lot of similarities between country and jazz guys.... the way the lines move and the feel. Someone like Bela Fleck has really explored bridging the two together in a cool way.

Sean Meredith-Jones
http://www.seanmeredithjones.com
TheSquareRootOfElvis
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smj wrote:
#11... man I can really hear a lot of similarities between country and jazz guys.... the way the lines move and the feel. Someone like Bela Fleck has really explored bridging the two together in a cool way.

Sean Meredith-Jones
http://www.seanmeredithjones.com
Fair enough, I probably didn't choose the best example there...but you get my point.

A word of warning though - make sure your beer can dodging skills are up to par before trying your favourite John Scofield altered scale lick during "Achey Breaky Heart" at the local honky tonk :wink:
wholetone
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12) Stop listening and playing to all of your favorite idols for a change. Select new players and sample them off iTunes or whatever your player is.

After submerging myself in Hendrix, I was put onto this guy named Hiram Bullock. He's more avant jazz and fusion but with a Hendrix feel. He's got some really amazing licks(chromatic, whole-tone, half-step) and his technique really takes the paint off the wall!!! His resume includes everybody but the ice cream man!!

Oh yea, check out a great classical guitarist-composer named Augustine Barrios. He rips!!!!
arpeggio_owen
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Study the style of JAZZ.

If you submerge yourself in jazz you will come out a different man. You will get a better ear, more scale knowladge, more knowladge about keys and how they function in a jazz setting, inside notes and outside notes, more abstract sounding chords AND some really far out licks and also nice smooth sounding runs which would thwart the cliche licks your speaking of.

I would also say slowly compose your own licks and compare then to the old cliche ones, if they sound the same ditch them and start a new one. It just seperates you from some other guitarist playing a metallica solo which in my opinion can be full of cliches.
(i didnt mean to offend any kirk hammet fans, hey they probaly were not cliche licks before he became an idol )
MarkRobinson
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You basically need to train your ears to keep up with your fingers which is a life long process which begins when you really start thinking about it. Cliche'd licks come about when your fingers are doing the talking, not you.

Good exercise by Bumblefoot. Play any four chords (random ones or a progression you want to work on), about one every four seconds and record it. Loop it. Now solo over it playing only ONE note per chord. Really slow but its amazing how tough it is if you want to make it sound good. It forces you to really listen. Then when you're absolutely fine with that move it up to two notes per chord.........then four etc. Making sure you're playing what you're hearing rather than what your fingers want to do.

Try it. Its completely solid!

Mark
PifleChien
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Sounds like an excellent exercise, thx.
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