Want to spice up your solos? Learn the diﬀerence between horizontal and vertical guitar phrasing!
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of guitar players attempt to play solos that sound, to be honest, ﬂat. Most of them put a lot of time into their guitar playing and they aspired to do great things with the instrument, but they just didn’t know what they didn’t know. Today I want to make sure your solos are as awesome as you want them to be and as they have the potential of being.
I want to dive a little bit deeper into the topic of guitar phrasing. Guitar phrasing
consists of the following skills:
2) Note Choice
These categories are all self-explanatory. The only category that might trip you up is the concept of ornamentations. Ornamentations means vibrato, bends, palm
muting. In other words, the little details you add to the notes. For the time being, I’m going to leave note choice and rhythm aside. I would like to address ornamentations purely.
In this article, I want to discuss how ornamentations are organized in a solo. ornamentations can be organized in two ways, horizontally or vertically.
I transcribed a couple Michael Jackson melodies for this project and then attached ornamentations to these melodies for the sake of demonstration:!
Here is an example of the ﬁrst phrase in the chorus of Michael Jackson’s song, Thriller:
The concept of horizontal ornamentations is a fairly easy one. Horizontal ornamentations mean that in one idea you have more than one ornamentation and
they’re laid next to each other. I have circled an example in blue.
For those that don’t know the arrows bending up stands for a bend, the zip zag stands for vibrato and the two note pairs are double stops. These nuances would be considered horizontally combined because they come one after the other and on
diﬀerent notes. The melodic idea has these three nuances in it.
Meanwhile, a vertical nuance would be something like what’s circled in red up above. On that particular note, we are using two nuances at the same time. We are
doing a rake ( hitting muted strings) and we’re sliding. We’re doing two nuances on or oﬀ of one note.
Another example would be a bent note vibrato or a unison bend. Bent note vibrato involves bending the string and then doing a vibrato; it’s the combination of two ornamentations that in turns makes its own ornamentation/unit. The unison bend is the combination of a double stop and a whole step bend.
Another way of thinking about vertical combinations of ornamentations is to consider them as if you are making your own ornamentation by combining them
Before ending this article, we should talk about way you can practice this skill. Come up with a list of about 10 ornamentations you know (you can always analyze
solos to get more ornamentations, there are MANY out there). Then pick 4 of these ornamentations and try to combine them to make interesting combinations. It may take some time for you to become accustomed to putting these pieces together. You will need patience, but with practice, you’ll get good at mixing them. You can make something interesting out of any combination given enough time.
When you have a list of 10 combinations you like, you need to integrate these into your playing. In order to do so, you can simply turn on a backing track and get
used to using these combinations. They need to become so comfortable that when you think about using this combination it just happens. This combination is its own ornamentation, like a single vibrato is, and it must be mastered and applied. After you’re done with that, you will have some cool new skills to apply to your lead guitar.
About the Author:
Guitar teaching enthusiast Chris Glyde has helped hundreds of students improve their guitar playing. If you’re interested in learning more about the instrument, check out his great guitar lessons in Rochester!