24. Beat Down


While playing phrases or melodies over chords, usually a drum or rhythm guitar provides a constant background beat of time, which ties a song together. Or, in an orchestra, a tympani drum or a changing of chords frames background beats.

You may feel an underlying pulse that keeps your phrases at a certain speed. If you speed up or slow down too much, your sound is out of sync. Your phrases must complete within this pulse duration.

This is the tempo, or, "The Beat" of the music. The Beat may divide into intervals of 2, 3, or 4.

Two & Four

Fast pop music divides into a beat of 2, which gives less time to complete phrases. As you play, you'll feel where The Beat begins and ends. Also, you'll feel the emphasis (or accent) of the beat. Counting in 4, the emphasis is usually on 1 and 3:

| 1 2 3 4 |

Try singing the same note 4 equal times, then repeat. Make the 1st and 3rd notes louder (accent them). Sing them faster, and you can hear what I mean.


Counting in 3, the emphasis is on 1:

| 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 |

With the division of 3, and the 1st note loudest (accented), you may sing phrases and mentally count: 123,123,123,123.

For counting in 4, sing phrases and mentally count: 1234, 1234, 1234, 1234.

Get creative with the phrases and emphasize (sing louder) the notes in time with the background rhythm of the beat. Let your phrases become the beat, then you'll know exactly where to begin, end, and accent them. Your instrument is a drum that produces sound pulses, to the background beat. Feel the beat, and listen to the sound. Your music will surely improve!

25. Practicing Techniques

As you play through the changes in chords, you want to locate the new key. Quickly find the Root, or first note of that Key's Major scale. Other notes within this key revolve around the Root to sound good with it.

Once you know the root, play through the triad of that Key, and you have the 3rd and 5th notes. Since you think you have this key nailed, you may confidently play any phrase, and sharp or flat the proper notes, based on the key's order of sharps or flats (fcgdaeb or beadgcf).

Further, you may find your phrases getting old and want something original. I suggest to wait until you think of a new phrase. Even half of what your brain imagines will likely inspire you further. You always have your repertoire (collection) of phrases to fall back on. Start using them for bridges (links) into more original melodic lines.

Finger Training

Regarding new phrases or licks, pick out one you like, and play it slowly. Notice first its root, then if it follows a scale (up or down), or is a triad (1,3,5), or is chromatic (half steps).

scale triad chromatic
1234567 1-3-51 sharp,flat 2 sharp,flat 3...

Then play through it a few times slowly, thinking about its sound. Your mind needs to be briefly immersed before working on these little challenges. You won't get as frustrated if you slowly absorb information, before learning more.

A phenomenon of practicing, is that your fingers 'remember' the positions you make them repeat. Changing keys becomes second nature. Like your voice, your fingers understand the new key has its own positions.

Personally, I have become frustrated trying to learn a passage of music. Then, a day or two later, I return to the same part, and wonder how I could have had so much trouble. My fingers automatically picked up the movements again, because they had time to rest, and get stronger.



If you're learning sheet music, briefly practice from the page. Play a phrase and perhaps sing it, to reproduce it apart from the page, with attention to its key.

You won't feel like a robot, spitting out musical translation, if you listen to the Sound of the page. Then try the next phrase, understanding how it fits with the previously studied one. We discover that the music is composed with artistic intent!

Speaking of sound, you may find that the same phrase has different interpretations. The accents, and loud and soft sounds can be placed differently for the effect you want. Playing the same phrase many times will help you to decide what interpretation sounds the best.

If you are playing with a radio or player, you don't necessarily have to play the melody that the soloist plays. You can create your own melody based on the key of the chords. This kind of sounds like Dixieland jazz, where the instruments' melodies are overlapped.

Understand that you are not the important or special one in a song. Attempt to blend in, and complement the other parts playing. Play softer if needed. Echo a phrase here and there. You may find the musicians follow the same phrase that you pick out. The band supports you, and you support the band.

Page 8 gives interval training, scale and song practice.

Practicing articles:
Stop Frustration While Practicing Music
Play Music Without Sheet Music Or Talent

26. Guitar Tab and Notes


Many guitar and bass players use tab, or tablature, because they have to know only which fret to place their fingers. There's another method that puts us in the soloist's head, likewise where their fingers are. We can play along with their solo from tab, then create our own new solo from the band's original chords.

As with sheet music, tabs are just a copy of the sound ideas for you to relate your instrument. Instead of tabs, use the notes on the guitar neck:

Sharp #

guitarnotesharps.png (guitar tab sharps alternative fingerings)
guitar neck

(You probably see how the alphabet starts on the open low 'E', then with each higher string ascends to the high 'G'.) Next, keep going through the notes up the neck, adding the sharps, until you reach the 12th fret. Then repeat the open notes pattern at the 12th fret.

Replace the sharps with flats on the same frets:

Flat b

guitarnoteflats.png (guitar tab flats alternative fingerings
guitar neck

If you should keep these notes in mind when fingering frets, you will memorize the fret board. Then, at the 12th fret, it's the same.

Let your fingers do the walking, and keep in mind the chords over which you're walking. Use the Practicing Techniques above, to help determine background chords.

As your favorite tab tells you the frets to place your fingers, you can translate those into letter notes, then chords. Use tabs to learn licks, or solos, then branch out on your own, within the reference of background chords (since you already know the triads).

top ^