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 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.


Tempo is a slow or fast pace to play a song. It's easier to listen to a fast song than to produce it, lol. Another difficulty is getting everyone in the band to keep the same tempo.

That's where practice enters, as we can slow down the song to keep our notes and rests in perfect tempo. Then, with each increase in speed, we'll hear where we're falling behind in the song.

Finally, within the band, we may listen for the points where someone is lagging or rushing, and adjust our tempo. This subtle interaction is satisfying to hear improvement as we rehearse.

25. Practicing Techniques

Rhythm and tones are so intertwined! Let's talk about tones:

As we play through the changes in chords, we 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 we know the root, play through the triad of that Key, and we have the 3rd and 5th notes. Since we think we have this key nailed, we 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, we may find our phrases getting old and want something original. I suggest to wait until we think of a new phrase. Even half of what our brain imagines will likely inspire us further. We always have our 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, we pick out one we 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. Our mind needs to be briefly immersed before working on these little challenges. We won't get as frustrated if we slowly absorb information, before learning more.

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

We may become frustrated trying to learn a passage of music. Then, a day or two later, we return to the same part and wonder how it could have been so much trouble. Our fingers have automatically picked up the movements again, as they've had time to rest and strengthen.



When 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.

We won't feel like a robot, spitting out musical translation, if we 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, we may find that the same phrase has different interpretations. The accents, and loud and soft sounds can be placed differently for the effect we want. Playing the same phrase many times will help us to decide what interpretation sounds the best.

With recorded music, we don't necessarily have to play the melody that the soloist plays. We can create our own melody based on the key of the chords. This kind of sounds like Dixieland jazz, where the instruments' melodies are overlapped.

Understand that we 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. We may find the musicians follow the same phrase that we pick out. The band supports us, and we 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 us to relate our instrument. Instead of tabs, use the notes on the guitar neck:

Sharp #

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

An open string is one that isn't pressed on the fret, only strummed. Start on the lowest open string, E. Then follow the fret alphabet to the right until it reaches the note for the next open string, A. Follow the A string to the right until the note is the D string. The sound gets higher, because the strings get more thin and tight. In fact, if you play the fret that has the same name as the next open string, they'll sound the same, too.

E | f | f# | g | g# | A

Next, keep going through the notes up the neck, adding the sharps, until we reach the 12th fret. Then repeat the open notes pattern at the 12th fret.

Flat b

guitarnoteflats.png (guitar tab flats alternative fingerings
guitar neck

Let's replace the sharps with flats on the same frets.

If we should keep these notes in mind when fingering frets, we 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 background chords. Use the Practicing Techniques above, to determine the chords.

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

Guitar Fingerings.

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