When you are improvising in 4/4 odd note groupings are a very useful way to vary the rhythmic flow of your improvised melodies, since they are a way of creating a tension by not following the underlying meter. In this lesson I am describing how you might emphasize this in exercises and demonstrate how I might use it in II V I lines.
Getting it into the routine
You probably spent some of your practice time on scale exercises to develop your technique and knowledge of the neck. You probably know most of these exercises, and only needs to think a bit about how you play them and how you hear them to get more out of them.
The first exercise is a standard A minor box 1 pentatonic played in groups of 3. If you practice this in 4/4 and really emphasize the first of each 3 note group you are working on hearing 3 note groups over a 4/4 meter. The clearer you can play the accent on the first note and still keep the original time the better.
The same idea also applies to playing a major scale in triads. Since triad arpeggios contain 3 notes they make excellent 3 note groupings, as does shell voicings, stacks of 4ths, so those will also work well as prepatory exercises.
Finding good examples of 5 note groupings are a little more difficult since we don’t use too many structures with 5 notes. Example 3 is a fairly famous pentatonic note grouping that is used a lot in Eric Johnson and Shawn Lane solos
One very useful trick to make 5 note groupings is to take a 4 note grouping and then adding a rest at the end of it. In example 4 I’ve done this with an Am7 arpeggio, but it could be done with any arpeggio or 4 note group. When you practice this you are also hearing the Am7 arpeggio as a melody and how it sounds placed on every possible 8th note in the bar.
Moving a phrase to another beat or off beat is a great way to create or develop an idea in a solo and you should check that out and add it to you vocabulary. John Scofield often uses this in situations where he is playing over one chord.
Lines with odd note groupings
The examples in this lesson are all 2 bars II V I resolving to the I in the 3rd bar. Since 2 bars are in total 16 8th notes, you can use this to fill in groupings 3 groups of 5 or 3 groups of 5 and make a melody with this. In most of these examples I am actually placing filling in the different groupings with arpeggios and moving from arpeggio to arpeggio in a logical way, like 3rds or step-wise voice leading.
In example one the 3 note group is a stack of 4th that moves up and finally down step wise before it resolves to the 5th(G) of C major.
The 2nd line is using the tecnique I explained in example 4 to make 5 note groupings out of 7th chord arpeggios. On the Dm7 I am using an Fmaj7 and Am7 arpeggio and on the G7alt I use a Db7 arpeggio.
The last example is again using 3 note groups this time Shell voicings. The first 3 are Dm7, Fmaj7 and Am7 shell voicings over the Dm7 and over the G7alt it is a Bbm7 and a Bmaj7 arpeggio from G the altered scale.
As you might have gathered from the explanations the material part of this lesson is more a technique to compose lines and some exercises to hear what the groupings sound like over a 4/4 meter. I hope you can use this to make some new lines and have fun with playing with odd note groupings!
As always you can download a PDF of the examples here for later study:
Making II V I lines with Odd Note Groupings
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