How to Smooth out your Phrasing

You understand the importance of phrasing. Otherwise you wouldn't have landed on this page.

Good phrasing is perhaps the primary factor separating the pros from the amateurs. I've written an in-depth article on the topic you should definitely check out.

But here I want to focus on one small idea that has massive implications to you guitar phrasing and overall sound.

The idea is to let each note ring out for its full duration. Or as Steve Vai puts it, "give each note its own zip code". Far too often developing guitarists struggle with choppy playing. It almost always has to do with technical limitations. Some examples we guitarists face:

  • In rhythm playing, dropping the last beat of the measure in order to get to the next chord
  • Position shifts up or down the neck
  • String crossing (ex. moving from the D to G string)
  • String skipping (ex. moving from the D to B string)
  • Difficult picking passages

    There are others of course, but these issues cause the majority of choppy phrasing issues.

    When you face one of these technical challenges, you'll want to give special attention to that area in your practice. Here are some practice tips that will put you on the path to smoother phrasing.

  • Explore several fingerings for any passage you're struggling with
  • As a general rule, always keep your fingers close to the fretboard
  • On position shifts and string changes, practice the phrase up to the shift and stop on the next note. This develops control of the shift or string change.
  • Practice at half tempo making sure every note rings into the next note
  • Record yourself to log your progress

    Put these tips to work and you'll be on your way to smooth, pro sounding phrasing!


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