How To Improve Melodic Aspect of Your Guitar Playing

Many times we find ourselves caught playing the same patterns over and over again. This is because we’re limited by the habits of practicing technical stuff, like scales, sequences and so on. This might limit our ability to express in a more melodic way.

Mainly it’s because we’re slaves to our knowledge.

adding in melody to your guitar playing

Have you ever heard the phrase now forget everything you’ve learned and start playing?

The meaning of this saying is not to really forget what you’ve learned, but to go out of borders that were set by technical exercises. It’s time to put your acquired technical ability to use. But sometimes it’s hard to leave all the habits behind.

In this article I will present one way of how to bypass the limits of your knowledge and start thinking of tones as elements of melody and not just parts of scales.

Each note of the scale

At first, you have to know the tonality and find all the notes on one string. You have to memorize all the notes on one string (at least one octave).

If you start playing by a backing track, you’ll quickly hear the melody building. This is, because you’re not limited by the scale shapes anymore.

Your way of thinking and approaching playing will be completely different. You’ll have time to think which note can follow the previous one, and since you won’t be bothered by technical aspect anymore, you’ll be able to slow down and really let your ears do the work. This is when it really starts.

Quickly you’ll be able to come up with different melodies, which are meaningful and easy to remember.

guitar player learning notes in chords

The next step is to know the notes of the chords you’re playing by.

Understanding the basic theory might come useful here, just so you can determine the notes of the chords and find them on the string you’re playing.

The secure way of sounding good is to land on one of three notes on the chords you are playing behind. Once again, this is the secure way, but it can also quickly become predictable! You can basically play any note of the scale on any chord, but the notes that aren’t the notes of the chord will create some sort of tension and require relief.   

Adding in Phrasing Elements To Your Melody

When you have a melody, it’s time to start applying elements of phrasing to the notes. Elements of phrasing are necessary to make us sound human. How do we go from one note to another? Do we pick both notes, do we slide, hammer-on? Maybe play a ghost note just before the next note? There are many ways of course.

Playing Fast Sequences to Create Tension

If the notes of the melody are far apart and we want to create a tension, a good way might be to play a fast sequence that would takes from one note to another. We can do this if divide the notes on a string into groups of three consequent notes.

This way we can apply different three notes per string sequences to any of the group. Example would be; I have the tones of A minor scale on the E string.

The tones of the scale are on frets 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17,…

If I divide the notes into groups of three, I get the groups 5-7-8 / 7-8-10 / 8-10-12…

If I put any of the groups into sequence, for example 3-1-2-3 (numbers represent the three notes within a group, not the frets), and want to go from fret 5 to fret 13, that would go like this: 8-5-7-8 / 10-7-8-10 / 12-8-10-12 / 13.

Keep in mind, this is just an example for playing sixteen notes.

If sextuplet is more convenient, the sequence might be 3-1-2-3-2-1 or 1-3-2-1-2-3.

Basically, here you can use your imagination and create your own sequences.

Adding Elements Into Your Guitar Playing

When we tastefully apply the elements of phrasing and/or runs, we have a melody, that is strong, but we sound like a guitar players, not just some students learning basic melodies.

If you don’t have the clear idea of what I was talking above, I would recommend you listening to Joe Satriani, since he’s considered as one of the most »vocal« guitarists, with many basic and strong melodies.

This article was written by a professional guitar teacher, composer, producer and last but not least, guitarist, Nejc Vidmar.