Mixing note groupings - how to practice this?

Hi folks,

Lately, I’ve noticed that all the greats -be it Steve Vai or Guthrie Govan in the world of guitar and incredible musicians in the rest of the music world- spice up their melodies and lines with what I describe as a “change of feeling”.

For instance, using odd note groupings such as triplets, sextuplets, or sevenths to name but a few examples.

This is not something that I am sure has a specific name in music theory, so I am a bit lost to get started. I want to get better at this to level up my improvised solos and riffs. Otherwise I feel very stiff and wooden at times.

For clarity’s sake, I am not talking about “groups of 5’s, 7’s, etc.’” in the sequential sense. I am purely talking music notation and rhythm.

Steve Vai’s Tender surrender lick as an example:

Thanks in advance for the help.

If you look up John Klopotowski’s book on studying with Warne Marsh there is a whole section on “meter studies” - playing different groupings against a context of 4/4.

Just to give an example you might take a pattern of 8 8th notes, then add a note to each one to make triplets but then rephrase it as ONEtwothreeoneTWOthreeonetwoTHREEonetwothree so you’re now playing 4s at a new tempo. I hesitate to say “and so on in that fashion” having attempted to explain it so briefly but…“and so on in that fashion with other groupings”.

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Drummers are some of the best to study for this sort of thing…


I’d advise looking at transcriptions of pieces you’re really familiar with so you already have the sound in your head, a great example is the beginning of EVHs Ice Cream Man which is all groups of 7. The stretches are pretty fearsome but it gives you an idea.


If you can say it, you can play it! And since you already know a lot of words what with mastering the english language - assign words to phrases, in particular syllables and the meter contained…


5 = university 7 = ginalolabridgida

And honestly, if you take the rhythmic inflections of the things you say, and how you say them it will make you a much better player with very natural phrasing instincts. For instance, take a sentence, write it down and then apply the sentence’s rhythm to what you play. Say it while you play it. Weird stuff will happen, and it will be awesome. Good luck and have fun! :grinning:


good start, definitely a word I would say and will come to mind with relative ease, I can see this approach being very fruitful


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Thank you. I don’t feel daunted about this as they are all groups of 7. Odd meters don’t scare me. But it’s when mixing groups of 7 with groups or 6 or 5 for instance that the irregular patterns set me off balance.

Sounds simple but this may actually work.

1-2-3-4-5-6 Ginalolabtidgida university 1-2-3-4 ginalolabridgida ginalolabridgida university university university YES 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4 etc etc

Helps a bit I hope.