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Using Unusual 16th-Note Syncopations and Odd-Length Phrases

"Earth Departure" is one of the most adventurous tunes on the Animals As Leaders album, Weightless. The song features some very intense, complex figures that require extremely tight band interplay.

To my way of thinking, much of the song is in straight 4/4 time, but it doesn't sound like it because many of the rhythms are based on unusual 16-note syncopations and odd-length phrases. In this column, I'll analyze the song's outro guitar solo, which is one of my favorite solos on the record.

As many of you are aware, the majority of the music I play with AAL is performed on an eight-string guitar, tuned (low to high) E B E A D G B E. In the example included here, the solo has been arranged for seven-string guitar (B E A D G B E), but a six-string will work just as well, as there is only one note—the first note of beat four in bar 6—that is played on the seventh string.

FIGURE 1 illustrates the entire 14-bar outro solo. Tonally, the solo revolves around an E major/C# minor axis, but there are a few other elements thrown in that shake up the har-monic environment. I begin the solo by playing over a quick B5-A chord change, followed by E, starting with an eighth-note triplet line based on A melodic minor (A B C D E F# G#). When I get to the E chord, I switch to the E major scale (E F# G# A B C# D#), which, when played over the subsequent C#m chord in bar 3, can also be analyzed as C# Aeolian, or C# natural minor (C# D# E F# G# A B). Notice the "staggered"-sounding dotted-eighth/16-th note rhythm of the solo lines in bars 2-4.
  

Bar 4 switches to 2/4 time, followed by a single bar of 3/4, a bar of 4/4, two bars of 3/4 and another bar of 2/4. The solo then concludes with five bars of 4/4.

In bar5, I play a short line over Bbm, followed by a descending line, primarily performed with pull-offs and finger slides, played over A but based on the E Lydian mode (E F# G# A# B C# D#). At the end of this bar, I begin a series of ascending sweeps based on the Bb minor pentatonic scale (Bb Db Eb F Ab), performed by dragging the pick across the strings in a single downstroke.