How to solo using compound time – the secret behind some of Frank Zappa and Robben Ford's most out-there leads

Frank Zappa
(Image credit: Rob Verhorst/Redferns)

Compound time is where the beats are subdivided into groups of three or six – for instance in 6/8 or 12/8. If you’re a blues-rock type of player, the most familiar use of compound time might be in a slow 12/8 blues or a shuffle. 

It’s common for soloists to use even subdivisions of the beat to float over the pulse. These also add greater rhythmic variety to the palette of rhythms that we as soloists can call upon. Fantastic exponents of compound time range from Frank Zappa to Robben Ford. 

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Andy G Jones

A professional guitarist for many years, Andy G Jones has played with Van Morrison, James Ingram, Lamont Dozier, Queen (Brian May and Roger Taylor), Robben Ford, Billy Cobham, John Illsley (Dire Straits), KT Tunstall, Albert Lee (featured on Andy's upcoming CD), Mike Finnigan, Dave Landreth and Ryan Voth from The Bros. Landreth, Malford Milligan, The BBC Radio Big Band, Patti Austin, Hamish Stuart (Average White Band), Lalo Schifrin (Hollywood film composer Bullitt, Mission Impossible), Hank Marvin, James Dean Bradfield (the Manic Street Preachers), Grady Tate, Agnetha from ABBA, Cliff Richard, Dudley Moore, Nathan James (Inglorious), Joey Tempest (Europe) and Kelsey Grammar.