Seven-note groupings can add some serious spice to your solos – just ask Steve Vai

Steve Vai with his signature Ibanez PIA with matching DiMarzio Blue Powder UtoPIA humbuckers
(Image credit: DiMarzio)

In this lesson, we’re going to examine the use of seven-note groupings. The seven-note group is different to most solo rhythms, as it can’t be evenly divided. There are a number of ways to groups the notes within the seven, but they are always uneven. Common subdivisions are 4+3 and 3+4.

Example 1 shows these subdivisions in both 7/4 and 7/8 time signatures – the only difference being the length of the basic unit of the pulse. Then we’ll look at a riffy melodic line over a last 7/4 groove. Within the 7/4 groove if we play eighth notes, there are many different ways to groups the notes – some of the bars of this line suggest a 3+4 beat grouping and others seem to want to reverse it - this is a common feature in both prog rock and fusion.

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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.