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String Theory: Exploiting the Greater Rhythmic and Phrasing Options of Slower Tempos

This video is bonus content related to the March 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now, or in our online store.

I’ve always been interested in how a groove’s tempo and stylistic feel—swing-eighths versus even, or “straight,” eighths, for example—can influence and even dictate how one constructs melodic phrases.

One of the nice things about soloing over a slow tempo is that it gives you more options, technically and rhythmically. That is, there’s more “breathing space” in which to subdivide the beat compared to what is available at a fast tempo, where players who lack solid shredding skills are generally limited to playing mostly eighth notes.

This month, I’d like to offer an example of some cool phrasing possibilities inspired by a moderately slow 16th-note rock groove and i-IV Dorian vamp, Em7 to A7, akin to that heard in both the Pink Floyd song “Breathe” (Dark Side of the Moon) and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Riviera Paradise” (In Step).

Jimmy Brown

Over the past 30 years, Jimmy Brown has built a reputation as one of the world's finest music educators, through his work as a transcriber and Senior Music Editor for Guitar World magazine and Lessons Editor for its sister publication, Guitar Player. In addition to these roles, Jimmy is also a busy working musician, performing regularly in the greater New York City area. Jimmy earned a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies and Performance and Music Management from William Paterson University in 1989. He is also an experienced private guitar teacher and an accomplished writer.