Lick of the Week – Number 2: An Ascending Polyrhythm Pattern

This week’s lick takes the form of a polyrhythm idea. So, what exactly IS a polyrhythm, then? Well, it’s what you get when you repeat a group of notes in a rhythm which is different to the number of notes in the lick, essentially. For this lick we’ll be playing four notes per beat (known as semiquavers or sixteenth notes), but the lick being played has five notes in it. As you’ll see when you look at the TAB, the first bar contains the notes A G F# E & D which are then repeated. Playing this group of notes across a four-note-per-beat rhythm results in this distribution of notes (in this lick the final segment of Beat 4 has no note played on it):

Beat 1

Beat 2

Beat 3

Beat 4

A

G

F#

E

D

A

G

F#

E

D

A

G

F#

E

D

Because each beat begins on a different note in the group of five, it has the effect of placing the accent, or emphasis, at different points within the repeating lick each time.

The lick then ascends the neck by moving each note up to the next one in the scale (in this case, the G major scale), so the next bar consists of the same idea but based around the notes of B A G F# & E. Then the 3rd bar does the same thing again, but moving each note up another scale degree to C B A G & F#, before finally ending up on D C B A & G. I end the lick on an A note which kind of gives the whole thing an A Dorian mode feel (the A Dorian mode is simply a G major scale with it’s emphasis placed on the 2nd note – A). However, you could easily make the lick work with any of the modes by simply changing the note on which it ends. If modes aren’t your strong suit, then you can get a little help by looking at one of my previous posts HERE.

And here is this week’s lick being demonstrated:

As ever, don’t just learn the lick – see what you can learn FROM it by understanding the principles involved and putting them to work yourself. Many great licks use this, or similar, polyrhythm ideas – check out the arpeggio section from the end of The Eagles “Hotel California” or Gary Moore’s “Walking By Myself” solo, both of which use polyrhythms to great effect.

Until next time… Have Fun!

John.

John Robson Guitar Tuition

John Robson… Guitarist

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