Elements of Good Phrasing

Timing and Rhythm: Good phrasing involves playing with a sense of rhythm and timing that complements the underlying beat and groove of the song. The placement of notes and pauses can add to the overall feel and flow of the solo.

What subdivisions are you comfortable playing at song’s tempo?

Which subdivision would be most appropriate for song’s mood?

Dynamics: Good phrasing also involves playing with varying levels of volume and intensity. Dynamics can add to the expressiveness of the solo and help create a sense of tension and release.  Other elements that increase tension are: ascending lines, emphasis on non-chord tones, playing in extreme register of instrument, using wide intervals, repeating (almost anything: a rhythm, a set of notes, a technique, an interval), rapidly alternating direction, dramatic devices / jagged articulations (rake, tremolo picks, glissando, heavy vibrato, trills, etc.), dissonant harmony

How many of those elements can you use in a solo?

Note Selection: Choosing the right notes and using them in a melodic way is crucial to good phrasing. A guitarist must have a good sense of harmony and melody to create a solo that complements the song and engages the listener.

Are you playing the right notes for the chord progression at hand? (ex: minor pentatonic, major is 3 frets back, or use appropriate 7-note mode or scale)

Can you change up the order of the notes so it sounds like a melodic statement, not a scale?

Tone: The tone of the guitar and the way it is played can add to the overall feel of the solo.

How is your touch?  Is it appropriate for the style and are you getting a sound you like?

Can you change the tone by varying where in relation to the sound hole or pickups your picking hand plays?

For electric players, can you manipulate tone controls & switches at certain points of solo to bring out emotion?

Space: Good phrasing also involves leaving space between notes and phrases. This can create a sense of anticipation and tension, and also give the listener time to absorb and appreciate what has been played.

Do your phrases have a clear beginning and end?

How much time passes between one phrase and the next relative to how long your phrases are?

Emotion: Finally, good phrasing is about conveying emotion and feeling through the guitar. A great guitarist can use their instrument to tell a story and evoke a range of emotions in the listener. A big part of this is the use of expressive elements such as vibrato, bends, and slides.

How many of the above techniques can you play?

Can you consciously build a solo that reaches a deliberate climax at a certain point and then releases the tension before it’s all finished?

quick and easy guide to phrasing

Individual Phrasing Lessons

Phrase Congruency