The previous module focused on the physical requirements needed to execute picking and legato with the most efficiency: now we’re going to introduce some more involved rhythmic ideas, utilising a musical technique known as rhythmic displacement.
This melodic ‘tool’ has become quite a signature feature of Andy’s playing, particularly in his extended runs and scalar sequences. An ability to construct your own phrases utilising any of the concepts we will be examining here will enhance your playing massively.
Many players stick to conventional 2, 3, 4 or 6 notes per phrase - almost always coinciding with the beat: i.e. they will ascend or descend scale/pentatonic/arpeggio sequences playing 2, 3, 4 or 6 notes per beat with the melodic patterns following suit.
This is nothing to be ashamed of, and tons of signature licks and phrases from all styles are based upon this ‘uniformity’ of rhythmic and melodic content: however, with a bit of thought, you can shake this up a little adding musical variety and interest by varying the patterns.
Applying rhythmic displacement to your shredding will initially require quite a significant conceptual awareness, although Andy didn’t develop his mastery of this melodic tool academically. Andy gained his use of rhythmic displacement simply because it sounds very cool, and many of his primary influences - such as Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, and Tony Macalpine – utilise displacement as part of their signature playing styles. By learning their licks and songs Andy subliminally attained an ability to seamlessly integrate displacement into his own style: but for us mere mortals it’s important to understand the concept so you are able to come up with your own licks and phrases and develop your own style.
Let’s try and explain rhythmic displacement in the simplest way possible: if you were to take a bar of music with all the notes played as 16ths (4 notes per beat) you’ll end up with 16 notes played all of an equal duration. Simple. Playing this in the most commonly used time signature of 4 beats per bar – 4 4 time - the inclination is to arrange the notes in four groups of 4.
The notes grouped numerically are thus: 4 4 4 4 = 16.
However, if instead you arrange the notes - as Andy does in Bar 1 of the following exercise – 4 notes, 5 notes, 5 notes and - to conclude the bar (although this actual sequence continues into the following bar) a final 2 notes – you’ll still achieve that required target of 16 notes ( 4 5 5 2 = 16) but not in a uniform fashion.
We’ve still arrived at 16 notes, but the notes are not all grouped equally, even though rhythmically we are still consistent, and this results in a very different and less predictable sound.
We are still playing in straight 16th notes rhythmically, but are displacing where the beginning of each pattern commences: and it is this movement that creates a ‘displaced’ feel.