View Full Version : It's all about phrasing and tone.

03-19-2003, 02:54 PM
These are the most important things for any guitar player.

I remember years ago when I was starting out, reading interviews with established players, and they would always stress that phrasing and tone were so important. I used to think: "yeah right, speed and technique is where it's at"

I worked hard at it, and I can sweep pretty good, alternate pick pretty good, good legato technique, etc, etc, I got all the "bases" covered. However, the more I played, and got better, the more I realized that the technique I had, had to be put to some kind of use, and that is where phrasing and tone are so important.

Phrasing: think of musicians being like writers. Writers know how to spell, and the meanings of the words, but they have to create sentences, poems, etc, with those words. We know our scales, arpeggios, etc, but we have to create phrases with them (here technique helps). Phrasing is also the place where you create things that are unique to you, and become your style. Scaler runs, can be considered phrasing, but would you want to read a book where the same paragraph keeps repeating over and over?

Tone: Well, the most amazing thing, is for someone to recognize your sound with the first couple of notes you play.

These things, you can't really learn through books or exercises, but over time and with lots of playing.

Having said my two cents, I also want to say that technique is important, and once in a while, there is nothing better than to just SHRED.

03-19-2003, 05:32 PM
Amen! Great Post Oceano.:D

There's nothing I can add. Well, maybe lemme just point out that when you refer to 'sound' it's not the sound of your amp but the sound of your fingers, right?


03-19-2003, 05:54 PM
The concepts of phrasing and tone are both a little abstract to me. I think I understand phrasing. It's kinda like using a computer to play twinkle-twinkle little star. The computer gets all the notes right in terms of duration, but the music is rather lifeless. Let a human play the same tune, and they might add a little slurring, and play a little ahead of or behind the beat, or use other little tricks to add some emotion to the music. That's kinda how I think of phrasing. How far from right is that?

With tone, hmmm. I always thought of tone as dialing in your sound by having the knobs set how you like 'em on your amp and guitar. But that can't be right, based on what you say here. How to define the term tone??

03-19-2003, 06:12 PM
For me, phrasing is what you do when you create "phrases" (melodies), or how you play (by adding your very own unique touches) somebody else's melodies. Here, each player has things that they like to use, be it slides, trills, bends, vibrato, etc.

Tone, is the quality of your sound. I guess it's a combination of player and equipment (more so in the electric guitar, as it's not an accoustic instrument).

03-19-2003, 09:03 PM
This leads me back to the question that was recently posted in another thread here at ibreathe, asking what makes a good picking technique good...
I would think it also is tone. One thing I always considered important is that, even if you play fast, the notes should sound good. The tone should be there. If they arenīt, try to slow down.

I never was too crazy about "Letīs try to go for a certain bpm-value", like "16th notes at 200". I always thought that that was a bit besides the point... I always thought that the notes should sound good. Maybe that goes back to one of those "golden GIT-rules", which was something like "Speed is a by-product of precision"...
Or maybe itīs from listening to guys like Eric Johnson and Abi von Reininghaus. Those guys have serious tone, regardless whether they play a slow melodies or faster runs.
When I hang out at the "Musikmesse" with Abi, he sometimes picks up the guitar and plugs in, and he manages to get everyoneīs attention, cuz he has great melodies and has an amazing tone.
He worked on that for years.

I agree to your post, and I think itīs great that you pay attention to phrasing and tone in combination with the speed-stuff.
One thing I always liked about Yngwie ( and thatīs just my opinion ) is that he has a really cool tone and good phrasing ( good ear, too ), even when playing at the speed of light.
Sometimes I see / hear players who can play the wallpaper off the wall, speed-wise, but when it comes to slower stuff, it just doesnīt sound good.
Right now, I am listening to a bootleg of Zakk Wylde and Pride & Glory, and one thing regarding Zakk: Love him or hate him, one thing I always loved about him is that he has got a signature-tone ( and sound ) and really knows how to add a lot of energy and agression to his playing, which, to me, is another aspect about tone and phrasing.
Sorry, rambling again...

03-20-2003, 02:49 AM
Phrasing & Tone are so Important!!!

As stated in this thread:
Personally I like all styles of music, all kinds of songs, & various levels of musicianship, as I feel I can &/or have learned from pretty much all of them.
(i.e. a standard three chord progression can "move me" & a brilliant technical display can also "move me".)

But there are some parts of this thread that are especially important & bear repeating:
namely that a Musician incorporates into their playing a sense for melodies, feel, phrasing, rhythm & groove, emotion, tone, etc.

this can be applied to all styles of music, all levels of musicianship, etc.
& more often than not will give you insight into musicians who do "move you" & inspire you!

P.S. Also this thread may be helpful:

03-20-2003, 01:44 PM
Eric, I agree with you on Ingwie Malmsteen. I always get upset when people dismiss him as just a speed player with nothing else to offer. That's so far from the truth, but I think the reason why this is so, is because the guitar scene is saturated with Yngwie clones that just go through the motions, and people will just lump Yngwie with all the others.

By the way, I never thoght of phrasing as just litlle tricks like trills, slides, bends, etc, even though this are a part of it. Rather, the word phrasing comes from phrase, which means sentence (in this case, a musical sentence). Therefore, I think of phrasing as the melodies you create. I can say that I love Vivaldi's or Bach's phrasing, even if they were just writing their music down on paper.

03-20-2003, 04:55 PM
Rumor has that, JS Bach improvised everything and then wrote it down.

03-20-2003, 06:25 PM
Originally posted by Oceano
Eric, I agree with you on Ingwie Malmsteen. I always get upset when people dismiss him as just a speed player with nothing else to offer. That's so far from the truth, but I think the reason why this is so, is because the guitar scene is saturated with Yngwie clones that just go through the motions, and people will just lump Yngwie with all the others.

IMHO, you are right about the clone-thingy, and that it gave Yngwie some kind of a bad reputation. Another thing that might be a reason is that, and this migth sound tough, I see a lot of players who are not capable of, or willing to work on, fast playing, and dismiss fast players as "guys without feel".
How often have ya heard this one... someone listens to a fast solo "Oh, that guy has no feel" ?
Steve Morse once translated the phrase "Man, all he does is play fast" into "I canīt play fast"... it was in a joking context, but I see a grain of truth there...
Just my opinion, and of course not everything thinks that way... and not everyone who plays fast puts some feel into it...

Originally posted by Oceano
By the way, I never thoght of phrasing as just litlle tricks like trills, slides, bends, etc, even though this are a part of it. Rather, the word phrasing comes from phrase, which means sentence (in this case, a musical sentence).

Well yeah, but I always considered "phrasing" HOW you phrase a sentence, and how you pronounce it. Thatīs another important part.
If you i.e. ask a question, you tend to raise your voice a bit at the end of the question, so everyone knows it is a question.
Or you can turn the whole meaning of a sentence around by adding a sarcastic tone etc.
Itīs the whole "Itīs not only what you say, but how you say it".
Guni once posted something about the sentence "I Love You" in one of the Pulse-newsletters... about how that is phrased etc.

Well, you can say it many different ways, and get different results. YOu can say it in the "casual sense", the "Hey, love ya!"-type, or you can say it and REALLY mean it, really trying to put some expression into those three words.
Blah Blah Blah :)

03-20-2003, 07:46 PM
That Steve Morse quote is so true.
Another thing I sometimes hear, is : "Well anybody can play fast, but try and play with feel"

Reality is, not everybody can play fast. It takes a lot of practice, dedication, and time to be able to play fast.

Speed should be seen as a technique just like bending, slidind, tapping, plucking, sweeping, etc. It's not something you want to use all the time, but there are times when playing fast fits the song, and then you are prepared for it.

03-20-2003, 08:35 PM
Right. And speed has had its place in music ever since classical music. I think even back then it was one "tool" or "component", used in addition to melodies.
I mean, Malmsteen and the other neoclassical rock-guys ripped off a lot of things from Paganini and Bach... so the speed-factor has been there back then, too.
And a fast run also can bring over a certain feeling. One of the former "Yngwie-clones", who later developed his very own voice and to me, these days, is a very unique player in his own right, is Vinnie Moore.
And on his first record, "The Mindīs Eye", thereīs a song called "Daydream". The solo of that one, to me, is quite emotional, and he suddenly kicks into this extremely fast run down the E- and B-string, and the way he plays it, and the combination of the fast run with slow melodies before and after it just gives me goose-bumps... it sounds quite agressive, and fits perfectly...

03-20-2003, 10:07 PM
I'm late in that post I'm always late anyway..;)
Dont forget ACCENT play soft and play some notes loud play soft again. Play speech like and sing it......phrasing= sing it

03-21-2003, 02:31 PM
Yeah, dynamics, also very important.

Eric, I love that Vinnie Moore record. I have it on vinyl, because when it came out, there were no cd's (maybe there were, but not for every release). Actually, when I get home, I will listen to it, it's been a long time.

03-21-2003, 03:59 PM
Yeah, when I listen to "Mindīs Eye", it brings back a lot of memories. I also dig "The Maze" a lot, a rather recent record of Vinnie ( released in 99, I believe ), some kind of a return to the neoclassical-sound... it has some killer-songs and great melodies.

And Vinnie really is a great guy, besides being a killer-guitarist... I met him a few times, and he just always was very nice and modest

03-21-2003, 04:04 PM
I almost bought that record a few months ago, but I ended up picking up the newest by Borislav Mitic. Don't know if you know his stuff, but I find him refreshing, and I also like his tone, not to mention the fact that he is a very good player.

I will probably pick up the Maze next time. These cd's are kind of expensive, so I can only get one or two a month.

03-21-2003, 04:11 PM
Sure, understandable. And I think sometimes itīs a good thing to restrict yourself when it comes to the amount of CDs purchased. I remember a time where I constantly bought stuff and I didnīt even get to listen to all of it... :)
Anyway, "The Maze" was a big surprise. I had read that it was Vinnieīs return to his neoclassical roots, and I was like "OH man, WHY ?" cuz I had liked "Out Of Nowhere" and especially "Meltdown" a lot... so I wasnīt sure whether a return to the neoclassical sound would be a step forward or backward for Vinnie.
The CD starts with the title-track, and thatīs the tune I donīt like THAt much... but all the tracks that follow, like "King Of Kings", "Cryptic Dreams", the beautiful "Rain"... those all have great melodies and of course some great licks.

If you wanna listen to some audio-excerpts before you buy, check out the "Maze"-page at guitar9.com... a great source for that kinda music. Hereīs a LINK (http://www.guitar9.com/maze.html)

By the way, I always loved Vinnieīs phrasing and tone... he has a very unique and mature way of phrasing IMHO, which is one of the things he has in common with Yngwie.
My favorite Vinnie Moore-song is probably "Coming Home" ( from "Meltdown" )... beautiful melody, and the way he does those major third-bends... very mature stuff. It shows that he used to listen to a lot of Jeff Beck

03-21-2003, 04:15 PM
I will check it out for sure.