I was asked this awesome question by fellow guitarist Eugene at the Matrix Jam Session at Blu Jaz last Wednesday. ‘How to connect notes to form continuous runs?’ Here it goes. This is my personal approach but lets first get to how I was exposed to what I call, the not-slow-not-fast-runs.
Kiko Loureiro was the first person I’ve seen doing these not-slow-not-fast-runs. It is not at shred speed nor is it slow. The runs are notes going at constant time intervals. Now that’s the problem. When things are not-slow-not-fast, we have to make sure that we are playing good notes because the notes are not fast enough to be blurred off by blazing speed. The notes still hold a lot of value because of the not-fast speed (not saying we can just shred gibberish though)! The more difficult part is to come out with good notes all the time throughout the run or else it wouldn’t be a run! Then I discovered more and more players, stole more and more licks, practiced like a hack and came out with my own runs now. I’m still learning (and stealing licks!) so these are what I find essential in forming runs. Straight-8ths, 16ths, triplets, anything, here are what I find essential so far in forming runs.
We need to know our scales! Instead of ‘knowing’, I think we should ‘internalize’ our scales so as to not think of scales when we play. I’m a king of noodling in C major. I know where all the C major notes are as well as its corresponding modes. I don’t think of the notes when I noodle in C, I just know where they are because I’ve internalized the notes and this helps tremendously in forming runs.
The same approach should be used as scales. Know the arpeggios in each scale! Arpeggios are particularly effective in spelling out chord changes and their wider intervals give a different flavor than scales alone. Besides just playing the matching arpeggio to each chord, superimposing (some of) them gives very cool sounds too!
Going in and out of key
Chromatic passing tones, tritone substitution, or plain random notes, these add tonality otherwise not found by playing diatonically so experiment! Do remember to get back in key though!
Listen to good players. Listen to their runs and try to steal whichever part you find interesting to your ears. It may be the whole run or just certain parts. It’s amazing how just stealing 2 notes from a long run can enhance our runs once we internalize the idea!
Most important part of course. Fire up the metronome and make sure each note is played correct rhythmically. Fire up backing tracks and spell out the chord changes using the correct scales and arpeggios combinations. Experiment with going in and out of key but always remember to get back in key! Play dynamically by adding accents and, try to practice the runs as long as possible!
I can’t think of anything more right now but the above are how I worked out my runs. It isn’t easy and I’m still working on it as I get sick of my own playing and get inspired by others. Keep on practicing!