Lead Guitar Phrasing Study – Part 2 – All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix

December 9, 2014 4:20 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Welcome to part 2 in Bruce Music‘s series on Lead Guitar Phrasing.  View Part 1 here.

Today’s  Jimi Hendrix’s innovative, brilliant cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower”

So what can we learn from Jimi’s lead guitar phrasing on this recording, and how can we apply it to our own playing to incorporate better phrasing when playing, composing or improvising our solos?

– “On Edge” 
Like a large amount of Jimi’s playing, the phrasing and timing is “on edge”.  Right as your ear starts to detect his rhythm becoming loose, he nails an intricate phrase, ending squarely on beat 1 of the next bar, and right as you feel a phrase has gone off track, he twists it into an unusual resolution, making you realise he knew where he was going all along.  This is one of the central, magical principles of Jimi’s soloing, and what gives it such a soaring, but mellow freedom.  When you see live footage, he often gives the impression of just mindlessly stabbing and thrashing at the strings without a second thought, but what’s coming out is some of the most innovative and creative lead playing we’ve ever seen.  So what we can take from this is that the combination of security in your technique and fretboard knowledge, with a relaxed, free style, will take you a long way.  Essentially, it’s knowing your stuff whilst appearing too cool for school!

– 1.5 Tone Bends 
In the intro and the solos, Jimi’s using some 1.5 tone (ie. one and a half tones, or 3 fret) bends.  These are very expressive, as it’s even more of a climb and a stretch for the note being bent, and also very distinctive, as we’re so used to hearing 1 tone bends (2 frets).

– Variation 
If you add up the time spent soloing during this track, it’s probably about 90 seconds.  In that time, we’ve got rock and blues licks, a chordal soloing section, a wah-wah section, a slide guitar section, tons of bends and slides, slow fills, fast flurries and an ocatver effect coming on and off at different points.  What you should take from this is the variation that is afforded to you by a knowledge of different styles and techniques, getting to grips with FX pedals, and intertwining rhythm guitar aspects with your lead playing.

– Sustain/”More Time On The Ball”  
Here’s a great article on top sports stars seeming to have more time on the ball.  Jimi Hendrix is the musical equivalent.  His notes are held until the very last possible moment, aided by a practised, full-bodied, vibrato and sustain.  Yet he doesn’t seem or sound rushed.  Sustain your notes as long as possible, and try thinking one phrase ahead.

– Loose Call & Response 
We’ve previously looked at Call & Response and what exactly it is.  If you don’t know what it is, here’s lots of info.

Jimi’s at times using a very loose Call & Response technique, probably down to a natural musicality and love of The Blues.  Occasionally he is answering his own phrases very directly and symmetrically, such as the second phrase in the intro solo being almost a mirror image of the first.  But very often he’s using this very loose variant, almost as if the response is answering a mutation of the call, rather than the direct call itself.  This is how he manages to make his soloing have a very clear and unified style, without being repetitive.  give it a go!

Next Time – How Mark Knopfler plays almost no notes at all!

– Alex

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