• Understand three types of sequences: rhythmic, melodic, and complex.
• Discover ways to improve your technique.
• Learn different ways to outline harmony.
According to Merriam-Webster, a sequence is “a continuous or connected series.” In music, a sequence is a very powerful concept. Quite simply, there’s no better way to understand how a scale, mode, or arpeggio works than to develop different patterns (or sequences) around them.
Not only does sequencing really help you learn a musical device inside and out, it’s an excellent opportunity to correct and improve technique. The ear is attracted to repetitive patterns and when a sequence is used as a compositional tool, it makes the end product much more interesting. If your lines tend to be all flash and no substance, working in a few sequenced patterns will give you more melodic control and target what’s coming up more effectively.
I’ll organize everything we explore today into one of three categories: rhythmic, melodic, and complex.
The first example (Fig. 1) is less melodic and more based on a numerical pattern. In this case, it’s groups of four starting on each scale tone. If you are new to this approach, this is a very straightforward example based on something we should all know—the A minor pentatonic scale (A–C–D–E–G).
To create a more flowing sound in the next example (Fig. 2), I’m reconfiguring the same concept in a different way. By widening our reach, we can access the same notes elsewhere on the fretboard and give our picking hand less of a challenge. This approach allows more fretting-hand assistance where it might not have existed before.
The chromatic scale is fair game when it comes to this idea as well. Although not as common, a chromatic sequence can get you very quickly from one area of the neck to another. For example, a chromatic lick would work perfectly to transition between two different positions of the pentatonic scale. Fig. 3 is a horizontal chromatic run that uses a pivoting slide with the index finger to keep us in motion.
We connect two neighboring positions in Fig. 4. We start with a pentatonic run in A in the 2nd position and use a chromatic sequence to move up to a triplet-based phrase. To keep the ear guessing in the final measure, I threw in some passing tones in the descent to the root.