Harness the melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic power of sequences to create more interesting lines.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Intermediate
Lesson Overview:
• Understand three types of sequences: rhythmic, melodic, and complex.
• Discover ways to improve your technique.
• Learn different ways to outline harmony.

Click here to download a printable PDF of this lesson's notation.

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.

In Fig. 5, we work with a basic Em7 arpeggio that starts on the 5th string. Compare the intervallic sound to the previous scale-based examples.

We can push our lines further outside the norm by adding some non-diatonic tones and mix up the rhythm a bit, as in Fig. 6. To break up the monotony that some sequences might generate, we alternate between descending groups of three and six notes.

Instead of grouping by a specific number of notes, we can also sequence by intervals. I call these “melodic” sequences. In Fig. 7, I took a C major scale (C–D–E–F–G–A–B) and sequenced it in thirds. This means each note is separated by a third interval. An easy way to think about this interval is to imagine playing every other note in a scale. Practice this type of sequence using other types of intervals, such as fourths, fifths, sixths, and sevenths—they’re all valid.

Finally, let’s take a look at a pair of examples that are a little more complex and combine several of the approaches we’ve discussed so far. In Fig. 8, we’ll stick with the C major scale, first ascending with an arpeggio and then descending through the scale. In the first measure play a Cmaj7 (C–E–G–B) arpeggio and then descend to the next scale degree (D). Repeat the arpeggio up/scale down process until you’ve worked through all the diatonic chords.

To go a little deeper—harmonically speaking—in our final example (Fig. 9), we’ll add some outside sounds to our line. We start with a C major triad (which in this context implies an A7#9 sound) and land on the root note before descending to the next chord tone.

Order of operation is something that should fascinate any aspiring musician. Taking a scale and running it through a process that completely changes its sound is challenging, yet rewarding. Sequencing can stimulate us creatively and help us raise the bar on our technical abilities.

A maze of modulation and reverberations leads down many colorful tone vortices.

Deep clanging reverb tones. Unexpected reverb/modulation combinations.

Steep learning curve for a superficially simple pedal.


SolidGoldFX Ether


A lot of cruel fates can befall a gig. But unless you’re a complete pedal addict or live in high-gain-only realms, doing a gig with just a reverb- and tremolo-equipped amp is not one of them. Usually a nice splash of reverb makes the lamest tone pretty okay. Add a little tremolo on top and you have to work to not be at least a little funky, surfy, or spacy. You see, reverb and modulation go together like beans and rice. That truth, it seems, extends even to maximalist expressions of that formula—like the SolidGold FX Ether.

Read More Show less

Megadeth founder teams up with Gibson for his first acoustic guitar in the Dave Mustaine Collection.

Read More Show less

The Atlas Compressor offers up an extensive library of compression options and allows for transformation into a bass specific compression machine.

Read More Show less