Preface: I can't seem to create a great solo, but..... I have this phrase, it's from Stevie Ray Vaughs Texas Flood and it consists of about 15 notes. It sounds great...

Next I play the same notes in the same order but change the timing of each one. Doesn't sound so good. Repeat 20 different ways. Still not so good.

So is this just me being so used to this phrase at this point in the song, that nothing else is "good enough" This is just simple pentatonic stuff too.

I don't think this is genre specific and it's my biggest hindrance to actually creating something interesting.


There are many ways to alter a phrase, so you can't really generalize it or say a fixed answer...

However, listen to some songs and notice, that they often have a motif. These are often not a whole phrase, rather only a few notes. Many times the motif is just a 3 or 4 note sequence and then progress differently.

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Just look at Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter for example.

Notice how the motif of the first full bar repeats throughout the piece and just progresses differently. In the last bar you see the exact same motif, but on a higher pitch. In the bar with 'Am' on top you see a totally different order of the notes, but it still keeps the rhythm of the motif...

There are many more ways to alter a motif. Double or halve them in time, mirroring etc.

To also answer your question about the timing - If it sounds good to you or not is probably just a personal opinion. Probably it sounds weird, because you have the lyrics and rhythm of the original song in mind and it just doesn't fit with your new rhythm. Changing rhythm shouldn't be a problem. I also do some ragtime covers every now and then, so I take a song and syncopate the melody. Some tries sound better to me than others, which doesn't mean that the other ones wouldn't work. It's just personal preference I guess...

So if you just want to change the rhythm of a phrase, I would keep the motif as it is and change the rest of the phrase. Otherwise, don't actually try to copy a 'perfectly' written phrase. Instead, look for the main motif and come up with your own idea that still sounds like it belongs to the same song, if you understand what I mean with that :P

  • I understand what you are saying as I see this quite often. But I'm thinking of lead lines that don't seem to follow this pattern. Usually 2+ measures in length. (I.E. Stairway to Heaven ) These seem to be interesting and every note was put in its place. And if several notes were changed in tempo, the whole thing would sound like crap. Of course this is not true. Maybe its a hangup that I cant create lead lines as good as the masters ? – mike628 Jun 18 '19 at 14:58
  • @mike628 Can you tell me the part of Stairway to Heaven you mean? – Andy Jun 18 '19 at 15:26
  • The Guitar solo starting at around 5:58 in the version I have Just take the first 15 seconds or so as an example. – mike628 Jun 18 '19 at 16:46
  • @mike628 Well, this example is one of the harder ones to change, because it's a phrase with really fast notes (a lot of 32nd notes). So there are way fewer opportunities to change the note length, without changing the actual length of the phrase... I'm not a guitar player, so I can't help you there, but if it sounds odd to you, you probably just need a good harmony to it as well. I just made a quick example on the piano... For sure no masterpiece, because you said that you/I should use the same notes, but you see that different note values could work anyways: – Andy Jun 18 '19 at 20:47

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