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3-Note Sequence Ideas – Part I

Paul TauterouffIn this lesson I am going to show you a way to take a common three-note sequence and turn it around to create a new sequence that sounds much more interesting.

Understanding Rhythm

First, let’s compare standard 8th notes and 8th note triplet rhythms. I think it is very important to understand rhythm and timing. Many guitarists (particularly self-taught ones) play lead guitar without thinking about timing at all, but mastery of rhythm allows for much greater expression.

Example One demonstrates standard 8th notes (2 notes per beat).

tab 1

Example Two uses 8th note triplets (3 notes per beat).

tab 2

Note: make sure when you practice this that all three notes are evenly spaced!

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The 3-Note Sequence

So now that we have taken a look at the 8th note triplet rhythm, let’s try it out with a common 3-note sequence in the A minor Pentatonic scale. The basic gist of this sequence is that you play three ascending notes from the first note of the scale, then three ascending notes from the second note of the scale, then from the third, etc.…

Example Three – typical 3-note sequence ascending the A minor pentatonic scale.

tab 3

tab 4

Example Four is the descending version of our typical 3-note sequence.

tab 5

tab 6

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Practice this using all 5 positions of the minor pentatonic scale
  • When you use this idea in your solos you don’t need to play through the whole scale or it will sound like an exercise – small passages are fine
  • Become very comfortable with this sequence so that you can break into it (and out) at will
  • An additional benefit to practicing these sequences is increased coordination and synchronization between your right and left hand

Turning It Around

Now we are going to look at turning our 3-note sequence around to create something new!

In our first sequence we were playing ascending groups of three notes while moving up through the scale and descending groups of three while coming down the scale.

In our next examples we will play descending groups of three notes while going up the scale and ascending groups of three notes while coming down the scale. I call these “reversed 3-note sequences.”

I understand that it may be hard to understand this just from reading my description, but it will be clearer once you run through the following examples a few times.

Example Five moves up the A minor pentatonic scale while playing descending 3 note groups.

tab 7

tab 8

Example Six moves down through the scale while playing ascending three note groups.

tab 9

tab 10

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I hope you have enjoyed this lesson and that it gives you some new ideas for soloing. If you find it difficult to play the examples in time, simply practice them without worry about the timing at first. Then once you become comfortable with the sequences you can focus on the timing.

As always practice the concepts and ideas discussed here to generate your own licks in different keys and with various positions of the pentatonic scale.

Happy jamming and see you soon!

Paul Tauterouff

©2010 Paul Tauterouff All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission

Paul Tauterouff is a professional guitarist/ teacher in upstate New York. Visit Paul’s website at

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