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Melodic Devices

Melodic devices are certain techniques used in rhythm to make to song or solo have a sort of ‘feel’ to it. For example, this could be sad, happy, optimistic etc. In this lesson I’m going to show some examples of melodic devices, but in no way will it be an extensive guide. Try and figure some out yourself by listening to rhythms in your favourite songs.

Dropping The Bassline

This is usually found in songs that feature arpeggios of open or barre chords. The lowest note of the chord is lowered progressively to make the tune sound sad, and it often makes the listener think that this is the work of the lead guitarist or lead part when it is used as backing to a solo. Notable examples of this technique include the opening riff to ‘Don’t Cry’ by Guns N Roses, and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ by Led Zeppelin which features a descending bassline.


A good way of adding tension in a particular song or lick is to play two notes adjacent to each other, such as E and F, A and A# etc. By going back and forth between the two notes, an sound of tension is created. Notable examples include the Jaws theme and the trill just before the mission impossible tune.

© Richard Baines 2004

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