Consider any scalar fragment or group of notes with a particular order, e.g. (doesn’t matter what string):
I call these ‘Atoms’ – let’s skip by why I call them that for now (I plan a deep dive on Atoms for the future) and look at some of their properties and application. In the four cases above (and let’s imagine that these are all on the low E string) two of them go up, and two of them go down. The first two go up, i.e. the last note is higher than the first note (regardless of what note is in-between) and I call these ASCENDING (A) ATOMS. Numbers 3 and 4 go down, i.e. the last note is lower than the first note; I call these DESCENDING (D) ATOMS.
I’m trying to apply an approach to an aspect of my improvisation (mainly longer runs) that uses combinations of these to instill some variety within lines.
Let’s take the objective of getting from the note C on the eighth fret of the low E, and getting to the F note on the high E. A traditional scalar approach looks like this (for simplicity ignore the note groupings or harmonic resolution or whatever for now):
So here you have something which I think is played 99% of times by players who know this scale form in traversing these notes from low to high (incidentally I categorize this as an Ascending Ascending [AA] – which means that it’s an ascending line which uses ASCENDING ATOMS). Conversely, if going from the F down to the C, they’d (and I include myself up till recently) play something similar to this – the exact opposite:
And you probably recognize this (I categorize this as a Descending Descending [DD] – meaning that it’s a Descending line which uses DESCENDING ATOMS). I was starting to get very bored with these, but they do serve as a jumping off point for a different approach. Let’s start with this one:
I call this a Descending Ascending [DA] – in other words the contour of the overall line is descending (the last note is lower than the first) while the Atoms used are ascending. Here’s another:
This is an Ascending Descending [AD] line.
What’s so great about these? Well, there is an infinite number of combinations/permutations of atoms and their intermixing which pull you away from straight ‘AA’ or ‘DD’ all the time. I can plan my line in my head as ‘ok – I went to get from up here to down here’ and I can go there by ascending or descending ‘atomically’ as it were.
I hope some of this makes sense – there is a whole evolutionary tree of stuff that springs from just this that will take me years to document…