Guitar Lesson: On The One… Actually, Start On Anything But The One

Subscribe to Mixdown Magazine

Guitar Lesson: On The One… Actually, Start On Anything But The One


Figure A takes a D dorian sounding line starting on the 1 of the first bar. Make sure you count in a bar beforehand and listen to the feel of starting on the 1. Now try Figure B. The phrase is the same except it starts on the end (+) of 1. Notice how it feels different though? The same concept is then used for Figure C and Figure D (starting on the 2 + and the 3 + respectively). Figure D almost sounds like a lead in to the A on the 1 of the second bar rather than a lick starting on the D note (from the previous bar). The point here is by just moving the starting point; you can make your phrases sound different instantly.


Semiquavers then give you more subdivisions to play with. Figure E is a descending A minor pentatonic pattern
in a rock type style. Figure F then moves the whole run a semi quaver later starting on the E of 1, which adds some cool movement. Figure H has the wrapping over the bar line feel, especially if you’re still hearing the phrase starting on the 
1. These licks don’t have to be intricate or even fast to create some movement – start slow and get used to hearing where they start and finish. A metronome or drum loop can be handy to really lock in too.


When practicing these types of ideas, I’d pick something to jam on (a simple II/V chord progression for instance), pick a beat to start on and then improvise. As a starting point, begin all your phrases on that spot. Then move to another starting point and so on. Eventually your ear gets used to them all and you can just call on these at will – they’ll literally just pop out as part of your normal playing. Remember, there is nothing wrong with starting on the 1 but it can be nice to experiment with the idea of starting on different beats. Mix up the scale types, intervals, arpeggios, try triplets, odd groupings of notes – there are a tonne of possibilities. We’ll get into more involved examples next month using some more harmonically adventurous note choices and rhythms to really mix things up.