Creativity Exercise #6: Write Solos By Starting With Rhythm

Here’s an exercise for writing creative solos: tap the rhythms out using your fingers, input them on sheet paper/MIDI/music writing program, and add the pitches later.

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Once you have all the rhythms plotted out, you can attach pitch/notes/bends to these rhythms. You’ll have a great base of a solo once you’ve done both parts.

This method is effective because it creates a mental dichotomy between the notes and rhythms. It separates these two things in your mind so that you start coming up with rhythms that you would have never used.

Try using a MIDI editor/DAW to plot out your rhythms (such as Reason, Pro Tools, Logic, Ableton, Garageband, Guitar Pro, etc.). Just put your in-progress song on play, and then pick a note on your keyboard to hit your rhythms onto (you can use the on-screen keyboard, or a real MIDI keyboard if you have one). Just hit that single note, so you have a stream of rhythms attached to that note.

Once the rhythms are all recorded, you can slide the MIDI notes up and down to give them pitch.

Here’s an example of a jazz solo that I wrote using this method. I simply tapped out the rhythm, and then added in some semi-random notes later. Random notes work for a Jazz solo, but if you hate accidentals, then you might want to make sure your notes don’t go off key when deciding the pitch of each one. 

I personally find the off-key notes to be the salt and chile powder on this solo, but some artists don’t like that kind of thing.

You’ll have to forgive the cheap sounds though, as it was exported on guitar pro 5.

The excerpt was taken from a song that I never finished, because I didn’t particularly like it, but this solo was easily the best part of the song! This is another wonderful thing about being creative: if you don’t like what you made, you’re under no obligation to share it or even remember that you wrote it. 

Lastly, you can edit the solo later to put in anything else that you really like. This method is just the building blocks for a solo, not necessarily the end result.

Do you have any questions about this creativity method? What types of results have you achieved with it?

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My name is Andrew Muller. I love creative art, music, television shows, movies, video games, and a good story.

If you had to find me somewhere, you would probably find me down at O'neils home cooking eating an organic sweet-potato bun breakfast sandwich with ham.

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