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Creative Ideas for Musical Development - PATTERN PRACTICE

Music is sets of patterns.

Music sounds better when the musician has complete control over their instrument and the ability to think forward in time to make important musical decisions.

Click Track if you need one.Keep a steady pulse.

You can use Garage Band, Logic, Audacity, or an online recording device.  Save them is a secure location.  

Working with Patterns



First Step:  Create a pattern

  • Set up a click track - something that keeps a pulse.

  • Create/improvise a simple pattern in a key signature that you want to develop.

  • Play the pattern and see if you can repeat it.  If you can’t, the pattern was too complex.

  • Once the pattern can be repeated, play it over and over to ensure that your play it as accurately as possible. 

    • Articulation is even

    • Volume stays the same across the whole pattern

    • Tone quality is good

    • No fluctuations in the pulse


Next Step:  Learning to think ahead


  • While that pattern is being played prepare your mind to switch to a new pattern.

  • Try to think of at least one small aspect of the new pattern before you play it.   I.e., I am going to move from G to F and see what happens...

  • Once you start the new pattern you will have to shift your focus to the new melody as it is being created.  

  • Try to stay in the key and create a new pattern that is just a clean as the one before.  

  • Keep it simple until you start to develop a musical vocabulary.  Rhythm is a key component.  Make a decision what you are going to work on for the pattern.  i.e. syncopated rhythms, or a scale pattern or both combined. 





A click is heard.  I am playing G to D over and over in quarter notes – real simple. While I am playing that pattern, I give a thought to what I will change next.  I think that I will add an F instead of a G and continue to play the same rhythm.  I make the switch to the new pattern without stopping the pulse.





  1. Keep it simple!  It is challenging to play the same thing twice the exact same way.  5-10 times in a row, even tougher.

  2. Never stop the pulse, even when you take a break.  Keep 1234 going in your mind so that you start again on beat one.

  3. Pick a key that you what to explore.  I like minor, darker the better. 

  4. Be sure that you can repeat whatever you spontaneously create.

  5. Work on accuracy while you are repeating the pattern - this is where the muscle memory will get developed.

  6. Allow yourself to relax and use the pattern as a type of meditation. Clear your mind as much as possible. 

  7. You may stumble.  Try to recover the new pattern as fast as you can.

  8. If you play something that sounds really strange, attempt to repeat it.

  9. By repeating it, you can actually turn it into music as strange as it might be.

  10. " A wrong note played twice sometimes begins to sound right." Try to stay in a key however that will ultimately make you feel better.

  11.  If you have skills and can do this fairly easily, then make your pattern more complex or try some of the steps below.  Remain at your level until you can move forward with accuracy.






  1.  Try to play a longer pattern - instead of 4 beats, try 8.

  2.  Can you shift to a new key and play the same pattern instantly?

  3. Try to return to your favorite pattern after playing a new one.  Can you remember it?

  4. Try different meters

  5. Take a section of your music that gives you trouble and make that your pattern.  Play it over and over then add new aspects to it.  Ornamentation, trills, swing, etc.  





Record yourself

Play new patterns over what you just recorded.

See if you compliment the patterns you previously made.

Add another instrument and layer your recordings

1.  Set up logic software or Ableton,so that you have a microphone or MIDI keyboard connected to an audio track.
2. Play your instrument and make sure that the input levels are correct - do not clip.
3. If you are using speakers, be sure that the cable end of the mic is pointing towards the speaker.  You want to avoid feedback.    If you want a cleaner sound, wear headphones.  This will allow you to multitrack without bleed from the speakers. 
4.  Pick a tempo and set the metronome setting in Logic
5.  If you want something better than just a metronome to start, create a drum groove that you can play along to during this session.
(There are three types of pattern practice 1. Harmonize what you just played, 2. Complement what you just played by filling in the space created by the first pattern, and  3. Solo over what you created)
  1. Pick a key to practice.  Set Logic to that key in the event that you want to add some loops for color later.
  2. Cycle mode the percussion groove for 8 or 16 bars .
  3. Start playing melodic patterns in the key you chose over percussion groove. 
  4. Make the melodic patterns very small to start.
  5. See if you can repeat any pattern that you create.
  6. Once you start to get comfortable with the key and the creation of a pattern, hit "r" and start recording.
  7. First pass - Keep it very simple. - Check for accuracy after the pass is complete.
  8. Cycle mode this new pattern and practice harmonizing over it.
  9. Record the harmonization    
  10.  Once the foundation becomes pretty good, I like to loop it out for a much longer time 64 bars or so.
  11. Solo on top of the groove you made using the same key.
  12. If you get in the zone, record your solo.
Each session should be saved.  You may want to go back and "Harvest" ideas that you have created.
You will want to post a bounced mp3 of your session each day.  Put the session in your Jimdo with the name of the key.  Don't worry if it is good or not, it is a practice session.
1.  When working on your solo at the end of the session, work to create longer patterns that resolve naturally.  Work on resolving your lick to a chord tone.  How long can you riff and stay in the key?
2. Add another chord/tonal center.  Bb to Eb.  Work on shifting the tonal center to the IV chord.
3. Create a chord progression from the chord progression inventory.   Create a patterned comp session then solo over that.
4. When soloing over your creation, take a bar and use only arpeggios, then the next bar scales.  Alternate.
5.  Try playing continuous 8th notes in the key without missing a note
6.  Use the rhythms shown below as your guide and only think about the note choices.
6.  Pattern practice over the whole tone scale.  Create arpeggiations from the chords derived from the whole tone scale. 
7.  Think of a melody that already exists and see if you can quote it during your practice.
8.  Come up with another variation and let me add it to this list.   :-)



play at different volumes

play in a step-wise motion

perform an ascending melodic line

use extreme dynamic changes

use skips in your melody

play in a contrapuntal style (alternating high and low notes to create the illusion of a two-part melody or “duet with yourself”

use octave skipping between notes create a descending line with your notes play quietly

adopt a very lyrical style
slur between all or selected notes
use melodic leaps
play very staccato
let your fingers go faster than you normally would
play in your high register
do as much fast tonguing as you can
put lots of space (rests) in your solo
use double tongue or another tonguing effect
start each phrase with pick-up(s)
use repeated notes in your melody
play in double time
stay in the low register of your instrument
play faster than your brain can think of musical ideas: just trust the flow play very long notes
Imitation: repeat an idea exactly

repeat an idea in sequence- diatonic

repeat an idea in sequence- chromatic
play notes that stay in the scale/key the piece is in
go outside of the regular scale/key notes for the piece


Variation: repeat a rhythmic idea with new notes

repeat a melodic idea with new rhythms
repeat the same lick you just played but change the dynamics
repeat the same lick you just played but change the articulation repeat the same lick you just played but change the way the lick ends

play a longer run of notes than you’re used to playing

be punchy with your notes and riffs
flip-flop between two notes
choose a melodic interval to reinforce- 3rd, 4th, etc.

use sound effects in your solo: gliss, scoop, fall, doit, growl, flutter, trill, vary your vibrato, make a buzzy sound, use alternate fingering, slap tongue, play with a funny tone, etc.

play in a driving style


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