Trading Licks: Phrasing on the Downbeat of Two

Posted by on October 11, 2022

In this month’s “Trading Licks” session we’ll be playing over a really cool E Mixolydian progression. We’ll be targeting the characteristic note and starting each two-bar phrase on the downbeat of two.

We’ll be using the E Minor Pentatonic Scale and the E Blues Scale for our melodic device, and I’ve intentionally started each of my examples on the E Mixolydian characteristic note, D.

Deciding on a phrasing protocol and melodic device before you improvise will help you focus your lines, and package them into “market ready” products.

World-class improvisers play with this kind of intention … and we can too!

The Chord Progression

This month’s four-bar chord sequence could be seen as an E Mixolydian progression (A Major Scale) or an E Dorian progression. (D Major Scale).

The E7sus4 chord doesn’t contain the major third so we could go either way with our melodic choices.

I’ve chosen to use the E Minor Pentatonic / E Blues as they both contain the suspended 4th, (A) and the Mixolydian Characteristic note, D.

You’ll also notice that the note D is present in every chord, except Ama.

II:  E7sus4    D    A  Asus4  I   E7sus4  I   D   A   G5  :II

This chord sequence resolves to the E7sus4 chord every two measures. The resolution point of a chord progression is called the tonal center.

Chord Tones

Chord-tones are the strongest tones we can improvise with, and resolve to at the end of each phrase. I’d advocate learning where these chord-tones exist within any scale pattern so that you can target them in any given situation.

                R   4    5    b7

E7sus4 = E – A – B – D

E Minor Pentatonic and E Blues scale contain all four chord-tones of the E7sus4, making these excellent melodic choices for this session.

The Characteristic Note

The note D, is extremely prominent within this chord progression, so I’ve chosen to start each of my eight two-bar phrases with that tone.

D is also the characteristic note of the E Mixolydian mode. Specifically targeting this tone will evoke that bluesy, dominant flavor within our lines.

Phrasing on the Downbeat Of Two

Intentionally specifying your phrasing approach will help you stay on track when improvising, and define the feel of your solos.

You’ll notice that each of my two-bar phrases start on the downbeat of two. This leaves space at the beginning of the bar defines my intention for our jam session.

I’d like you guys to implement all of the ideas I’ve shared with you this month. You can your own hard-earned licks and apply my concepts and protocols to them, or learn my lines from the tab and notation, and play them in the spaces I’ve left for you.

Jamming Etiquette

Remember to package your phrases so that they don’t overlap any of mine. This jamming etiquette will hold you in “good stead” for any jam session.

Have fun, and I’ll see you next month for another “Trading Licks” session.

Robbie Calvo –


Gear Used: – Yamaha Pacifica 612VIIFM – Line 6 Helix Floor.

Chord Progression:

II:  E7sus4    D    A  Asus4  I   E7sus4  I   D   A   G5  :II

Key – A Major / D Major

Tonal Centre Modality – E Mixolydian / E Dorian

Tempo – 90 BPM

Gear Used