Trading Licks: Episode 8 – Melodic Contours

Posted by on July 20, 2023

This month we’re going to be jamming over an R&B style groove, with a tonal center of E7. That means we’ll be phrasing our lines and licks towards the chord-tones of E7.

The tones of E, G#, B and D will be the strongest tones to resolve on, from the two melodic devices I’ve chosen for us to use this month. (Melodic devices = Scales, Arpeggios etc)

I’ve added some nice B3 organ parts to the mix, and an eighth-note guitar and bass riff that caps the end of each two bar phrase. Those riffs should help to keep you on track by indicating the end of each two bar section.

The Solo Protocol

It’s no secret, that I like to phrase my solo lines into two bar phrases. I like to think of this as “packaging” my lines into defined melodic motifs, or musical sentences. It also keeps me on track to create two bar fills, 4 bar solos, or an eight bar solo section, depending on the gig, song, session or lesson plan.

Defining your improvisational skills with a pre-conceived protocol, will help you decide upon the phrasing, scale, notes, and technical approach ahead of time. Trust me, it works.

So for this month’s protocol I chose to phrase my lines on the upbeat of one again. There’s one lick, however, that starts on the downbeat of two … see if you can determine which phrase that is.

I decided to use E7 arpeggios, in ascending fashion (with added chromatics) to shape the contours of the first half of my four bar licks, and the E Blues scale to descend towards the four bar resolution.

The dominant 7th arpeggios are defining the tonality of E7, to create a “Question” or “Call” motif, while the E Blues scale adds the swagger and sauce that serve as the “Answer” or “Response” phrases.

The Chord Progression

This month’s four-bar chord sequence is in the key of A, with a tonal center of the V Chord, E7. I’m using first inversions to create even more harmonic richness. (Chords with the third in the bass.)

You’ll notice the second two chords in the bar A/C# AND E7 are played on the upbeat of Three and four.

        V            I       V7        V7            IV          I       V7        V7

II:   E/G#     A/C#  E7 I      E7      I   D/F#    A/C#  E7 I      E7      :II

Staying on Track

You’ll notice that I’m playing the rhythm guitar part in the spaces I’ve left for you to play your phrases.

Take a moment to learn the rhythm guitar parts. Perhaps you could play those when I’m playing my licks.

Remember to package your lines within the spaces I’ve left for you.

If you’d like to dig deeper into this concept, and expand your phrasing protocols, please check out my three courses called “Pentatonic Protocols”. Available at

O.k., let’s get down to business and jam.


Gear Used – Yamaha Pacifica 612 VIIFM – Line 6 Helix Rack.

Chord Progression;

II:   E/G#     A/C#  E7 I      E7      I   D/F#    A/C#  E7 I      E7      :II

Tonal Center Modality – E Mixolydian (A Major Scale)

Tempo – 90 BPM