Lesson 1 An analysis of the improvisational style of Pat Metheny The playing style of Pat Metheny contains all the

attributes of a great, seasoned jazz artist. His great harmonic sense, impeccable time and rhythm feel and his propelling energy and spirit in his playing all come together in every note he plays, however, the elements that distinguish his unique sound and recognizable “voice” lie in his approach to phrasing and articulation on the guitar and his use signature melodic cells. Also, Metheny has his own unique vocabulary of melodic cells (personal clichés) that are evident in all of his solos. These ‘signature cells’ which I call “Metheny-isms” are recognizable melodic, intervallic and rhythmic designs which Metheny adapts to suit the given harmony, although he sometimes ignores the underlying harmony and plays his “Metheny-isms” even when they “conflict’ with the given harmony. They do not sound incorrect because, in themselves, these cells are strong and cohesive ideas. Phrasing and Articulation. Metheny does not ‘pick’ every note instead he uses a legato approach often ‘hammering-on’ and pulling-off notes in his right hand. This is a more ‘horn-like’ approach that creates a sense of ‘breathe’ in the line. He has a ‘signature’ way of treating a group of four eighth-notes. He would often pick, pick, slur, and pick a group of four eighth-notes as in figure 1.

Most often there would be a half step between the second and third note (as in figure1). One can hear evidence of this approach in the two-bar pick ups to his solo in ‘All the things you are’. (refer to transcription: measure 1 and 2). Licks: Apart from his Metheny-isms, Metheny does play some signature licks. His most common lick is a II-V-I lick (figure 2). On the ‘Question & Answer’ recording, he plays this lick twice. Once in ‘All the things you are’ and once in ‘Old Folks’.

© Mageshen Naidoo

Figure 3 is a common Metheny. and in each of the four-note groups of the I chord (Ab major). This occurs in his solo on ‘Solar’ (refer to transcription) in measure 4.ism. beats 1 & 2. Notice this idea also. beats 3 & 4 and measure 5. It can be heard on almost any up-tempo solo. It evolves into a melodic cell as in figure 5 and figure 6. © Mageshen Naidoo . Figure 7 is a very recognizable chromatic Metheny-ism. Metheny plays another common rhythmic figure. adapted in the II-V-I lick (figure 2) in beats 3 & 4 of the II chord. (figure 4).“Metheny-isms” From the lick in figure 2. we gain insight in many Metheny-isms.

See Figure 9. Figure 10 is an augmented triad shape which Metheny often slides either chromatically or in thirds.Figure 8 is based on a minor pentatonic figure Metheny plays usually in the decending form. This may be heard on ‘All the things you are’. He plays this chromatically and/or adapts it diatonically to create tension in his solos. This can be heard on ‘Solar’ (refer to transcription) on the Fmaj7 chord in measure 41. © Mageshen Naidoo .

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