As guitarists, we tend to play in a linear fashion by moving from one string to the next, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it can’t get somewhat limiting in sonic terms. To break out of that linear style of playing, I really recommend incorporating some intervallic leaps into your playing.
The idea behind intervallic leaps is to play wider intervals that you would normally do when playing in a linear fashion. Eric Johnson’s spread arpeggio voicings are a good example of this, and there’s a great book called, ‘Intervallic Designs for Jazz Guitar: Ultramodern Sounds for Improvising‘, by jazz guitarist Joe Diorio where he basically shows you a bunch of lick involving wide interval jumps, as well as the chords they work over. It’s an old book, but it’s still available on Amazon if you want to check it out.
Before you dive into the licks from Joe’s book, I’d recommend getting the technical side of things down first. Intervallic leaps inevitably involve string-skipping, that is, playing notes that are not on adjacent strings. We can practice this by mapping out common scales on every other string instead of adjacent strings. In the diagram below, you’ll see the notes/intervals from A Dorian, but only on the E, D, and B strings.
Bearing in mind where the root notes are, see what you can come up with in terms of licks and runs. If you haven’t done much string-skipping before, you’ll find you have to adjust your technique somewhat to make those leaps, as well as deciding whether you’re going to use just the pick or the pick and a finger.
Once you’ve got used to skipping strings, try the other three strings. We’re still in A Dorian.
You may find that a little perseverance and a lot more looking at the fretboard are required to start to make this sound good; don’t worry too much about speed either, just concentrate on playing the notes cleanly.
While we’re at it, let’s apply the same technique to the good old A Minor Pentatonic scale. Here are the notes you’ll need for the A, G, and E strings.
And here are the notes you’ll need on the remaining strings.
There are fewer notes to work with here, which can be a good thing as most of your stock A Minor Pentatonic licks go out the window.
As you can see, this technique can be applied to any scale to turn it on its head and get some very different sounds out of it, and when you’re ready for more, check out Joe Diorio’s Intervallic Designs book. You might also like our free Horizontal Soloing eBook, which is a great complement to this technique.