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Watch the Strategy 5: Engage Your Audience online guitar lesson by Jon Herington from Ear IQ: Soloing Strategies

I'd like to take a close look at those rhythmic repetitions and variations, because I think they're the most interesting. The best example of rhythmic repetition is probably the rhythm I first played in bar 10. It returns in bar 16, in bar 17, and again in bar 19. And apparently I hadn't had enough of it by then because I returned to it again in bars 25 and 26. I don't think I would do that much repeating of a rhythmic theme on most songs, but I think this tune is a special case. The harmony provides so much interest and variety in and of itself that a line with similar rhythm and shape takes on a new character with each key - sort of like looking at something where the light is changing and you're getting different takes on it.

I wanted to look at one more small example of rhythmic theme and variation just to illustrate that point I made earlier about the listener's expectations. It's pretty simple really, but it can be effective. In bar 13 I play a very deliberate quarter note rhythm with a very clear shape - it's almost a doorbell theme! - now, I could have repeated it in the next bar with exactly the same rhythm - though it stops one note early, the shape is the same. Instead I chose to delay the rhythm of the first two notes of the repetition of the shape, and as a result it seems to have more life - and it does feel like a kind of playing with expectations there. The first four notes felt like enough to set up those expectations, and I felt the need to "play" with them a bit in the next bar.

So, experiment with this concept. Try stuff that's strictly rhythmic - set up a pattern then vary it, or try playing a theme, abandoning it, then returning to it - it can be the design or shape of a melody line, or even some effect like bending a string a certain way, or sliding around the fingerboard in a certain way. That kind of thing tends to encourage listeners to pay attention better, because they quickly get the idea that there's something interesting going on - there's design at work.