Modulating Solos : The Pat Metheny Swervy Syndrome

“To the end of the world” is a Pat Metheny track. It begins like some empty “jazzy elevator music”, then floats into a nonchalapleasant piano jazz, until (go to 6 or 7′) Metheny wakes up with a long modulating guitar solo :


There it is. It’s my point. I’m listening to this long solo full of swerves and stridence, and my brain is agitated in ambiguity.

  1. Half of it finds it really toomuchy, almost as if I was watching some indecency. I’m like : “OK dude, it’s cool. OK I like it. Good. Please stop now…”.
  2. The other half is amazed and mesmerized (oh, I love this word!), because of the modulations.

Wiki : In music, modulation is most commonly the act or process of changing from one key (tonic, or tonal center) to another.

Well, you know, you feel the music climbing stairs…

Let’s call this ambiguity “The Pat Metheny Swervy Syndrome”. I like it so much. It’s a great skill for Röyksopp or Mike Oldfield, or Puccini. The syndrome is when it becomes a trick, a knack, when you wanna say “Hey! OK! I got it!”.

Stairs of synths is a Klaus Schulze common trick (he knows how to make you wait).


To show you it’s a knack, here’s a soloing guitar guy who is perpetually modulating. Well, he’s good, I suppose! I dislike this music/I love the way he changes colors (imagine this in a fast car). Yep :


You can study Miles Davis‘s career with this spot only. This great musician used this threadbare trick until he stopped it almost completely. Because it became, at one point, “harmonic virtuosity”, acrobatic modulations, crafty bends, speedy warps which, well, could make you forget the melody forwardness (sorry for my English). He went until he killed the idea of progression…

Well, that’s another story. But there’s a tool here : When do you go to good at something? How do you get out?



Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “Modulating Solos : The Pat Metheny Swervy Syndrome

  1. deborahbrasket November 12, 2017 / 8:30 pm

    I love Pat Methany’s music, and hadn’t realized that was partly because of the modulation and also what you call (I think) the music climbing stairs. I’ve seen it as a rising crescendo moving into a grand climax, almost orgasmic. My favorite comes in his Wichita Falls, about 3/4 of the way through. I could listen to that forever.

    Liked by 1 person

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