Scale Soloing Important Considerations

Scale Soloing Important Considerations

Scale Soloing

Scale Soloing Important Considerations

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Scale Soloing Important Considerations

Scale Soloing Important Considerations

Q:I’m an avid student of your method, I bought your books a few years back. Right now I’m just trying to focus and perhaps try to record licks that best suit each phrases or chords of the song.
The problem comes up when I practice, I can hear when I should resolve to the 1 note or 5 note when i solo and noticed several other notes that sound good (perhaps the bend to the 4th or to the 2nd) and I try to form licks around them. Or I might try avoiding root and 5th so to build tension. But i guess I always want to be better and I remember ideas around chord tones. I played around with the idea but thought back to your system of hearing the solfege of the key. Should I do that to the root of every chord instead so I can outline the song better? Right now I’m more comfortable going about the scale rather than the chord tones(although I admit i might be hitting chord tones through my licks/runs) and this is something new to me; hitting chord tones sound boring but i understand and do not know which combinations of 3rd or 5th of each chord implied might sound better. Also, wouldn’t it be simple just to solo and notice which chord i’m at? So if i’m on the D maj chord I’ll perhaps start a run/lick on the 3rd of the chord? So I wonder what would be the advice you would give to a player at my level?

A: First let’s talk a bit about what notes to play when soloing. There are 3 kinds of notes in a scale. Chord Tones, Tensions and Avoid Notes. All of them can be used but different styles of music will use more of these three types than other styles. Chord tones are always a safe bet in any style of music but limiting yourself to them especially when the chords don’t change very often or some styles like rock don’t tend to concentrate on exclusively chord tone playing as opposed to jazz which does. Think of chord tones as 7th chords. So if you have a major triad you should still think of it as either a Major 7th (1,3,5,7) or Dominant 7th chord (1,3,5,b7) This will vary depending on the specific use of the chord within a tune. The reason I’m adding in the “7th” of these chords is you need to distinguish between chord tones and tensions. Tensions are “non chord tones that don’t need to resolve.” Each chord type has it own set of tensions. For instance a Major 7th chord has 2,#4 and 6 as available tensions so if you are playing over a major chord or Major 7th chord then these notes will sound good. Again depending on the style of music musicians will use more or less tension notes. Styles like Jazz and Heavy Metal often use tensions and often end phrases with these notes. Rock tends to end more on chord tones but that could be debated depending on the style of rock. Avoid notes are notes within the scale that feel like they need to resolve. For instance if you are playing a C Major Chord and using a C Major Scale then the avoid note is “F” which is the 4th degree of the scale. You can play “F” but usually if will feel like it wants to resolve to an “E” or a “G.”

A couple more considerations.

  • Most chords have more than one scale that will sound good over it
  • Some chord progressions have one scale that will fit over the entire chord progression. This is very common in rock
  • Some chord progressions or even a “one chord vamp” will have scales that can be superimposed over a chord progression. This is common with the Blues Scale and the Major and Minor Pentatonic.

Then you have the ear training considerations.

  • Are you hearing the entire chord progression in one key?
  • If the chord progression where is it happening and how is this changing the scales you need to use?
  • How will all of this effect the scales and notes I choose to play?

So you can see there are a lot of different things to learn about Scale Soloing especially over chord changes. I think to organize this in your head better you should get the “Essential Scales” book and “Jam Tracks Volume One. “Essential Scales” will give you the fingerings for the scales in the back of the book if you play guitar. It will discuss what notes are chord tones and tensions, what chords the scale works over and some sample chord progressions that can be used for each scale. If will also give you a whole section called “Modal Sequencing” which will give you a bunch of melodic ideas (patterns) that can used with each scale.

The Jam Tracks Volume One will give you a chance to apply each scale over a one chord vamp so that you can begin to make music out of each scale and “Be Yourself.” Also once you have the basic knowledge found in “Essential Scales” you can again to “Be Yourself.”

Once you have the basic knowledge found in “Essential Scales” you can start to “Be Yourself.”

One last thing. If you play guitar then the “Blues Campus” series of books would be good because it shows you the “articulation” that you need to make a Blues, Major and Minor Pentatonic scale sound right. If you just play any scale without any articulation (hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, bends, etc) if will sound very unmusical. So you need to learn some of this articulation which can be found in the “Blues Campus” with videos and PDFs to help you see and hear everything.

Then we have the ear training side of things. This actually gets quite complicated so I would recommend a course like Scale Analysis so that you start to see how scales and chords relate to each other by using your ear. In general you first want to figure out what key you are in by playing a note on your instrument and listening for what that note sounds like. For example if you play a “G” and that sounds like the 5th then you are in the key of “C.” For some people they might not have developed their ear to the point that they can do this so of course I would recommend the “Ear Training One Note Complete” to start the process of learning how to hear correctly. But in general you want to think of the notes you are playing based on the key center not the chord you are playing. So if you are playing an “F” chord but you hear the chord progressions in “C.” then think of the chord tones of “F” as F= 4, A- 6, C- 1. This is how you hear the notes so think of them the same way. This of course takes work but working through a book like the Scale Analysis will really help you gain an understanding of Scale Soloing.

Best thing is to get these books and then keep in touch with me because I’m sure you would have more questions like how to organize this stuff into a practice schedule.

It is also recommended that you read Bruce Arnold’s Blog at his artist site. It contains more discussion of the musical topics found in these FAQs as well as other subjects of interest. You will also find the “Music Education Genealogy Chart” located here which shows you the historic significance of the music education products found on the Muse Eek Publishing Company Website.

Scale Soloing Important Considerations

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