Going through some changes

Playing through the chord changes.

For most rock guitarists, there is a standard approach to playing lead ideas. They pick a scale and wail in it. Hopefully the scale covers all the chords being played underneath. This isn’t a dig or criticism, it’s just what we/ they do. This approach can work fine for most scenarios, but what do you do when it doesn’t work? When the chords are moving about and going to other keys or tonalities? Obviously the answer is play faster and use the trem to dive bomb a lot. If that fails stare accusingly at the bassist to infer they are playing the wrong notes. OR you could learn how to address the chord changes and play smoothly through it. This of course will require engaging your brain and doing some work. HEY come back, and learn like a good student.

Let’s start this from a simple progression that you can more than cope with. The beloved and time honoured 12 bar blues. Strangely, if we are playing over a Dominant blues progression then this would be the “correct” approach, although we all know we’d grab A blues and wail. Do you notice sometimes that some of those notes just don’t quite gel, they need those bends to bring them back in. They rub against the chords? No? Oh OK, well you should notice that as they are doing so.

Here is some info that will back up my previous statement.

Let’s look at the notes that make the 3 chords we are playing over.

A7 = A C# E G

D7 = D F# A C

E7 = E G# B D

Now let’s look at the A minor pentatonic Scale.


This scale against the A7 chord has one immediate issue. The Major 3rd of the chord will class with the minor 3rd of the scale.

Against the D7 the F# and the G are going to be “interesting”

The E7, well G and G# should prove to be fun.

I’m not sure if you are aware, if you are please excuse me, but to everyone else, the most important note of any chord is the 3rd. That will define whether it is major or minor. If you are choosing to play clashing notes over the most important note, well you are brave. There is nothing wrong with being brave, I applaud that, however brave without planning is fool hardy, as most stunt men will tell you. I wish you luck with your stunt guitar.

My approach as with many other professionals is to have at least safety nets in place. Welcome to my safety net approach to soloing over this progression and then subsequently more complex progressions.

Here you can see the chord progression. Please familiarise yourself with it. Make sure you know it inside out.

In the above score, I have isolated the 3rd and 7th of each of the chords.

The exercise here is for you to play just these character notes of each of the 3 chords in the tune.

I am playing them on the down beats of each bar, so they are falling on beat 1 and beat 3.

Get yourself a metronome or drum machine and sit for a number of repetitions until you can play these notes on these beats effortlessly.

If you are feeling particularly fruity, then find these notes in other parts of the neck as well. But for now, not to overload the newcomers to this idea, just do these.

Here is the A pentatonic minor scale.

If you aren’t familiar with this, then please spend some time playing it and memorising the fingering and sound. Metronome and repetition.

To recap, we now have, the progression, the 3rd and 7th of the chords and a scale. The next step is to join the scale with the 3rds and 7ths of the appropriate chords. The initial lines aren’t going to win any top solo awards, however they are going to give you a rudimentary and easy to understand approach to placing chord tones through the chord changes.

On beat 1 and 3 we have a chord tone, and on beat 2 and 4 we have a scale note from the pentatonic scale. If you listen to the whole 12 bar line you can hear the chord changes despite no chords being present. How cool is that? So in essence this “solo” can stand alone and you could still be aware of how the progression would sound if it was present.

This can then be developed further and the licks can be made more interesting. As long as you keep indicating where the 3rd or 7th is on the chord change you will articulate the progression nicely.

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