Originally Posted by Charles
My theory is far weaker than it should be. As a manifestation of this, my solos are kind of directionless and, while my technique is pretty good and my ability to play really fast is sound, my solos are meandering and it's hard to really make heads or tails of them. I read music quite well, but the problem I've found is that instead of playing "to" a progression I play "at" a progression. Because of this, I've figured out that I need to learn to work chord tones into my improvisation. How do I learn to do this?
Well, learning to hear this stuff helps. If you can tell whenever a dissonance is about to be resolved, and you know what that dissonance is, then you're halfway there. Start with intervals, and work up to hearing diatonic and chromatic chords in context.
Chord shapes. What should I do? Form my own. There's this great book I borrowed that has a bunch of chord shapes I'm learning and building on, but anything else?
This is where theory helps out. If you know how to build chords, you can make your own shapes. If we break down a major bar chord, for instance, we have this:
Obviously, the A on the E strings is the root of the chord. The E on the B and A strings are the fifth of the chord, and the C# on the G string is the third. So, from the bass note, we have 151351, or A E A C# E A. When we talk about triads in theory, we rarely get beyond 135 (A, C#, and E, respectively). On the guitar, that looks like this:
You'll rarely see it voiced that way, though, as the other shape is easier and sounds fuller. The two shapes are wildly different, so any understanding of chord shapes starts with an understanding of the intervallic constituents of the chord. However, there is an advantage to realizing the stacked thirds model, as well as the the six-string model, in that these tones can be organized in any way you want, and will still create the desired sonority (disregarding the effect of inversion).
I would like to learn to use modes in my playing. Yes, I understand the theory behind modes, starting on a different note in a scale and ending on that note an octave up, but how do I force that "modal sound"? I want my improvisations to sound a little more "out". I'm not really sure how else to describe it, but guys like Holdsworth and Brett Garsed do it really well. How do I know what modes to use against what chords? (could someone possibly give examples in C major so that I can just transpose that to different keys and what not?)
Modality is really dictated by harmony, and I could go on about it, but here's a really fast rundown of the application of diatonic modes to standard seventh chords. TA predicted this one:
maj7 - Ionian or Lydian
7 - Mixolydian
m7 - Aeolian or Dorian, sometimes Phrygian (in a b9 context)
ø7 - Locrian
Dorian comes in handy for m6 chords, because of the major sixth present in the mode.
This is a very expansive area of harmony, and it's a little late for me to get into it right now, but if you'd like, I can try to explain it away.