Improvising and Soloing While 'Targeting' Chord Tones

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Rawkmann, Apr 26, 2017.

  1. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Anybody out there pretty good at this? I feel like I do this already to some degree in my soloing just from instinct, but when improvising I don't always land on the right note or will have a sour bend here and there and I want to get my playing to a level where I feel confident jamming with anyone. I find if I consciously target chord tones it makes my playing pretty mechanical sounding (in a bad way). Just wondering if there's any advice that can be given other than just keep powering through backing tracks until it becomes more natural?
     
  2. extendedsolo

    extendedsolo SS.org Regular

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    It's hard to explain, and I'm assuming someone can do it better, but the chord tones have to almost be ingrained in your ear. Like solo focusing on ending a phrasing on all 3rds. Then all roots, then 5ths. Then mix it up. I like to think of it this way since it's how I hear them in rock songs.

    Root=feels like home, very resolute and soothing like you've arrived and can now relax
    3rd=most color of all, a little tension, but it still makes sense and sounds good
    5th=Has the slightest bit of tension, but sounds a little more airy and resolute. best option for wanting to resolve or end a solo but not on the root note.

    I'm assuming you are talking about blues/rock this is the best way to go.

    OR you can listen to a progression and pick out a chord tone you hear and try to target it in a run.

    It really helps if you work out licks before time and then you can deviate just a little from them.
    But really it does boil down to just doing it.
     
  3. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    Hey thanks so much for the advice. It's kind of what I figured a little bit, but man after years of learning just scales and licks then trying to actually outline what chords You are playing over really feels like going back to square one. My practice regime right now is just arpeggiating the chords within my soloing and really just memorizing exactly what notes i'm hitting until it becomes ingrained.
     
  4. prlgmnr

    prlgmnr ...that kind of idea

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    Just listen to loads and loads of improvised music that you like, hum along to it, make up solos in your head.

    Watch every Hal Galper interview or clinic video on youtube.

    Read Spellman's "Four Lives in the Bebop Business", all the interviews in Raitliff's "The Jazz Ear"

    When you hit a sour bend, bend it a bit more, or less.

    By all means PRACTISE by trying to land on the chord tones on the strong beats, but don't worry about it when you're out performing.

    It's like the 4 note per string chromatic picking exercise, you do it in the comfort of your own home but you don't whip it out on the bandstand.

    (I know this isn't the prevailing wisdom of "jazz education", so I shall just add that I have zero musical credentials and am a complete rank untaught amateur in all aspects of music, instrument technique etc. I'm also aware that you didn't mention the word "jazz" and I've brought up all this jazz stuff but...)
     
  5. eightsixboy

    eightsixboy あなたのお母さんを犯さ

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    Unless you play jazz then chord voicings when soloing is not as important. Intervals are if you playing an arpeggio but similar line over a certain chord, but even then there are only limited shapes per certain voicings.


    A lot, and I mean a lot, of jazz/fusion players just make stuff up based around certain scale/mode shapes, Brett Garsed uses a lot of chromatic ideas based around mode shapes for example, you just learn over time what notes/modes/shapes work over certain chords.


    Also all these jazz type players that can improv over chord structures or songs easily they generally played over the same song or progressions a lot, so it becomes second nature what notes you are looking to hit.


    I'm in the same boat in the sense that i'm trying to just look at a chord and play the outlined notes whether it be arpegiated or linear lines, and its not easy to instantly remember what you need to be hitting, its almost impossible unless you know the song before hand imo. Notice how when guys jam its normally over simpler progressions?
     
  6. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    Here is my hippie response...Yea, voice leading can be hard.

    I studied jazz and never got great at it, because it required work. And work isn’t fun. Guitar is supposed to be fun. Blues or Funk was more fun to me.

    The more I learned about chord tones, the more I realized how it only matters for jazz style playing anyway. That, and a good ear will lead to chord tones , without thinking about it.

    So first question is, are you trying to play jazz? If so, keep at it.

    If not.

    Then forget about it.

    I need more information on what style your trying to play, maybe a video to give you more in depth advice.

    But lets start here. Take a step back, play in only minor pentatonic scales. So much amazing stuff is right in there, and sometimes a better starting point then just Minor Scales or anything fancy etc.

    Try to make phrases. Put more pauses in your soloing. Play an idea, pause, Play another. Call and response in your playing.

    Sour bend? Learn what bends you are doing. Are they Whole Step, Half Step? Why and what should they be to make that note sound good? (Usually the next note in the scale, so in Pentatonic typically a whole step)
     
  7. Rawkmann

    Rawkmann SS.org Regular

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    I have a passing interest in jazz music but not enough that I want to master it or anything. Classic Rock, Blues, and maybe some Country (I live in Texas and if You want a gig that's 90% of what U get) are my primary goals. Been playing metal for years and IMO, with the nature of metal it's more forgiving for soloing because You tend to not stay on any one note for too long anyway. I love the advice I've been given so far and it makes a lot of sense. Maybe some middle ground like just trying to land on root notes at the end of phrases could be the best approach and shouldn't require too much overthinking. Another conclusion I have reached is that chord 'targeting' style soloing just sounds different than a free form approach, not necessarily better though in ever circumstance.

    That's so true, that's why I don't understand when people will write off a great player because "he only plays pentatonics". The pentatonic scales are so versatile You can (as many have) use them for a lifetime and still come up with fresh ideas.

    Definitely going to take all the advice to heart, thanks so much for the input.
     
  8. extendedsolo

    extendedsolo SS.org Regular

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    This is the best advice in the thread. The stage isn't for practicing so don't ever think "I'm going to try something I hope I land it" because you will end up looking like an amateur. The best advice in any genre is listen to it a ton. Since you a metal guy I know you can tell when someone is into metal and when they have listened to metal for thousands of hours. The nuances have to be ingrained in you. Every style of music listening with intent is the most important thing and also one of the most difficult.

    I don't agree with your first point since any great rock, blues (especially 12 bar), classic rock, metal (to a lesser degree) solo uses chord tones very very effectively. I like your other points and those are good advice!
     
  9. Lasik124

    Lasik124 SS.org Regular

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    Oh I agree. I guess what I mean is most rock/blues/metal players don't Intentionally study and look for chord tones. Typically their ears just lead to them.
     
  10. extendedsolo

    extendedsolo SS.org Regular

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    Ah, makes more sense. Those tones always sound right so they work, whereas something like a b13 sounds horribly wrong, but it is in fact correct in jazz tunes.
     
  11. DudeManBrother

    DudeManBrother Blames it on "the rain"

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    A great way to improve in this area is to play a chord, and hum a line over it. Then see how good you are at playing the line you just hummed. It will teach you a lot. e.g.
    Do you think/hum more complex lines vs muscle memory (just playing over a chord)?
    Can you quickly find the notes you need?
    Do you gravitate towards basic melodies (root, 3, 5) or add more color and modal qualities when humming?
    Once you can react to a chord being played with your fingers hitting the notes at the same time you hum a line on the spot, you've got it. And from here you'll be able to play fast, soulful, jazzy, whatever... because you're no longer bound by muscle memory and patterns, but only your ability to sing an interesting line. The patterns become transitional tools instead of the whole bag of tricks.
     
  12. chopeth

    chopeth SS.org Regular

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    Some nice advice here
     
  13. Element0s

    Element0s Low Fantasy/Black Denim

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    I did a jazz program for a few years in piano and we didn't really talk as much about improv and solo technique as much as I would have liked. However, the guitar program at my school was pretty intense on the improv theory and a roommate of mine gave me some tips that really helped me out with my piano playing. I haven't really applied this too much to guitar yet but I think it would probably work for all instruments, and it would probably rub off positively in any genre context eventually--not just jazz.

    So, this is a multi-step process.

    1) Set a metronome to 60 bpm. Feel free to go slower/faster as needed. Pick a tune/chord progression and play a solo in quarter-notes using only chord tones. As you said, it's going to feel super mechanical and won't sound that great. However, this is about mechanics and less about musicality. Give yourself challenges, such as focusing on a specific position or even a string. Try organizing your solo so that the notes where the chords change are connected by only a whole step or a half step.

    Try to stretch this chord tone idea as far outside your comfort zone as you can. As This becomes easy/boring, up the tempo accordingly. You're trying to develop your ear and your muscle memory to finding chord tones quickly and effectively

    2) Bring your tempo back down to your starting point. This is where it gets more interesting. Switch to playing in 8th notes. Try to play a solo where every down-beat is a chord tone and every off-beat is a diatonic passing tone (meaning, the passing tone should fit into the “scale” that the chord implies)

    This is where you can start to make this more “musical” and try adding more colour into the ideas. Again, give yourself goals and missions in terms of the fretboard that take you out of your comfort zone. Keep bumping up the tempo as you get used to it.

    3) Ok now this is where is get a lot harder and much more “jazz”. Dial your click track back to starting. We're gonna stick with the 8th notes. Every down-beat will be a chord tone (like before) but this time, your off-beat notes will be a half-step away from the next chord tone.
    So for example, if your targeted chord tones are: C – E – Bb – G

    You could try playing: Cd#- EaBbf#- G

    Once you get comfortable with number 3 at a hot tempo you'll be in pretty damn good shape in terms of chops methinks. Turning those chops and new sense of chord changes into actual “music” comes down to your own imagination.

    I'm sure this is a no-brainer but don't try to do all this shit in one day. Give yourself a week or two of just pulling random chord changes and song out of a hat and working through them until you're comfortable and starting to just play the same patterns by rote.
     
    USMarine75 and stevexc like this.
  14. Mr. Big Noodles

    Mr. Big Noodles Theory God

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