Do you experienced guitarists target chord tones when soloing?

Discussion in 'Lessons & Techniques' started by living room rocker, Nov 14, 2021.

  1. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I'm 5 years into playing guitar. I've become fluid at moving through positions/scales whether playing pentatonic, full diatonic or a combination of the two. Several articles I've read claim that targeting chord tones when soloing is what separates the pros from the amateurs. Doing so they claim is what can turn bland, repetitive sounding solos into masterful works of art. I'm certainly not at that point yet. I do however find myself landing on or bending to and holding notes that sound good to my ears. I'll often stop and check the note I've held or bent to and find that it is indeed a note of an underlying chord. My question is.....do you experienced guitarists target underlying chord tones consciously or has your ear developed to a point where you do this without even thinking?
     
  2. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    Hey "Rocker", There have been thousands of entire books written about this subject. I am not qualified to write such a book, so I will try and keep this short. :D

    First I would play the notes in my solo that express melodically the feelings I am trying to invoke. I get the basic idea of "the pros not targeting notes that are in the chord", but that really is an oversimplification. The reason you are "landing on a chord tone" is that those notes are going to be pitches that resolve, whereas pitches that are not in the chord tend to create varying degrees of musical "tension". Musical "tension" is a desirable thing because it creates interest, but the tension is typically resolved at some point because of that sense of "relief" you are feeling. If you try and resolve on a note that is not a resolution pitch for the scale and mode of the song, it is going to leave you and your listener hanging and feeling uneasy like things are not complete.

    Yes, the "pros" may use more notes that are not part of the chord as a general rule, but EVERYBODY must use the same scale tones to create resolution within the context of the key of the song, and those will tend to be chord tones. The notes that create tension are used for the interesting bits, the resolving tones create completion and that sense of feeling good.

    It sounds like you are at the point in your musical journey where you are ready to start learning some music theory. Depending on how deep you want to dive into it, you may want to seek out a music teacher to get an introduction to music theory. There are a lot of music teachers and scholars who have put up youtube videos that can get pretty deep into this subject as well. That would be where I recommend starting because it is free, and can give you some idea of how deep you want to get into it. Trust me, the waters get VERY deep. Deeper than most folks (myself included) will want, or need to go.

    J.S. Bach was a master of modes and scales, and made full use of all sorts of Tension and Resolution in his music. If you haven't listened to him before I highly recommend his music as a listening "primer" for how to create, build tension, build even more tension, and eventual release by returning to the tonic.
     
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  3. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    I think of all solos in terms of chords. I often fret all the notes of a chord even when playing only a single note from the chord. This ensures that all the various odd string vibrations that happen naturally are "in tune" with the solo note.
     
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  4. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    Don, that is a good way of doing it. It is usually the basis of what I do if I am improvising precisely for the reasons you state. You will never be "wrong" if you do it that way, and a lot of very good and inventive music does not stray out of that fundamental structure. The other way I approach it is to think melodically, which opens up some more inventive possibilities using more daring passing tones and leading tones. In that case however I tend to compose and learn my solo ahead of time with little or no room for improvisation.

    How ever you approach it, you will probably be leaning heavily on those chord tones most of the time. While "wrong" notes are useful, they need to be approached in a way that serves the song melodically or chordally in some way at all times or they are just objectionable noise. I have known a few studio musicians who could improvise solos on the fly that would take me a week or more to compose. Those players had an exceptional understanding of music theory, and a bag of "licks and tricks" that were the envy of everybody else in the room.
     
  5. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

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    I think solos should be melodic.

    Play in the correct key, use passing tones and don’t limit yourself to running scales or picking notes out of a chord.

    Don’t be so predictable and sounding like everything is based on a formula.

    It’s music, not engineering.
     
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2021
  6. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I love theory and agree that much of it is deeper than I need or want to go. I'm probably guilty of overthinking a lot of it, including this "chord tone chasing" concept.
     
  7. gypsyseven

    gypsyseven Member

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    Damn cool thread!
     
  8. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    I find that amazing. Do you fret those notes sequentially (as in an arpeggio) or do you form a chord shape when playing that single note?
     
  9. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    That's currently what I do, but this runs contrary to what's stated in these "difference between the pros/amateurs" articles. I do know however, that with 7 notes in a key (only 5 in pentatonic) I've got a pretty good chance of hitting at least one underlying chord tone.
     
  10. donepearce

    donepearce Well-Known Member

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    This is not all the time, but when I do it I will simply grab the whole chord even though I may be playing only one note. Very often a sequence of solo notes will all belong to one chord, so why not grab them all at once and not try to find them sequentially. I probably do it this way because I'm really crap at sweep-picking.
     
  11. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    In any given key, there are defined relationships between the Tonic and the 12 pitches in the chromatic scale for that key. The entire range of chromatic notes CAN be used musically in any key but seldom are, and for good reason. Some of them are quite dissonant, and if used without intent, and without the proper harmonic context, they just aren't going to "work" or "sound good". I would say that the "Pros" know when and how they can use those tones with "good" results, but they also know when to avoid them (which is most of the time). It isn't so much that they use of the notes that is defining, but that they have a broader musical palate than the average Joe, and better understanding of the full range of harmonic relationships than those with less experience.

    The fact is Pro or Beginner, if you are going to settle on a pitch to hold because it "sounds good", it will most likely be a resolving note that is contained in the underlying chord. No amount of "Pro" is going to allow you to successfully use dissonant notes for their own sake without regard to what is going on musically in the context of the song, or resolve on a pitch that doesn't want to resolve in that key. That is where I think the truism of that "difference between pros and amateurs" statement is misleading. It's not so much that you should use those notes more, as it is that there is a benefit to an increased understanding of where you COULD use them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2021
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  12. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    That makes good sense and will give me something to think over. Appreciate the follow-up Nigel.
     
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  13. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    It took me a while to find it, but this video I think relates back to many of the things being discussed in this topic. It illustrates very well that the issues of "which notes you should play" is far more complex than just their relationship to the tonic. In the "bad" example, the soloist is arguably fundamentally "correct" as the notes were in the key and even in the chord (the Tonic as it happens).

    There were a lot of issues (tuning being among them), but at the end of the day the solo was terrible even if the tuning was corrected. There are many examples however of people doing the same thing that actually sounded good. There is also the example of the same player, playing on the same session, with many of the same tuning issues etc., but on a different solo with a lot more melodic movement that actually sounds a whole lot better.

    It's a 28 minute video, but it is more about what makes a solo sound good or bad than it is about gawking at a train wreck.

    The Worst Jazz Solo of All Time - YouTube
     
    Last edited: Nov 16, 2021
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  14. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    I forgot to mention, but be sure to watch to the end where the presenter pulls the "bad" solo out, places it in a new musical and harmonic context, and actually manages to make it sound pretty good.
     
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  15. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    Point well taken Nigel. Even though the single note solo is in key, it sounds nasty. And yes, that same solo in a different underlying harmonic context does sound a lot better.
     
  16. Westernrider

    Westernrider Well-Known Member

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    Hi Living Room Rocker,

    Random thoughts. Pentatonic scales are useful and there is much to learn about them.

    Here is some reference material that might help someone on the road to improvement.

    1st Here is a 5 lesson course the presenter did on YT early in the covid lockdown. These were free classes and aimed at the general guitarist. Once in the lead lesson, he displays the blues boxes and explains using both minor and major roots. This was a game changer for me when I actually started to practice and use this information.

    Reference Video:

    Signals Music Studio, 5 day Blues lesson course:
    https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTR7Cy9Sv285NdcZm0_BSRekN84bfUdbv

    2nd Hand Outs:

    Here are the two handouts that the instructor created for his free course.

    3rd. I'm also attaching a two-page document that came from another guitar instructor, Blues Guitar Unleashed, which shows the blues boxes with the major and minor root notes color coded.

    This will help assist with learning and building muscle memory target notes. It is worth passing on, and maybe it'll help someone else.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021
  17. living room rocker

    living room rocker Active Member

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    Thanks Westernrider. I've looked at and will take an even deeper look at this information. I'd already began incorporating the blue note into my playing. And consistent with information shown here, I've discovered some Youtube blues backing tracks where major and minor pentatonic both sound good over the same track. Ran across one recently where both G minor and G major pentatonic sounded good to my ears. It was a simple track that only contained the chords Gm7, Cm7 and D7. Haven't quite figured out why but this info will help me understand it more.
     

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