Soloing Over Rapid-Fire Chord Changes

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SOLOING OVER QUICK CHORD CHANGESThis is a subject that doesn't get addressed in the "advanced" jazz circles much. It's a macho thing I guess, but what you'll hear are phrases like, "Oh man, let's not play that tune, I don't like that one" which really means, "Oh man, that one changes key-areas every measure! I can't solo over that!" Whether you can handle rapid-fire chord changes or not, this lesson will give you a new perspective on the art of relaxing through otherwise frantic chord changes.

FREEDOM FROM THE TYRANNY OF PATTERN PLAYINGThe guitar is a very pattern-oriented instrument which gives the guitarist an advantage over many other instrumentalists when it comes to learning things like scales and chords. Play an "F" major scale, then move up 2 frets, repeating the pattern you just played for "F" and just like magic, you've got the "G" major scale!

But, is that really a blessing or is it a curse? If you were to quiz several guitarists who profess that they "KNOW" their scales and chords pretty well and you'll find that many of them still don't really know what notes they're playing! They are simply repeating PATTERNS they've learned for various scales and as long as they know what note to start on, they can play most any scale. You can actually get away with this approach until you're asked to solo over a set of chord-changes like the ones in this lesson.

As a matter of fact, it was this tune (LAKES by Pat Metheney) that made me think about the approach I'll be presenting to you in this lesson. I saw Pat Metheny play this tune in 1977 at a theatre on the college campus I was attending at the time. I was blown away with what ease he glided through the rapid changes of this tune! By the way, you should pick up a copy of the CD "Watercolors" released in 1977 on ECM, at your favorite record store and listen to how Pat executes these changes in his solo.Incidentally, a little history on the song by Pat Metheny himself:

"Written for a band led by Memphis pianist James Williams, a good friend of mine since 1968 when we were both just kids. His band at this time actually was a quartet with another piano player, Ted Lo. Since there were two keyboard instruments, I guess I figured they needed a lot of chords to play, hence all the changes..."

In order to solo over these changes you have to choose only a few notes out of a scale for each key area because you quickly move to the next key area. For example, if you tend to play a major scale only one way, you'll find yourself jumping all over the guitar neck in a futile attempt to play a solo over these chord changes.

STAY HOME

Here's a fact that you should remember for the remainder of your guitar playing days:

Every key can be found within any 5-fret area of the guitar!

Don't ever forget that! We're going to focus on playing this solo by keeping your left hand within the first 5 frets. I could have created a solo over these same changes staying within the 5 through the 9th frets. I chose the first position to show you that all the notes you need are under your fingers no matter what position you want to play in.

The key areas covered in this tune are: D major, F major, Db major, E major, G major, Bb major, Gb major and C major. We'll hit all those keys in the first 5 frets of the guitar using only the 1st 3 strings! Below are the scale charts with the abbreviated scales used in the lesson. Actually not all these notes are used in the lesson example, but you should familiarize yourself with these scales in the first position and practice creating your own solo by playing along with the background tracks by hitting the PRACTICE button in the main lesson screen.

WHAT IS A KEY AREA?

Since this is an advanced lesson, I'm going to assume you've looked at the material in the Member's Theory Area of the site but, I'll hit on it briefly here for your review.

Every major key is made of up chords built on it's corresponding major scale. For example, the C major scale is made up of the following notes:

C - D - E - F - G - A - B
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7

Numbers are used to relate to the various notes in every major scale, i.e., in the C major scale (shown above), the numbers corresponding to the notes are listed beneath them. You've probably heard people talk about the "Five" chord or the "One" chord or the "Four" chord. That's simply a means of identifying chords in relationship to a key, or chords built from a scale. Specifically, in the example above, the "Five" chord is "G" and the "One" chord is "C."

The chord changes in this lesson are nothing more than a series of "Five" and "One" chords in several keys. In the chart below, the key is listed in red above each of the groups of "Five" and "One" chords. (Incidentally, Roman Numerals are generally used in place of spelling out the words as follows:

1 -  2 -  3  - 4  - 5 - 6  -  7
 I - ii - iii - IV - V - vi - vii

So, wherever you see a specific key area indicated, use the notes of the scales listed above to solo over the corresponding section.

Remember, this is a TOUGH LESSON! If you're able to get this concept immediately and can play over these changes with no trouble at all, you're unusually talented and gifted! GIVE IT TIME and it'll come along. Remember, the more you learn, the easier it is to learn more!

 

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