When soloing and the chord changes, should I change scale or keep the same scale

Chords, scales, harmony, melody, etc.
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addled muppet weed
83795 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Sun Sep 19, 2021 10:38 am

donkey tugger wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 4:09 pm
Daimonicon wrote:
Fri Sep 17, 2021 12:24 pm
Just trust your ears and don't think too much about scales. If it sounds right it is right.
....and if you do by chance hit the wrong note then quickly bend it and pretend you meant it...
just play everything with the hand on the wobble bar, add distortions, mbv style.

KVRAF
22928 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Sun Sep 19, 2021 8:08 pm

<what notes to play while 'soloing'> is a question of 'what is my musical idea', which we shouldn't be charged to fill in for ya.

As a default, the scale of whatever chord which occurs isn't good for a first principle.

Go from I to any other degree and build a major or minor scale from its 1, & the key of the new degree/its scale introduces a new note not in our original key. C to ii/D minor (or IV/F major); Is B flat a good idea in the line? C to iii/E minor or V/G major; is F# a good idea in the line? May well be, but do you have a why or a how?
It's not *much* of an approach because there's a new question and added complexity each time, which we haven't any reason for yet; staying with the key or mode has a simple and clear principle and sense to it. 'It's too hard to think of that much information' is not a reason for musical choices. It's not easier, you have more to consider, not less.

We could get into very abstruse concepts from jazz where some like a chord/scale match. The extensions the synthetic melodic minor variants lend to altered dominants, for instance. Your diminished scales...
What's the musical idea of the decision? Your ear has to be informed.
For information to become knowledge, now you gain experience. You test it. (And you test your soloing in a band or something like it.)
Technically you need to have the lay of the land some way or other. Tonic is E; a major scale built on A is no longer E major.
Which one do you want? If you want qualities of both, get to know qualities of the things from experience.
It may turn out to be too hard for you, we don't know.

You're free to do absolutely anything, but not knowing is not an approach (whether one's ego can stand to see it or not is not our issue).
It would have been patronizing to _not_ tell you the fact of the matter, as though one must be that fragile.

KVRer

Topic Starter

11 posts since 5 Jun, 2011

Post Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:27 pm

I was planning to leave the thread, but the quality has increased dramatically since I last posted. Wow, that’s a lot of constructive tips right there, thank you all!

Especially I would like to draw attention to Chris', post, for those who would like a prime example of a concise, informative forum post free of any sort of patronization. It just goes to show how the least patronizing way of saying something is almost always the most direct, straightforward and matter-of-factly way. It goes straight to the point, answering the question I asked: Keep the same scale.

Many of you suggest simply dropping scales altogether, and just bending the note and pretend you meant it, or similar if you happen to play the wrong note. That is also something I need to be reminded of, sounds like anarchy to me, scary! That’s probably why I need to try it out.

Others point out that I don’t need to keep track of where the chord notes are, I’m supposed to just feel it "real-time". However I would like to say that I usually think rock guitar solos suck, because they keep on going back and forth over scales, without much awareness of what’s going on harmonically. This is very typical of bar-rock, even if the musicians are generally good, and technically much better than I.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t really played solos for a long time, and it’s partly because of this. It’s also because currently I only make compositions where the groove is center key, and I don’t think the compositions have called for a solo. I don’t play in a band. What I described in the opening post was my recollection of what I did when I was a kid, when I mostly played pentatonic minor scales with an added blue note. Also, I tended to think more in terms of chords-plus-embellishments than scales, even when soloing. So, that might be one reason I felt it worked to change "scales" whenever the chord changed back then, but there’s also a very good chance I sounded like crap.... :D :D :D

But now I think it’s time to brush up and level up my soloing skills. While I haven’t played much solos lately, I have been improvising melodies without backing tracks, so my sense of melody is very good. I just haven’t been sure what to do when I have a chord progression to relate to, and wanted a hint as a starting point, before I try things out on my own. I just glossed over all that background to get quickly to the question: Change scales or not. And now I have the answer, or a great starting point.

Thank you all for your contributions, now I think it’s time for me to shut up and play.

User avatar
Boss Lovin' DR
8919 posts since 15 Mar, 2002 from the grimness of yorkshire

Post Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:38 pm

pbholmen wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:27 pm


Many of you suggest simply dropping scales altogether, and just bending the note and pretend you meant it, or similar if you happen to play the wrong note. That is also something I need to be reminded of, sounds like anarchy to me, scary! That’s probably why I need to try it out.


My other suggestion is usually, 'just put loads of distortion and delay on and play really fast - doesn't matter what the notes are then', but I thought I'd save it for later.. :scared:

To be honest, I'm crap at lead guitar anyway, only do solos very occasionally, so don't listen to me! Like you I think most of the time a song doesn't need them - less widdling, better song writing kids. :idea:

KVRist
111 posts since 14 Jan, 2020

Post Tue Sep 21, 2021 4:02 am

pbholmen wrote:
Mon Sep 20, 2021 2:27 pm
Others point out that I don’t need to keep track of where the chord notes are, I’m supposed to just feel it "real-time". However I would like to say that I usually think rock guitar solos suck, because they keep on going back and forth over scales, without much awareness of what’s going on harmonically. This is very typical of bar-rock, even if the musicians are generally good, and technically much better than I.
with the "just feel it" stuff it's important to make a distinction between practice and performance - it's a fine aspiration as far as performance goes, but yeah there has to be some kind of process for internalising and expanding the range of stuff you "just feel" if you don't want the same old pentatonic noodling to come out every time.

imo the process is any practice approach that deliberately puts some set of constraints on what you choose to play and/or how you choose to play it. e.g. note choices, rhythmic values, phrase lengths, some position or range on your instrument, dynamics, articulation, etc.

KVRer

Topic Starter

11 posts since 5 Jun, 2011

Post Tue Sep 21, 2021 12:55 pm

NERF_PROTOSS wrote:
Tue Sep 21, 2021 4:02 am
with the "just feel it" stuff it's important to make a distinction between practice and performance - it's a fine aspiration as far as performance goes, but yeah there has to be some kind of process for internalising and expanding the range of stuff you "just feel" if you don't want the same old pentatonic noodling to come out every time.
I totally agree. Regarding the old discussion about theory versus feeling, I think music theory may be a bit like grammar: We’re all using, but not everybody knows they’re using it. The ultimate goal is to have it internalized so we don’t think about it consciously, but sometimes we need a little help. Like a foreign speaker might benefit from explicitly learning some grammar, a little theory can help us hear things that we didn’t hear before, or fix things that we couldn’t fix before. But the ultimate goal is to internalize it.

Recently I saw a video with Rick Beato, who mentioned that playing the sixth note over the V chord sounds lame. In a comment he explained that the reason is that the 6th note (relative to the V chord) is the third of the tonic chord. What on earth is he talking about, I thought. So I took my Telecaster in open G and tried to find out. In open tunings it’s extremely easy to keep track of where the chord notes are, so I could mentally keep track of both the chord notes of the tonic chord, and the currently playing chord. I tried to play solos in the major scale (keeping the same scale), over some super simple chord progressions (like for instance I-V and back to I forever) and listen to what effect it had to play chord notes, and notes outside the chord. This is the only exception to what I wrote earlier that I haven’t played solos for a long time. I discovered that, as Rick Beato mentioned, if you play and emphasize a note that is a chord note in the tonic key, but not a chord note in the currently playing chord, it sounds a little bit like you’re out of touch with what’s going on in the music. It doesn’t sound out of key, only like you're not quite up to speed with what's going on. On the other hand, playing a chord note in the currently playing chord, which is not a chord note in the tonic key, has the opposite effect, it really underlines the harmonic progression in the song. For example, you can play the leading note (relative to the tonic) while the V chord is playing, which is the third in the V chord. I don’t know if I had been able to hear that by only playing and "feeling", but knowing what to listen for, it gets very obvious and you can use it to your advantage.

Also, today, when trying to figure out what I had been doing as a kid playing solos, I discovered something interesting. If you lay out a diatonic chord progression in a minor key (with the chords belonging to Im - IIdim - bIII - IVm - Vm - bVI - bVII), where the chords don’t change too often, and you play only pentatonic scales over it, and you do change the scale each time the chord changes, so, say it is in Am, when Am is played you play the A minor pentatonic, when G major is played you play the G major pentatonic etc...., you get a cool effect. You will only be playing notes in the natural minor scale, so it won’t sound weird, but it has the effect of holding back certain notes when the tonic chord is played, which will be introduced when another chord is played. This makes the chord change more pronounced. Then you can do cool things like when the chord changes, on the 1, play and hold a note that doesn’t exist in the pentatonic scale of the tonic, but is a chord note in the new chord. This sounds almost like starting a new chapter in the song because you are introducing a brand new note, along with a chord that it belongs to, and the note doesn’t sound out of place. It’s like the reverse process of harmonizing a melody. It sounds very folk-song-like, so it’s probably something those in the know of music theory think is obvious. You don’t have to follow this scheme to the letter, but take away what you learn from it, and internalize it so you can just naturally hear it when playing. I think it sounds good, and it might be what I’ve been doing as a kid, which wasn't explained very well in the opening post. It probably works in major as well, but I haven't tried it.

It’s nice to be aware of where the chord notes are, so that you can learn to hear such things and understand how to exploit it naturally.

KVRAF
22928 posts since 20 Oct, 2007 from not here

Post Wed Sep 22, 2021 8:34 am

"shouldn't determine every aspect of a solo"
<should or shouldn't be in the solo> is strictly from musical idea. I don't do opinions about somebody else's musical idea, it's theirs.

In an Indian raga the 'scale' is determinative; a scale form is given as parent of the raga (the raga is a compositional form). Not only that, the shape of the way the prescribed basic notes proceed have guidelines there to guarantee the feel and impression the raga is supposed to convey, known as vakra (the way it zigs or zags).

Here's an example of a solo sticking to scale (Lydian mode), highly influenced by Indian praxis:
https://y2u.be/VEVIaNFaJic

there are many ways we may approach the decisions. I had a style of staying with a mode strictly and I was sticking with six-notes (typically omitting a sixth degree). It doesn't lack for expression, let's just say. More is not always more.

KVRer
1 posts since 17 Sep, 2021

Post Thu Sep 23, 2021 1:31 pm

As a songwriter and guitar teacher, here’s my take - chords with root notes that jive with your original key/chord’s scale will probably sound complimentary with the original scale. Chords with root notes that really “step out” of the original key/chord’s scale are probably asking for a melodic reorientation in terms of the scale being used.

There are songs where the melody really sticks to one scale (and even just a couple melody ideas), even with all the chord changes. Others bop around harmonically and the melody goes with it. Still, others bop around in the chords but the melody sits in a pentatonic scale, and chooses just the right note at the right time to play nice harmonically (think Brian Wilson or Paul Simon).

My guitar teacher used to urge me to try things like playing the “wrong” scale over a certain key and chord progression. Something like D minor pentatonic over G Major. So rather than the 1-2-3-5-6 being hit in a G major pentatonic scale, you’re getting 1-2-4-5-b7; a kind of mixolydian 9th/11th vibe, suspended and mysterious.

I think ultimately having a good intuitive sense of note relationships really opens a lot of doors, and it sounds like that’s something you may benefit from doing. After that, let your ears be your guide…

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