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Old 03-14-2013, 12:32 PM   #1
marcupal86
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Question landing on consonant notes during chord changes

Well hello folks, im just another guy who's trying to learn how to improvise.

I have this chord progression Am-F-Dm-G that im trying to solo over to. While you can simply go up and down the scale in different positions on the neck to improv on this, i find it very hard to land on consonant notes, especially during chord changes.

I find it sounds tighter if the notes you play over a certain chord start and end with the notes of the chord itself. But in this progression ther are 4 chords and that makes up 4 differnt triads i have to memorize and i only have a split second to react in choosing which note will my finger land on.

Earlier, i got so frustrated while trying to create little phases over the progression that i just put away my guitar. i really want to be good at improvising, so im trying to practice a lot. But im finding too draining when i try practicing improve 2-3 times a week at around 15-45mins per session.

Can someone share their breakthrough methods how you managed to get past this obstacle?
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:43 PM   #2
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you can stay on an a or a c for most of that progession...
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Old 03-14-2013, 12:51 PM   #3
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use the "guide tone" system

start on a note, like C for example...that C can work over the Am and the F...then maybe from the C move up to the D for the Dm and it can also work over the G. If you find notes that are used in more than one chord then you can connect your lines by using those notes as a homebase if you will.

you can use any note from the triad to start off, if you wanna get hip you can try using the 9ths or the 6ths as well, but start with 1 3 and 5
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Old 03-14-2013, 02:38 PM   #4
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Improvising isn't an easy thing to do. It really requires you to think on your feet. And it took me a long time before i could even make anything that sounded decent. The best advice I can give you is practice your scales. Learn the minor pentatonic and listen to the actual notes your playing. Then try to get out what your hearing in your head. Try not to think so much as scales and such, but pitch and melody. Try and learn a little theory

That's just my two cents. I've only been playing 5 years myself, and there's days that
I feel like everything I play is shit. But I've also heard stuff that I thought didn't sound too bad. Find some youtube lessons, just keep learning, and try and stick with it
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:03 PM   #5
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What helped me was to improvise without a backing track first, and picture the chord changes in your head while playing melodies, using implied harmony.

After you're good at that, you will be better and more confident at playing over a backing track and make the correct chord changes in time. I know that right now you're probably frustrated because it might seem that the chords are changing too fast but trust me, it'll get better.

As for which notes to use, you can use any of the 12 notes, but you have to know how to use them. The easiest ones to start with are the chord tones. Start by simply arpeggiating over every chord.

Am - A C E
F - F A C
Dm - D F A
G - G B D

In between those notes over the specific chords, use passing tones. By default, the easiest ones to use are the diatonic notes of the scale which looks like C Major in this case. Passing tones are just that, they're not something that you want to stick on for too long, but that's not to say that you should only focus on safe notes either.

Also, as you can see, all of these chords have many notes in common, so that should make it easier to make transitions between them.

After you master this, start using chromatic passing notes in between chord changes, it'll give you a lot more variety. For good examples of this, the romantic era style of classical music is where you can find a lot of great sounding chromaticism. Think Frederic Chopin.

I would do whatever it takes to learn the notes of the fretboard fluently, so that you're not just relying on patterns, but you know what note you are playing at any given time, and make educated decisions based on your knowledge of what any given interval sounds like. This way, you can literally hear a melody in your head and play it.

Remember, improvisation is an art that takes a few weeks to get started on and feel confident about, but a lifetime to master. You will constantly be learning new phrases and ideologies to expand on your improvisation and composition style.

Good luck.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:16 PM   #6
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you know the chord tones, just play around. if you get too stuck in conventions or habits your improvisation will sound bland - just get a looper or a backing track and play blindly. if you ever get lost, you know what tones are consonant (chord tones) to fall back on.

it's an important process to get your ear and brain and fingers up to snuff to just play what you want to hear rather than following rules. running up and down scales and arpeggios is absolutely contradictory to the point of improvisation
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail
it's an important process to get your ear and brain and fingers up to snuff to just play what you want to hear rather than following rules. running up and down scales and arpeggios is absolutely contradictory to the point of improvisation

It's a great way to get to know the fretboard though, which I'd say is a necessity.

And theory is not a set of rules.
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:32 PM   #8
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Hey friend, I hope this helps, I don't know how much theory you know so I will start from the beginning how I learned. From your post I assume you have a basic understanding of music theory so you should be able to follow.

Basically find what notes are important for what chord and know what notes to cut out and when.

Instead of playing random notes from up and down the scale, find the chord tones and let those be your basic "guide" or "go-to" notes... memorize the shape of the "1 3 5" for major chords and "1b3 5" for minor chords. Eventually memorize the formula for the 4 basic types of triads (major, minor, augmented, diminished)


If this is the chord you are playing: (Am)
l----l----l-5--l----l----l----l
l----l----l-5--l----l----l----l
l----l----l-5--l----l----l----l
l----l----l----l----l-7--l----l
l----l----l----l----l-7--l----l
l----l----l-5--l----l----l----l


than these are the chord tones of that chord. Note the shape, you can shift this for all minor chords.
l----l----l-x--l----l----l-x--l
l----l----l-x--l----l----l----l
l----l----l-x--l----l----l----l
l----l----l----l----l-x--l----l
l----l----l----l----l-x--l----l
l----l----l-x--l----l----l-x--l

all the x's are notes in the A minor triad, there are only 3 notes: A C E or (1 b3 5)
for now focus on the first three notes ( the ones on low E and A) familiarize yourself with the different notes, notice how the b3 is what makes it feel minor, and how the 1 and the 5 compliment each other....

The next chord is F:
l----l-1--l----l----l----l----l
l----l-1--l----l----l----l----l
l----l----l-2--l----l----l----l
l----l----l----l-3--l----l----l
l----l----l----l-3--l----l----l
l----l-1--l----l----l----l----l

The chord tones in a major chord are:
l----l-x--l----l----l----l----l
l----l-x--l----l----l----l----l
l----l----l-x--l----l----l----l
l----l----l----l-x--l----l----l
l-x--l----l----l-x--l----l----l
l----l-x--l----l----l----l----l

All the x's are notes in F major triad, F A C (1 3 5) again focus on only the top 3 notes on the low E and A strings, familiarize yourself with the notes...

Take the progression and try playing this over it to familiarize your self with the chords and the changes in them:

(sorry its vertical, don't know how to make it vertical, but play it as youi would normal tab, over each indicated chord

A minor
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-----------------7-------l
l-----5-------8-----------l

F major
l--------------------------l
l--------------------------l
l--------------------------l
l--------------------------l
l--------------0------3---l
l-----1--------------------l

D minor
l--------------------------l
l--------------------------l
l--------------------------l
l--------------------7----l
l-----5-------8-----------l
l--------------------------l

G major
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-------------------------l
l-----------2--------5---l
l----3--------------------l

and repeat...... sounds like it fits, even as the chords change. And you are still technically playing in the scales (A minor scale over Am chord, F major scale over F, etc.) you just chopped off all the notes that do not fit in the chord. now, don't forget about the other notes in the scale, they are equally as important as the chord tones, they can add some flavor to the mix. for instance if you add a b6 to the Amin or Dmin you notice it starts to sound more sad. and if you play a play a 7 over a major or minor chord it will add even more flavor to the sound...

I really wish I knew more about what notes are strong, and where. I hope this helps, this is all the basic stuff I learned from the college, maybe some one much smarter then me will fill us in on the rest of the information.

other than that maybe buy some books on improv, one I would recommend is "The Jazz Language" By Dan Haerle, it is a little dry but has everything you need to know about jazz compositions and improv, it starts off with a lesson on Intervals, so if you don't know already maybe go deep and rrreeeaaally find out what intervals sound good next to each other and learn to hear the differences between note changes..

example:
minor 2nd interval, think of the jaws theme
major 2nd interval think of the first two notes in the song "in the jungle the mighty jungle" or first 3 notes of "happy birthday"
minor third interval think the windmill song in ocarania of time
major third think of when the saints go marching in

etc. etc.

Again I hope that you get some info out of this I really tried to be helpful sorry if I couldn't broadcast the information in a more clear way.


EDIT: AHHHHH looks like some one beat me to the ol' chord tones lesson, oh well :p
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luvs2gro
EDIT: AHHHHH looks like some one beat me to the ol' chord tones lesson, oh well :p

You did a good job explaining and illustrating things I may have left out.

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Old 03-14-2013, 03:41 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by one vision
You did a good job explaining and illustrating things I may have left out.



lol thanks pal
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Old 03-14-2013, 03:49 PM   #11
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While the backing track is playing (preferably on a loop) sing a line. Then figure out how to play that line. Then do it again and again and again.
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Old 03-14-2013, 04:00 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hail
running up and down scales and arpeggios is absolutely contradictory to the point of improvisation


That's a rhythmic distinction more than anything. You can effectively arpeggiate with scalewise motion by putting your chord tones on the strong beats. Look at any Bach score and you'll see clear use of chord and non-chord tones, distinguished only by their rhythmic placement. His two voice Inventions demonstrate this principle very thoroughly, though you'll have to analyze many of the dissonant intervals as suspensions.

That said, running scales without such consideration is just plain silly, and sounds awful. Learn to arpeggiate, and then fill in the blanks with non-chord tones. Bear in mind, scalewise motion doesn't necessarily mean diatonic - blue notes are a staple of emotive melody.
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Old 03-14-2013, 05:08 PM   #13
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Landing on chord tones is always safe.
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Old 03-14-2013, 07:40 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcupal86
Well hello folks, im just another guy who's trying to learn how to improvise.

I have this chord progression Am-F-Dm-G that im trying to solo over to. While you can simply go up and down the scale in different positions on the neck to improv on this, i find it very hard to land on consonant notes, especially during chord changes.

I find it sounds tighter if the notes you play over a certain chord start and end with the notes of the chord itself. But in this progression ther are 4 chords and that makes up 4 differnt triads i have to memorize and i only have a split second to react in choosing which note will my finger land on.

Earlier, i got so frustrated while trying to create little phases over the progression that i just put away my guitar. i really want to be good at improvising, so im trying to practice a lot. But im finding too draining when i try practicing improve 2-3 times a week at around 15-45mins per session.

Can someone share their breakthrough methods how you managed to get past this obstacle?


practice the arpeggios.
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Old 03-14-2013, 08:39 PM   #15
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Your key is A minor, so just hit the notes in A minor.
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Old 03-15-2013, 01:19 PM   #16
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After consulting my homie who shreds jazz sax, he filled me in on the missing info

This is how Charlie Parker would improvise, and it works, we had to analyse his solos and he really did use this method!

Ok so on beats

1 and 3 use chord tones

on beats 2 and 4 use passing tones

You already know of chord tones, passing tones are the other notes in the scale that do not fit in the chord.

My friend said you can do a lot with just the 1 2 3, using the 2 as a passing tone from the root to the 3rd...

Also if you know that a dominant chord or a major or minor 7th is coming up, you can use the 7th/b7th as a passing tone before the chord change, then use the 7/b7 to lead into the root to resolve it.

Last edited by luvs2gro : 03-15-2013 at 03:42 PM.
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Old 03-15-2013, 01:34 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marcupal86
Well hello folks, im just another guy who's trying to learn how to improvise.

Earlier, i got so frustrated while trying to create little phases over the progression that i just put away my guitar. i really want to be good at improvising, so im trying to practice a lot. But im finding too draining when i try practicing improve 2-3 times a week at around 15-45mins per session.

Can someone share their breakthrough methods how you managed to get past this obstacle?


A book like "The Guitar Fretboard Workbook" or "Chord Tone SOloing" which each use a CAGED approach will help you. The idea is that, for any given chord, there are five ways the arrpeggio notes can appear on the fretboard, depending on which string the root is on. If you learn these five patterns, you can play any arpeggio anywhere on the neck.

This is particularly useful because, let's say you're doing your Am-Fm transition. One way would be to play the arrpeggio at the fifth fret for the A, and the first fret for the F. But instead you can play the arrpeggio for the Am at the fifth fret, and also play the arrpeggio for the Fm built of the F on the second-string, sixth fret, which will be right underneath your hand already!
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Old 03-15-2013, 03:49 PM   #18
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While I understand the ideas of most of the people who are weighing in on this, and don't argue with it, my opinion is, that it's best if you can:

Know the notes on the neck instantly. So when you have a chord tone in mind, you can simply move to the note.

Know the notes of any chord (of course, starting with the triads).

Then when you play, say you are in Am and getting ready to move to Dm, you can decide, through practice, what chord tone you want to connect on.

So is it F, the min 3 or D, the root or A the 5th?

Practice improvising over that vamp a while, and proactively targeting the tones, rather than reacting and widdling then "leaping" in a panic because you didn't route your lines very well. Know the chord tones in advance, and simply decide where on the fretboard you are going, and time your lines to coincide with the chord change.

But when you know both of these skill sets, and you are able to use them in real time...then you have a better likelihood of doing well at chord soloing.

Let me give you an abstract example:

1 2 3 4 5 6
7 1 2 3 4 5
6 7 1 2 3 4

In the array above, imagine that these numbers represent notes.

you can "see" where you could play in all sorts of ways and get to the number 3, for example. This is because you "see" the number 6 in the array. It's not because you have to "find" the number 3, and that's a huge distinction as far as nurturing that skill set of "seeing" a note on the fret board, as opposed to being able to just "look" for it and "find" it.

This is the crux of the difference between working things out, which is slow, and using them in real time. I think the CAGED approach is woefully inept.

Why not just "know" the 3rd of Dm is F, and be able to "see" it in real time and "go" to it instead? That's how we teach it.

Best,

Sean
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Old 03-15-2013, 03:54 PM   #19
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Quote:
Can someone share their breakthrough methods how you managed to get past this obstacle?


Yes! I felt overwhelmed just like you until I broke it down further.

Step 1 -

Can you hit the chord tones of Am confidently improvising over just that chord?

Step 2 -

Can you hit the chord tones of Am confidently and then nail the transition to the F chord?



I would guess step 2 is the problem. If so, don't worry about being able to improvise fluidly over a 4 chord progression. Just get Am - F. Look for connections and practice them ONE AT A TIME. For example, you can move from the E in the Am to the F in the F, so practice just nailing that one connection until you can do it confidently. Then repeat for the other connections between those two chords, then add in the other 3 chords. This may take a while.
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Old 03-15-2013, 09:11 PM   #20
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One approach that really helped me to play through changes is to pick a chord tone and hit that one on the first beat of every change.

Say you pick the 3rd - practice first just letting the third of each chord ring out for a whole measure.

Then hit the 3rd and play any other note you feel like, but keep hitting the 3rds on the downbeat of every change.

Then start working in melodic ideas that lead into the 3rd of each chord change.

Pick another chord tone, repeat, etc. It's great way to keep your chord tones in mind while playing around with tension of non-chord tones in between. When you listen to jazz soloists you'll hear them playing very melodic lines, but their note choices are still thoroughly rooted in the contrasting sounds of chord and non-chord tones. What you'll find is that the pattern emerges naturally when you play melodic lines.
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