I'm very curious.

When you're playing - especially soloing - are you always aware of the chords you're playing over as you go? And by that I don't just mean the root, but the actual chords including for example is it a 9th chord, diminished, etc.?

I'm trying to shake up my technique a bit and want to be more creative and precise in my soloing.

Looking forward to toughts!

I'm not an expert in guitars per se, but I have a little musical background (not nearly as much as I'd like, but that's another story for another day.)

I've found it helpful to think of music as being a language. Any language has a certain structure to it: syntax, grammar, cadence, idiom, etc. When you're first learning a language, you're much more conscious of this structure. As you become more fluent, the conscious awareness of the structure gives way to a more fluid and organic use. In other words, you tend to think less about the mechanics of it because you've "spoken" this language many times and are more concerned with the message being conveyed than the components from which it's formed.

Hope that makes sense.
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I play blues and I'll pay attention to the chord progression because different notes sound good over different chords, and being able to anticipate the upcoming chord allows you to play around with the introduction of it. And I'll sometimes add non-scale chord tones in my solo which kind of requires you to know which chord you're playing over.

I just play by myself at home so I usually know exactly what chords are in the progression because I'm the one who played them.
Personally... no. But that's not generally by choice, it's because I'm really, heinously, egregiously bad at it. You should be aware of the chords on some level, at first that's probably going to be by naming them in your mind as you go along but after a while, ideally, you should be able to go purely by sound.
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Always. I don´t know if it is primarily because i am a jazz and fusion player, but i study the chords to tunes all the time. Chords give you options on what to play. I know a few of my friends who play and they see that the tune is in A minor and then they will only play notes from A minor the whole tune, but i like to think about the chords for a few reasons.

1. They are your safety net. If you are improvising, the notes you can always be certain will sound good are the notes that are found in the chord you are playing over. A C and E will always sound good over a A minor chord, cause that are the notes that make up that chord.

2. It helps you bring out more interesting idea. Lets take the same chord again, A minor. If i wanted to play some form of arpeggio over that chord (be it by sweeping , tapping or whatever) the most obvious choice would be an A minor arpeggio, but if i am aware of that it is A minor i am playing over, i can also use my theoretical knowledge to know that if i play a c major arpeggio over that A minor it will bring forth the quality of A minor 7th. And if i play an E minor arpeggio i will get a A minor 9 kind of sound.

3. It helps with "outside" playing. From a jazz side of things, you often see chord symbols and you will know "i can play this scale/mode over that chord". Granted, nowadays i do that more by ear since i have been doing it for so long, but when starting out it might be nice to see a Galt on a page and i then know i can play G superlocrian over that. Or seeing a Bb7 and knowing i can play Bb Lydian Dominant over that. It gives you choice instead of sticking with the same collection of notes all the time.

Bottom-line, chords are very important. I think a player who knows his chords/arpeggios well are better of than a player that can play a bazillion notes per second.
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Never used to but do now since i've been learning jazz.Best way to start is just using arpeggio notes over each chord,This gets you used to doing it.Once you get the hang of playing with the changes you can make it more advanced for yourself with scales and substitutions etc.
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Always. I don´t know if it is primarily because i am a jazz and fusion player,

That'll be why really, it's difficult to be a chord-following player if you spend half your time jamming over single note riffs that have no obvious tonal centre beyond the key of the piece
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I usually just go by sound, but that's less because I usually play songs with really simple progressions where it doesn't really matter. When I finally get around to learning jazz, I'll start paying more attention to the chords, probably.
depends. if its all just chords in one key then it might not be as important to "follow" the chords.

and if u have never really thought of the chords much it can be pretty awkward to do that much thinking. You can think so much that by the time u realize what the chord is, the chord is gone etc.

if u want to start paying more attention to the chords, just start on one chord in the progression. for instance if the chords go... Am-G-Am-F then if it stays on the F for several bars just start with it and think of the chords tones like FACE for Fmaj7th. Also over that F chord you can play with the B note which is the sharp 4th which will give u a lydian sound.

I suppose u get better with practice but if I think too much when soloing I find it starts to sound really contrived. IMO some of Vito Bratta's solos got a little contrived sounding due to him trying to be so cute following every chord tone etc

Another clear cut time to think of chord tones is when the chord has a note that is outside of the scale used for the rest of the song for instance A-C#m-D-Dm. Obviously the first 3 chords are pure Amajor scale and then on the dminor you'll be able to play something outside of the Amaj scale

Then there are progressions like Amajor to Fmajor which r cool to practice to where its easy to just play amajor over the A chord and then maybe just Aminor over the F chord


And even if all the chords are in the same scale some notes still wont sound great over some chords. Like A to E7 progression, I dont really think the A note sounds good over the E7 chord
I do when i practice. When i solo over a song, i try to forget the chords in a sense of necessarily "following" them.
I know how the piece goes, so i know when there are tensions and releases and how the feel of it is, so when soloing i try to forget most theory and just play what i want.
But even if i dont think about the chords, i always try to know where i am on the fretbaord, so that i can have access to all those sounds i want to play.
Like for instance if im playing over the progression in C
C - E7 - A7 - Dm - G7- C
when i practice it im well aware of the notes that define the "outisde" chords, for example the Ab in the E7 chord or Db in the A7.
But when i play, i dont really think; 'ok the chord is A7, i gotta play an arpeggio with the Db in it'. I just play it if i hear it in my mind, and if i do hear it, i know where to find it.
Last edited by Ignore at Jul 12, 2014,
For me it depends on the result I want. If I'm after something more premeditated then I'll study the chords in a little more depth but if I want something truly improvised I'll try to think as little as possible past what key I'm playing in and just play what I hear in my head, or a close approximation.