#1
I'm used to play solos in rock or rocky blues where I think it's quiet a common thing to do all the solos over a single chord, or perhaps at maximum three chords. These chords then usually are well known IV and V chords which many times almost can be figured out by exclusion.

So today I jammed with some guys who were really proeficient with music in general, and popular music in general. I never play this stuff, nor listen to it and I was completely lost. They played heaps of different chords, with progessions that didn't follow a predictable pattern at all. Two bars on that chord, one bar on another, three bars on another.

What do in this situation? I fumbled around on the guitar, trying to find a set of notes that would sound decent over the whole progression, like the I chord that will sound somewhat decent over a whole blues progression if done carefully. But that wasn't enough.

Does it all boil down to ear training? Or is there some trick, some idea, some strategy that is helpful in these situations?
#2
It is not some trick, you pretty much answered your own question in that post. You are not familiar with that style of music and don't play it, of course you are going to have a hard time playing along.

Ear training, transcribing and practicing improvisation will help you in that situation. And there are a lot of ways to practice those. What you might want to start with is some basic ideas of how to play through the changes, meaning outlining the harmony.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#3
Many times one scale works over all chords in a progression. But yeah, you need to train your ear to hear how different chords sound like.

But yeah, even if you don't know what chords the other guys are playing, at least figure out the tonic and whether it's major or minor. That way you'll know which notes will most likely work over it. But yeah, soloing shouldn't be random (and playing notes in a scale can be random). You need ear training.

Also, you need to know what you are playing over. If the chord changes don't sound predictable, you need to first listen to them. You need to know your backing track. If you don't know what you are playing over, of course your playing is completely random. You need to know when the chord changes occur and what the progression sounds like.

If you can't hear anything, don't play anything is good advice. Don't take it too literarly. But I think the point is that you need to listen. You don't have to play all the time. As I said, if you are not familiar with the progression, listen to it. Just play a couple of notes here and there. Then when you start feeling more comfortable with the progression, start adding more notes.
Quote by AlanHB
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#4
Quote by SirSixString
I'm used to play solos in rock or rocky blues where I think it's quiet a common thing to do all the solos over a single chord, or perhaps at maximum three chords. These chords then usually are well known IV and V chords which many times almost can be figured out by exclusion.

So today I jammed with some guys who were really proeficient with music in general, and popular music in general. I never play this stuff, nor listen to it and I was completely lost. They played heaps of different chords, with progessions that didn't follow a predictable pattern at all. Two bars on that chord, one bar on another, three bars on another.

What do in this situation? I fumbled around on the guitar, trying to find a set of notes that would sound decent over the whole progression, like the I chord that will sound somewhat decent over a whole blues progression if done carefully. But that wasn't enough.

Does it all boil down to ear training? Or is there some trick, some idea, some strategy that is helpful in these situations?


Sometimes its just they were more familiar with something than you are. Ive sat in with a band that did that. The thing that I think does help, is music theory, but even still, sometimes, especially in a jam or sit-in situation, things are going very fast to figure it all out, especially if you're new to guitar, or havent had a lot of playing time with others.

The pro secret is, play to your abilities for the tune that you're in. If it's out there, hold back, play fewer notes, and keep it minimal while you work out the structure of the song and, strategize for the next pass.

Another thing about jamming as a new person that I deduced early on is, don't step on other band members's space and play over them.

Best,

Sean
Last edited by Sean0913 at Oct 4, 2014,
#5
Ear training. Tons of ear training. After doing enough of it, you'll begin to recognize tonal centers in seconds. Transcribe a lot of music. Melodies, chord progressions, solos. You also need to learn to sing and recognize every isolated interval. Root + fifth, root + minor and major thirds, etc.

It's boring, it often sucks at first, but in the end it's more than worth it.

When you have a good ear, you can play anything because all tonal music plays (more or less) by the same rules. It's easier to play when you recognize chords the band is playing in real time.
Last edited by Elintasokas at Oct 4, 2014,
#6
You have two options:

Connect the chords: This takes a lot of practice. You need to target the harmonies and produce good counterpoint with the chord roots. Each harmony is like a "dot" which you need to connect in a logical way.

Generalize the harmony: Find the major or minor triad the progression revolves around, and embellish those three tones with chromaticism and the key center's major/minor pentatonic scale. If you are a rock player, you've already been doing this (sans chromaticism) for years.

A good solo is neither one approach nor the other, but both at the same time. Achieving a perfect balance is an incredible challenge.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#7
All good advice above. Suggest you also check out Dorian, Mixolydian, Lydian. These cover a lot of scenarios where one or two chords are being used for their sound, rather than functionally in a progression.
#8
There's a reason why jazz players learn a lot of standards.

Generally, it's not particularly reasonable or fair to ask a musician to improvise in an extended way over a set of changes he doesn't know. That part of the reason rock jams tend to be pretty simple, and it's why jazz players all know 40 of the same songs.

Yeah, you want your ear to be good enough that you have a strong sense of the chord progression from running it through once or twice. That'll help. But afterwards, I'd say this is the safest "trick" in the book:

Play the melody.

So many people want to play a solo before they can play a melody, and it works the other way around. Don't try to show off. Play the melody, and let your natural expressiveness embellish it a little.
#9
Quote by HotspurJr
There's a reason why jazz players learn a lot of standards.


Amen to that.

Quote by HotspurJr

So many people want to play a solo before they can play a melody, and it works the other way around. Don't try to show off. Play the melody, and let your natural expressiveness embellish it a little.


Agreed. "Let the melody be your guide" is a line one of my jazz teachers in college ingrained into all of our heads, and i do to this day with my students. Embellishment of the melody is the next step.
Fusion and jazz musician, a fan of most music.

Quote by Guthrie Govan
“If you steal from one person it's theft, and if you steal from lots of people it's research”


Quote by Chick Corea
"Only play what you hear. If you don't hear anything, don't play anything."
#10
This is really good advice as well.

That being said though, sometimes there isn't a melody, and you need to be ready.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#11
Quote by Jet Penguin
This is really good advice as well.

That being said though, sometimes there isn't a melody, and you need to be ready.


very true..it just may be a progression that these guys put together..even with the best ear..your going to be behind the chord..and depending on the tempo catching up is not the best approach to a coherent solo- even a very sparse one..i would sit out until I had some idea of what direction the progression was going..it could be in several keys and not have a discernible cadence .. or as in some fusion based progressions..just chords that sound nice..not related to one another at all..
Last edited by wolflen at Oct 4, 2014,
#12
Exactly, Wolf.

You need to train your ears to hear voice leading and use it to identify harmonic progressions on the fly. This knowledge allows you to identify the movement of individual notes in the harmony, and you can connect these "dots" in the solo.

I believe you guys call it a "guide tone line," but I was never big on the term.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
#13
Noting that TS plays a lot of blues/rock, make sure that you know and use your straight major scale if needed. Quite often the minor pentatonic will sound a little funky when played over a major progression that has a lot of changes.
And no, Guitar Hero will not help. Even on expert. Really.
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#14
Quote by AlanHB
Noting that TS plays a lot of blues/rock, make sure that you know and use your straight major scale if needed. Quite often the minor pentatonic will sound a little funky when played over a major progression that has a lot of changes.


Hm maybe that could be an idea too.

From what I hear the tips are take a step back, work out the melody and do more ear training. I don't think I stepped into the others guys playing, so hopefully that one is fine. I also tried to play along with the roots, which probably would correspond quiet well to the melody. However I failed doing that. When thinking about it, it would make a lot of sense to work hard on this one. Then after finding all the roots fluently, soloing would be easy too. And in order to find the roots, more ear training is needed. Maybe I got a plan here.
#15
Knowing the melody is a good place to start with complex chord progressions. Another obvious one is knowing the chord progression you're playing over. If you have no idea what you're soloing over and try to make the 'one scale fits all' rock method work then you're going to end up lost as you're forced to use your ears. This is interesting though as it shows you how little ear use rock playing requires if you're just blasting up and down one scale.
#16
Quote by SirSixString
I'm used to play solos in rock or rocky blues where I think it's quiet a common thing to do all the solos over a single chord, or perhaps at maximum three chords. These chords then usually are well known IV and V chords which many times almost can be figured out by exclusion.

So today I jammed with some guys who were really proeficient with music in general, and popular music in general. I never play this stuff, nor listen to it and I was completely lost. They played heaps of different chords, with progessions that didn't follow a predictable pattern at all. Two bars on that chord, one bar on another, three bars on another.

What do in this situation? I fumbled around on the guitar, trying to find a set of notes that would sound decent over the whole progression, like the I chord that will sound somewhat decent over a whole blues progression if done carefully. But that wasn't enough.

Does it all boil down to ear training? Or is there some trick, some idea, some strategy that is helpful in these situations?


Did they eventually tell you what they were playing?

You say "popular"....most popular music doesnt really have a lot of chords etc. Were they playing jazz?

They might have been playing a song where it "modulated" a few times. Like it was in B Minor for a few chords then it went to C minor or C# minor. if you didnt catch it when it changed then youd find yourself out of key etc.

some songs have a lot of chords but if you hear when it changes then basically you are still using your basic rock approach of "one scale over all the chords"

this song has a solo in 3 different keys. It has "lots of chords" but you can still just use 3 scales

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_6asVSjq2w

2:02 C#m
2:16 Em
2:29 Gm
#18
for a "rock song" it is on the complicated end of things. Several different tonalities etc...a beginner would get lost. But as you say, its not THAT complicated once you understand the basic modulations.

The ts mentioned "3 chords max"...so this song is a bit beyond that level