#1
Been playing guitar for 7 years now and I love to improvise. However, I've never left the stage where I noodle around in scale patterns. Everyone says you have to follow the chord tones of the current chord being played. Ok, that's fine and dandy, but how do you visualize something like that that changes so quickly? Like, I'm barely able to visualize the chord tones of the tonic chord. I can play a few tonic arpeggios here and there when I happen to notice I'm in a familiar location in a scale pattern. As for knowing where the chord tones are as soon as the chord changes? I'm 100% lost. I've watched countless videos and it's as if there's a step missing. Some kind of memorization exercise to learn how to superimpose all the diatonic chord tone shapes over each position and know which one is which. Many people recommend the caged system. The only thing I get from the caged system is (surprise!) how to play the tonic chord all over the neck. What about the other 6?! What do I do when I'm in so-and-so position, using chord tones for the I chord that I've painstakingly memorized, then the progression moves to the IV chord? Then before I can even think, it's moved to the V chord and so on.

This question/rant was triggered by a recent lesson uploaded here.

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/soloing/how_to_improvise_a_video_course_with_backing_tracks.html

If you go down to the 4th video, the play-along track for lesson 2, you will see exactly what I mean. These chord diagrams just zoom by. And this is supposed to be the first little exercise you do to get started in the guy's course. Like, even if I played along to that backing track for weeks, making sure to memorize every one of those diagrams and master the transitions, I still would only have learned how to play along to those specific chords in that one single position. Where's the big picture?! How do I acquire the ability to jump to a NEW position just as a chord changes and be able to land on a chord tone confidently every time no matter what chord while still maintaining a visual of the underlying scale pattern? Surely there's a big thorough exercise that drills the big picture right? I'm a sucker for big drudging exercises that other people find boring, so please someone show me the light. I'm so tired of only being able to improvise by feeling my way around scale patterns like wandering through a dark room with my hands outstretched.
#2
Chords are inside those scale patterns. You could take an advantage of your knowledge of the scale patterns and figure out which chord tones are which scale degrees. For example the IV chord has the root, 4th and 6th notes of the scale in it and the V chord has the 2nd, 5th and 7th notes of the scale in it.

If you use your ears, you will pretty much automatically follow the changes. I mean, if you know the progression by ear, you will hear melodies in your head that will fit those chords.

And no, you don't have to play chord tones all the time. Actually, it may sound kind of generic/predictable if you only emphasize the chord tones (I mean, the root, third and fifth). Also, remember that in a way every note in the scale is related to the chord. For example if you play an E over a G7 chord, it is the 13th. Or if you play a C over the chord, it is the 11th. A is the 9th. Other notes in the C major scale are in that chord.

I think your ear will guide you. But of course it's also good to know where the chord tones are.


BTW, what genre do you play? Because that has a lot to do with what the "best" approach is. For example rock solos don't usually care that much about chords. Rock guitarists usually just play the key pentatonic scale regardless of the chords (not saying that's what you have to do). In jazz on the other hand chords and playing over the changes are very important. Not saying that chords don't matter in rock because they do. But I doubt rock players think that much in chord tones.


I would say, know what you are playing over and know it well. Know when the chords change. Know what it sounds like. Every chord change makes the notes you use sound a bit different.
Quote by AlanHB
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#3
To be honest it's not so much about seeing as it is about listening, at least that's not how I see it...pun semi-intentional. It sounds like at the moment you're approaching things like scales as discrete entities rather than simply different ways of organising one thing - namely the notes on your fretboard.

A major third is a major third no matter whether it's in a chord, in a scale or a part of a melody. You just have to listen to the progression, then figure out how you want to work through it, but in terms of the sound you want to create rather than in terms of the shapes you think will give you something that sounds good. If it's a song you can already play then you should already be pretty familiar with it, if it's a generic backing track then spend some time just listening to it and get that progression internalised a bit. If it's a live situation and a song you don't really know then good luck...at best you've got a couple of verses and choruses to figure out how it all fits together!
Actually called Mark!

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#5
Quote by Sample246
Been playing guitar for 7 years now and I love to improvise. However, I've never left the stage where I noodle around in scale patterns. Everyone says you have to follow the chord tones of the current chord being played. Ok, that's fine and dandy, but how do you visualize something like that that changes so quickly?

Question: can you play the chords of the song?
IOW, can you strum along in time, getting all the chords right, and changing at the right time?
If you've been playing 7 years, I would hope so.

If you can, then you can surely visualise those shapes as you improvise. If you can't - well it's about time you learned!

But assuming you can strum all the chords fine. Maybe you only know the cowboy shapes down in open position - or only one or two barre shapes?
Fine - play your solo in the same positions. Don't try to improvise anywhere on the neck where you don't know the relevant chord shapes.

If you think that restricts you way too much - it doesn't. Even if you only know one shape for each chord, there's a scale pattern there around that shape - and over 2 octaves of the scale in that position. Plenty enough for the most advanced soloist.

But of course, you want the freedom of the whole neck! But you won't have that until you know the chord shapes (ie the arpeggios) all over the neck.
Quote by Sample246
Like, I'm barely able to visualize the chord tones of the tonic chord. I can play a few tonic arpeggios here and there when I happen to notice I'm in a familiar location in a scale pattern. As for knowing where the chord tones are as soon as the chord changes? I'm 100% lost. I've watched countless videos and it's as if there's a step missing. Some kind of memorization exercise to learn how to superimpose all the diatonic chord tone shapes over each position and know which one is which.
Exactly. Frankly I'm amazed that after 7 years you don't know all this - especially as you like improvising!
I regard it as absolutely fundamental knowledge. Maybe not beginner level knowledge, but something you should know before you begin improvising up the neck.
I.e, as a beginner with the basic few cowboy shapes, you can improvise around those in open position - right from the beginning. The material is all there under your fingers. The chord shapes (all together) spell out the scale.
IOW, improvisation can (and should) begin from working outward from the chord shapes under your fingers - embellishing with extra notes here and there. Beginning from scale patterns - especially where you don't know the chord links or the notes in the scale - is the wrong way.
I'm not saying you can't have fun that way - and it's certainly good ear training, as long as you listen to what you're doing, and can tell which notes work and which don't. But - as you're finding - there's a limit to what you can do (unless your ear really is very good, in which case it will guide you all the way).
Quote by Sample246

Many people recommend the caged system. The only thing I get from the caged system is (surprise!) how to play the tonic chord all over the neck. What about the other 6?! What do I do when I'm in so-and-so position, using chord tones for the I chord that I've painstakingly memorized, then the progression moves to the IV chord? Then before I can even think, it's moved to the V chord and so on.
Every scale pattern contains shapes (some partial) for all 7 chords in the key.
Eg, any pattern of the C major scale contains shapes for Dm, Em, F, G, Am and G7 (forget about Bdim just think G7).
Quote by Sample246

This question/rant was triggered by a recent lesson uploaded here.

https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/soloing/how_to_improvise_a_video_course_with_backing_tracks.html

If you go down to the 4th video, the play-along track for lesson 2, you will see exactly what I mean. These chord diagrams just zoom by. And this is supposed to be the first little exercise you do to get started in the guy's course. Like, even if I played along to that backing track for weeks, making sure to memorize every one of those diagrams and master the transitions, I still would only have learned how to play along to those specific chords in that one single position. Where's the big picture?! How do I acquire the ability to jump to a NEW position just as a chord changes and be able to land on a chord tone confidently every time no matter what chord while still maintaining a visual of the underlying scale pattern? Surely there's a big thorough exercise that drills the big picture right?
Yup. The CAGED system is where it's at. Hardly a "system" really, just a way of mapping the fretboard using the 5 cowboy major shapes.

1. Learn the CAGED series - starting from every open position chord. I.e., the F series starts with an E shape on fret 1, and runs EDCAGE... The series for B starts on with an A shape on fret 2 and runs AGEDC...

2. Learn the tonic scale pattern around each shape (ie "C" scale for "C" shape).

3. Learn the scale degrees in each pattern (which frets are the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7). The tonic chord shape will occupy all the 1-3-5 positions, so it should be easy to work out.

4. Work out the other shapes in each pattern. Eg, scale degrees 1-4-6 (wherever they occur on all 6 strings) will give you shapes for the IV chord; scale degrees 2-5-7 will give you the V chord. (They can go in any order, you don't have to have the chord root as lowest note.) Shapes for the minors (ii, iii, vi) will be there too.

5. Understand how to apply these shapes for whatever key you are in - and of course for whatever sequence you're playing over.

Here's an example for the "C" form:
"C" form (and tonic "I" chord shape)
|-3-|---|---|---|
|---|-R-|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|---|---|---|-5-|

Full major scale pattern for that key ("R" = tonic):
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|
|-7-|-R-|---|-2-|
|-5-|---|-6-|---|
|-2-|---|-3-|-4-|
|-6-|---|-7-|-R-|
|-3-|-4-|---|-5-|

IV chord shape (notice it's the "E" form)
|---|-4-|---|---|
|---|-R-|---|---|
|---|---|-6-|---|
|---|---|---|-4-|
|---|---|---|-R-|
|---|-4-|---|---|

V chord shape (notice it's the "G" form)
|---|---|---|-5-|
|-7-|---|---|-2-|
|-5-|---|---|---|
|-2-|---|---|---|
|---|---|-7-|---|
|---|---|---|-5-|
Imagine the leftmost fret as zero, and you should see the standard cowboy shapes for C (I) and G (V). The "E" form is on fret 1, of course, which makes it F.

I'm still using the tonic scale degree numbers in those shapes (not the R-3-5 tones of the chord), because it's the shapes that matter (a little) more than knowing which is the root 3rd and 5th.
But you can of course work those out because you know 4=IV and 5=V . So "4-6-R" for the IV chord shown above becomes "R-3-5" of the chord itself. That matters for when you want to add 7ths to any chord (1 fret below the R for a maj7 chord, 2 frets below for a b7).
As you should see from the scale pattern, the I and IV chords will have a maj7 (adding scale degree 7 to the I chord, and scale degree 3 to the IV chord). The V chord will have a b7 (adding scale degree 4).

Eg, here's an arpeggio for the V7 chord ("G7" shape in this pattern) - showing 2 notes on some strings to give the complete arp. Chord tones shown this time:
|---|b7-|---|-R-|
|-3-|---|---|-5-|
|-R-|---|---|---|
|-5-|---|---|b7-|
|---|---|-3-|---|
|---|b7-|---|-R-|

Of course this is a lot to get your head around if you're new to it!
But remember there's only 5 shapes/patterns to get to grips with - each of them with 7 chord arpeggios within.
You already know scale patterns (not mention cowboy chords I guess!), so that's some ground you can begin from. I.e., you will no doubt discover that you actually recognise some of what you'll discover.
#6
I guess I've just been stuck in a perpetual rut of noodling around scales, and whenever I try to visualize scale degrees, I get really discouraged because my mind doesn't seem to move at a fraction of the speed of the underlying chord progression. I want to play metal, and I've finally built up the chops for some basic shred technique, but it's useless when I can't land on a sweet note at will.

For example the IV chord has the root, 4th and 6th notes of the scale in it and the V chord has the 2nd, 5th and 7th notes of the scale in it.


I think I kind of do that already, but I don't really have any control over it. I'll be hitting some nice notes, then I'll "feel" a good note that is a little bit of a jump, but once I make that jump, I'm in uncharted territory and I can't go from there. Trying to visualize patterns that extend beyond the immediate scope of where I'm currently playing is so overwhelming. I spent about a week trying to keep my eye on the scalar root note of the key I was playing for reference while improvising, but I always felt like I couldn't move very freely because my brain power was being used up trying to maintain eye contact with those root notes as I moved around. After doing that for a week or so, I didn't feel like anything had gotten easier and I just gave up thinking that maybe I was approaching it wrong.

To be honest it's not so much about seeing as it is about listening


I absolutely get what you're saying, but I feel like I've hit an eternal plateau just using my ears alone, not to mention I want to be able to play any chord progression in any voicing on the spot as well as complete arpeggio freedom. Going back to my "wandering in the dark with my arms outstretched" analogy, I can improvise ok enough (at least enough to satisfy myself much of the time) but only as long as I'm only moving small intervals. But I want to be able to make great interval leaps while still maintaining a visualization of where I am in reference to the scale and chord tones. In fact, I'll just upload a clip of me improvising and maybe you'll better be able to analyze my faults.

https://soundcloud.com/sample246-866220067/improv
(forgive the sound quality, just used my cheap-o phone for a quick take)

But assuming you can strum all the chords fine. Maybe you only know the cowboy shapes down in open position - or only one or two barre shapes?


This is actually exactly my position. I know all the open shapes and the E & A shaped barres well enough. But if you say I should try and improvise in one position, I guess that's definitely worth a try. You right in that I do feel like it's too constricting, but it'll be good practice.

Exactly. Frankly I'm amazed that after 7 years you don't know all this - especially as you like improvising!


I'm not much of a chord strummer. I'm a metal head and I've spent the vast majority of my time honing my technique. But when I want to be musical, I just tend to jam to backing tracks. I only really know a handful of songs. I kick myself over it, but I should have spent more time playing more chord-y songs.

1. Learn the CAGED series - starting from every open position chord. I.e., the F series starts with an E shape on fret 1, and runs EDCAGE... The series for B starts on with an A shape on fret 2 and runs AGEDC...

2. Learn the tonic scale pattern around each shape (ie "C" scale for "C" shape).

3. Learn the scale degrees in each pattern (which frets are the 1-2-3-4-5-6-7). The tonic chord shape will occupy all the 1-3-5 positions, so it should be easy to work out.

4. Work out the other shapes in each pattern. Eg, scale degrees 1-4-6 (wherever they occur on all 6 strings) will give you shapes for the IV chord; scale degrees 2-5-7 will give you the V chord. (They can go in any order, you don't have to have the chord root as lowest note.) Shapes for the minors (ii, iii, vi) will be there too.

5. Understand how to apply these shapes for whatever key you are in - and of course for whatever sequence you're playing over.


This is all great, and is ultimately the level of knowledge I hope to internalize and master, but I'm obsessed with efficiency, almost to the point of it being counter-productive because I won't want to "waste" my time doing something that doesn't cover the big picture. What I mean by this is could you possibly design me some sort of mega exercise, that drills all of this information at once? Perhaps a scalar run followed by the I chord, then another scalar run followed by the ii chord etc. Or is that a bad idea?
Last edited by Sample246 at Jan 17, 2016,
#7
Unfortunately this isn't something you can fix with an exercise, the fluidity of thought and execution you're aiming for is simply the product of experience. You need to practice following simple progressions, learning for yourself how different sounds work in different contexts and ultimately deciding what works for you and what doesn't. As you get better at anticipating and following changes you'll naturally find it easier to work with more complex progressions and you'll be able to process everything quicker.

Even metal playing is based on chords, they're often implied by a combination of guitar and bass rather than played outright but you're still working to the same principles. This is why you're always advised to cast your net wide when learning to play - experience of listening to and playing in different contexts is the key to your goal here.
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#8
I prefer the key approach, where I don't bother so much what the chord tones are, unless I actually want to play the chord shape, and just let my ears and soul choose the notes I want, whatever they may be.

I don't find "follow the chord tones" a good philosophy, personally. You will create music that "works" that way, and it won't clash or sound specifically bad, but I think what you want to do is complement the chord tones, which is sometimes chord tones and often isn't also. Otherwise, it's easy to have sort of bland or generic sounding improvisations, which don't sound bad, but are not particularly interesting either.
Last edited by fingrpikingood at Jan 17, 2016,
#9
The video is suggesting use of 3 of the 5 pentatonic shapes in roughly the same part of the neck.

You could remove that complexity if you don't know all the pentatonic shapes, and play the old favourite that everyone learns rooted off the E string (usually the A minor pentatonic) at the 5th fret, and use this shape, starting off 7th fret (B), open string (E) and 2nd fret (F#).

Here#s F# - pentatonic.

2 5
2 5
2 4
2 4
2 4
2 5

Then you can concentrate on the note sounds. Why not try looping just one section (e.g the A, F# minor part) .... and when the F# comes around, try playing notes just from the F#- triad. Using the shape for F#- pentatonic, here'sa that triad

2 5 (1st string)
2
2
4
4
2 5 (6th string)

Then ignore the F#- and play the A maj triad notes over A chord. Here are those triad notes in the F# - pentatonic...

5
5 2
2
2
4
5

Then try following the two chords. Start on say 1st string, and use the choices above for the A . then for the F#-. Do same on 2nd string. Etc.

This will give a feel for following the chords, but you'll need to make use of phrasing to make it musical.

Then try starting with F#- chord again, and now start on one its triad notes, then play as you feel out the pentatonic, but deliberately finish on one of the F#- notes.

Ditto with A chord.

Then try looping these chords and say G and E-, and move your hands.

When you shift, use whatever string your playing a note on and play the nearest triad note on that string for the new triad pair, then wander around. That will give a smoother note connection.

Learn about the maj3rd and min3rd interval. Also the perfect 5th interval. Very simple shapes.

Take a look at https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html

Then revisit the above stuff, and realise you're mostly playing these intervals, involving the chord root.

Then revist, and target the maj3rd against the maj triad as a landing note, and the min3rd against the min triad.

I could show you this in 2 minutes ... takes ages typing!!!!
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Jan 17, 2016,
#10
Quote by steven seagull
Unfortunately this isn't something you can fix with an exercise, the fluidity of thought and execution you're aiming for is simply the product of experience. You need to practice following simple progressions, learning for yourself how different sounds work in different contexts and ultimately deciding what works for you and what doesn't. As you get better at anticipating and following changes you'll naturally find it easier to work with more complex progressions and you'll be able to process everything quicker.

Even metal playing is based on chords, they're often implied by a combination of guitar and bass rather than played outright but you're still working to the same principles. This is why you're always advised to cast your net wide when learning to play - experience of listening to and playing in different contexts is the key to your goal here.


Alright, so here's an idea. Let me know if you think this would be an effective approach or not:

-Record a I-V looping progression and master following those two chords (which would not be overwhelming I think).

-Once I've mastered that, record a I-IV progression and master following those chords.

-Record a I-IV-V (or whatever combination) and master that progression.

-Record a I-vi progression and master that.

Etc.

When I say "master", I mean spending however long it takes, possibly weeks or even months if necessary, to be able to run up and down chord tones relatively quickly across the neck.

I prefer the key approach, where I don't bother so much what the chord tones are, unless I actually want to play the chord shape, and just let my ears and soul choose the notes I want, whatever they may be.


See, I guess this idea works for some people, but I'm officially giving up on it. I've been taking that approach, just trying to use my ear, and I haven't improved in years. My improvisation sounds like the same blind noodling that it did years ago, just with better technique.

When you shift, use whatever string your playing a note on and play the nearest triad note on that string for the new triad pair, then wander around. That will give a smoother note connection.


This is the kind of thing that I'm dying to understand. It seems like the greatest mystery in the world to me how people can be following a chord, then know exactly where the nearest chord tones of the next chord are. Perhaps I'm just approaching it wrong. I've spent so many hours reading instructional material and it never seems to help at all. As for the rest of what you said, I'm fairly fluent in basic diatonic intervals, and I know all 5 positions of the pentatonic scale and all 7 of the 3-note-per-string positions (listen to my improv I posted in case you haven't. I don't have much of a problem moving around the fretboard). The exercise you listed sounds a lot like what I wrote above in response to steven seagull, or am I mistaken? Tell me what you think? Remember, I'm interested in the big picture and getting on the road to total mastery of, at the very least, the diatonic chords.
Last edited by Sample246 at Jan 17, 2016,
#11
Quote by Sample246 at #33783064

When you shift, use whatever string your playing a note on and play the nearest triad note on that string for the new triad pair, then wander around. That will give a smoother note connection.


This is the kind of thing that I'm dying to understand. It seems like the greatest mystery in the world to me how people can be following a chord, then know exactly where the nearest chord tones of the next chord are. Perhaps I'm just approaching it wrong. I've spent so many hours reading instructional material and it never seems to help at all.

Please stop reading and play while listening. You can plan routes before playing, but you need to know them before you start driving unless you want to get lost.

Ex 1:

- If you're on C, F also has a C. Stay on the note.
- If you're on E, E is a leading tone to F. Go to F.
- If you're on G, you can either go up to A or down to F.


Ex 2:

- If you're on F, you can go up to G or down to E.
- If you're on A, it's easiest to go down to G, but you can also jump up to C.
- If you're on C, C also has a C (duh!). Stay on the note.


^ but these are just suggestions, really, to smooth the playing as much as possible. Breaking these suggestions can lead to interesting lines, but as per counterpoint guidelines (the use of which was to keep independent voices), it might be a good idea to follow a large jump with a step in the backwards direction as below:

Ex 3:

G7 C
G-A-G-B-F-E-D#-E
Glad to cross paths with you on this adventure called life
Quote by Jet Penguin
lots of flirting with the other key without confirming. JUST LIKE THEIR LOVE IN THE MOVIE OH DAMN.
Quote by Hail
you're acting like you have perfect pitch or something
#12
Quote by Sample246


This is the kind of thing that I'm dying to understand. It seems like the greatest mystery in the world to me how people can be following a chord, then know exactly where the nearest chord tones of the next chord are. Perhaps I'm just approaching it wrong. I've spent so many hours reading instructional material and it never seems to help at all. As for the rest of what you said, I'm fairly fluent in basic diatonic intervals, and I know all 5 positions of the pentatonic scale and all 7 of the 3-note-per-string positions (listen to my improv I posted in case you haven't. I don't have much of a problem moving around the fretboard). The exercise you listed sounds a lot like what I wrote above in response to steven seagull, or am I mistaken? Tell me what you think? Remember, I'm interested in the big picture and getting on the road to total mastery of, at the very least, the diatonic chords.



I'll get back to you when I can type properly again. Around 10 days, maybe less. (hand operation). Yes ...exercise is as steven said. Don't worry, finding chord tones is easy so long as you know interval shapes. Meantime, see https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/the_basics/drastically_reduce_learning_time_with_intervals_part_2.html
#13
Quote by Sample246
Alright, so here's an idea. Let me know if you think this would be an effective approach or not:

-Record a I-V looping progression and master following those two chords (which would not be overwhelming I think).

-Once I've mastered that, record a I-IV progression and master following those chords.

-Record a I-IV-V (or whatever combination) and master that progression.

-Record a I-vi progression and master that.

Etc.

When I say "master", I mean spending however long it takes, possibly weeks or even months if necessary, to be able to run up and down chord tones relatively quickly across the neck.

It really depends what it is you're trying to achieve, as far as your long-term goal of being able to improvise better is concerned anything that involves you drilling the same thing over and over is arguably the opposite of what you want to do.

Is it going to help you locate chord tones in a given progression - probably yes. Is that actually going to help you when it comes to improvising more creatively and making things that sound interesting? That I'm not so sure of.

It honestly seems like you're approaching this from a technique point of view when the problem itself isn't technical in nature. The key is being able to recognise the chords by sound, not sight - hear what you're playing over, and from there work out from there what your options are. Of course when it comes to executing then you're going to need some form of method for arranging things, shapes, patterns etc but it's sound first, shapes later. You seem to be trying to get there the other way round and I think that's why you're getting stuck...you need to know what you want to play before you worry about how to play it.
Actually called Mark!

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#14
Quote by Sample246
Alright, so here's an idea. Let me know if you think this would be an effective approach or not:

-Record a I-V looping progression and master following those two chords (which would not be overwhelming I think).

-Once I've mastered that, record a I-IV progression and master following those chords.

-Record a I-IV-V (or whatever combination) and master that progression.

-Record a I-vi progression and master that.

Etc.
Yes to all. Good plan!
But make sure you know the chord shapes for each chord, and work with a scale in the same position.
I.e., either use a scale in the place where you know the chord shapes; or work out the chord shapes in the position where you want to play the scale. You have to see the chord tones in the scale patterns.
Quote by Sample246

When I say "master", I mean spending however long it takes, possibly weeks or even months if necessary, to be able to run up and down chord tones relatively quickly across the neck.
Yes - if you can stand it for that long, of course!
But then it shouldn't take months - after a week you should be getting the idea, which is about visualising the chord tones wherever they are on the neck - like filling in the details on a map. After 2 or 3 weeks (given the technical skills your playing experience suggests) you ought to be on top of it, at least in the most common keys.

Quote by Sample246


See, I guess this idea works for some people, but I'm officially giving up on it. I've been taking that approach, just trying to use my ear, and I haven't improved in years. My improvisation sounds like the same blind noodling that it did years ago, just with better technique.
Yes - using the ear is good, in principle, but if you don't know where your chord tones or target notes are, your ear has to hold a whole lot of information at once, which is changing all the time you play. By the time you can hear what note you want on this chord, it might well have changed.
IOW, you have to know the whole chord sequence by ear, to know (by ear) what's coming, and which notes on the fretboard are going to sound good with it.
That's possible - and many experienced musicians are capable of it and play that way. But then they will also know their chord arpeggios thoroughly, so their ear doesn't really have to do that much.
Quote by Sample246

This is the kind of thing that I'm dying to understand. It seems like the greatest mystery in the world to me how people can be following a chord, then know exactly where the nearest chord tones of the next chord are.
They're all there on fretboard. It's just that your "map" is blank at the moment!

E.g., when I'm improvising to a chord sequence, and I know (or see on a chord chart) that there's (say) an E7 chord coming up, these positions all "light up" on my fretboard:
    1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10  11  12  13  14  15  16....
E||---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|-D-|---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|
B||---|---|-D-|---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|-D-|---|
 ||-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|-D-|---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|
D||---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|-D-|---|-E-|---|---|
 ||---|-B-|---|---|---|---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|
E||---|---|---|-G#|---|---|-B-|---|---|-D-|---|-E-|---|---|---|-G#|
I just know those positions for all my potential target notes. (And likewise for any other chord.)
To me that's what an "E7 chord" looks like - a pattern that covers the entire neck.
If I want to strum the chord, then of course I'll pick a single position - but I can select any position where the required 4 notes sit under my fingers.

I'm sure you can see familiar chord shapes in there (even partial ones) - and the more you look the more you should see.
While I do know all the note names - I'm seeing and thinking more in terms of that multi-shape pattern. I also know which are root-3rd-5th-7th, and I know the sound of each chord tone, so I can pretty well predict the sound I'm going to get when I hit any of them. (And of course I know a handful of licks or short motifs that will fit those notes, if I don't happen to have some amazing inspiration on the spur of the moment...)

Naturally you won't learn all this (for every chord!) in just a few weeks! (It probably took me years to get fully comfortable all over the fretboard, to find any note in less than a second.) But for a couple of basic chords - in just one or two neck positions - you will get the hang of the concept quickly enough.
Quote by Sample246
Perhaps I'm just approaching it wrong. I've spent so many hours reading instructional material and it never seems to help at all.
Reading won't help. Not unless you play it all at the same time!
(I'm sure that's obvious, but reading is seductive, and I suspect most of us sometimes fall into the habit of thinking that just reading some information is equivalent to acquiring knowledge. It ain't, certainly not with a practical/aural skill like guitar playing.)
I mean, sometimes you can be reading stuff and understanding will click. But most often, it won't click until you actually try it out, and hear it.
Quote by Sample246

As for the rest of what you said, I'm fairly fluent in basic diatonic intervals, and I know all 5 positions of the pentatonic scale and all 7 of the 3-note-per-string positions (listen to my improv I posted in case you haven't. I don't have much of a problem moving around the fretboard).
Good. You now just have to see (and identify) the chord shapes in each pattern - that's in the 3-nps patterns, which consist of whole 7-note scales. Pentatonics only contain a couple of complete chords. 7-note scales contain the lot.)
The 5 CAGED scale patterns ought to be useful too, because unlike the 3 nps patterns they use one fixed neck position where it's (usually) easier to see the chord shapes. The problem with 3 nps patterns is they are designed for fast scale running - and that's something you should probably be avoiding. It's a bad habit to get into.
Last edited by jongtr at Jan 18, 2016,
#15
Sounds like you might need to improve your fretboard knowledge. Practice your scales and triads all the way up and down for a few minutes before working on real music. Just knowing where notes are doesn't mean your fingers can get there in time.
#16
Quote by cdgraves
Sounds like you might need to improve your fretboard knowledge. Practice your scales and triads all the way up and down for a few minutes before working on real music. Just knowing where notes are doesn't mean your fingers can get there in time.


I agree, but I think, his approach of isolating on common 2 chord vamps and just messing with those chord tones, is pretty solid...and then augment that knowledge with other chord s in the progression, common chord tones shared between chords, and the like.

Here's what I have our students do:

First of all they know all the notes that make up whatever chord/triad they are playing over, so when they do a solo for their homework, I might have them do nothing but land on 3rds and sustain over the chord changes. Its a bit academic at first but as they continue to do that it becomes familiar, and after a while you realize there arent really that many chords that will throw you, because the 3rds is pretty much a given.

That's just at the beginning. After a while that becomes organic, and they learn where some sound more subtle (like 5ths) and not as strong, and they can pick and choose where the change is coming.

Also I have them both write out, intentionally plotting their changes in advance...and then play, as well as improvise and apply the changes. I think there's something to be learned both in construction and improvisation, and it has seemed to work out well. Melodies tighten up very quickly and seem less rambling.

Best,

Sean