#1
I'm trying to find ways of expanding my sound while improvising.
I most often play metal and rock.

When improvising solos I generally find the "tonal centre" of the music, most often a riff rather than chords. Then I generally play the minor or pentatonic minor scale.

Mostly it sounds good or at least fits harmonically.

But I've been reading up on theory in an attempt to try new approaches.
Problem is, most theory looks at chord structure and playing over chords.

Now, if I'm playing over a riff, can I just see what notes are in the riff and then pick any scale that contains those notes?

For example, a very simple riff I have to solo over contains only the notes B, C#, F# and G.
Usually I just rip up and down the B minor (aeolian) scale.

But I guess I could use any scale which contain these notes?
And even other scales which contained some of these notes perhaps?

Any suggestions for soloing over this riff to get me started?
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha
#2
Yes you can espeacally if you're improvising.

I started praticing doing it a while back.
I don't really know what the correct term for it is...but the book
or CD i have say to practice soloing or playing off of the
other arppegios. Practice soloing off of the 3rd, 5th to start off
or the b3rd if it's a minor.

Example if I play A5 chord ...I play A ionian and also E ionian
or A lydian. If i play E mixolyian, it's as if I'm playing the parent scale of the chord.
It's just more structure.

A lot of it has to do ear training and timing.

Example if there's just pima picking loop floating in the back ground
and all the notes are ringing. All of the notes has the same volume.
There nothing really saying what note is the root or a tone center.

it's the same with A5
Is it A5 or Esus4 ?

So you bascailly have to find different scales that'll fit or have simular
notes. So yeah...if you pick scales that have the same notes that you
listed...the other notes from other veriouse scales becomes passing notes. it's almost as if you're going chormatic..but it's more structure.

It's easier to just go axis pitch. Use the same tone center and play
whatever A scales over A5.

just experiment.
#3
Quote by Dr. B
Now, if I'm playing over a riff, can I just see what notes are in the riff and then pick any scale that contains those notes?
In principle it's the other way around: you have to find the key your riff and the rest of the piece is written in, and you can use any note in that key. When the riff modulates (= changes key) your solo part has to follow that key, which is pretty cool.

However, there's more to it. Each note you play over a note or a chord in the riff should be part of that chord. In harmony we say that the function of the chord has to remain the same. (More technically: if the chord is a V for instance, you have to pick a note in V in that key).
But I guess I could use any scale which contain these notes?
If you only have the riff to play over, it doesn't matter. Your riff and solo will never sound out of key.
And even other scales which contained some of these notes perhaps?
That would be modulating. But there are some techniques to do that. You can't just change key anywhere.
Any suggestions for soloing over this riff to get me started?
To say it with a cliché: learn some theory. :-)
#4
Quote by Dr. B


But I've been reading up on theory in an attempt to try new approaches.
Problem is, most theory looks at chord structure and playing over chords.


There's little if any difference. If you're playing over a "riff" there is most likely
an implied harmony. "Vertical" chords don't necessarily have to actually play for
them to be there.

Your riff most likes has chord changes that fit over it. It might be also those changes
can be open to interpretation. In that case you have some freedom of implying
different harmonies.

Look at the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Where are the chord changes he solo's over?
Nobody plays them. He just plays over a riff (bass line). But they are implied as
much as they're actually played.
#5
Quote by edg
Look at the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Where are the chord changes he solo's over?
Nobody plays them. He just plays over a riff (bass line). But they are implied as
much as they're actually played.
In that case Jimi was playing over incomplete chords. His part was to finish the chords; to make them complete; whether as chords or as arpeggios. But it sounds good because his solo continues in the same key the song is written in, and the right functions come at the right moment.

Since the unfinished chords are only a single voice (the bass line), he had all the freedom to decide which chord to build. But even he had rules to stick to. And where he abided to them without too many mistakes, the song sounds great.

(Note: this is quite a tense exercice, talking about a deceased guitarist and a song that one can hear in the present. Where are the grammar/spelling checkers when one needs them ;-)
#6
Example if I play A5 chord ...I play A ionian and also E ionian
or A lydian. If i play E mixolyian, it's as if I'm playing the parent scale of the chord.
It's just more structure.


If your tonal center is A, you're not playing "E" anything. I wouldn't worry about modes until you have a firm grasp on diatonic harmony and the theory behind the major scale.

it's the same with A5
Is it A5 or Esus4 ?


A5. Esus4 has different notes. It could theoretically be E4 (calling it that for simplicity), but not without very specific harmonic context. Alone, A is going to be heard as the tonal center.
Someones knowledge of guitar companies spelling determines what amps you can own. Really smart people can own things like Framus because they sound like they might be spelled with a "y" but they aren't.
#7
Quote by Withakay
In that case Jimi was playing over incomplete chords. His part was to finish the chords; to make them complete; whether as chords or as arpeggios. But it sounds good because his solo continues in the same key the song is written in, and the right functions come at the right moment.


That's not any different that what I was saying. There's almost always a harmony
(ie chord progression). They're either explicitly played or implied. Depending on
the chords (ie power chords vs 1-3-5 based chords) or the notes that are used in
the riff, some degree of harmonic interpretation may be left open to the soloer. It's
the same in either case. I just don't see that soloing over a "riff" is any different
than soloing over chords. No different at all.

If you "made up" a riff, not based on any harmony, try some chord changes over it.
Something will fit. It might be just 1 chord. There might be several posibilities.
Anything that fits will tell you something about the kind of harmony you can suggest
in your solo.
#8
Quote by Withakay
To say it with a cliché: learn some theory. :-)


Heh, that's why I'm asking here.

I understand if a song or riff or chord progression belongs to a certain key then I can safely use the minor or pentatonic minor.

But what other scales can I use and when?

Also, if a riff uses power chords for example but doesn't really stick to a key, what is the best way to aproach the solo?

For example, B5, G#5, A5, F5, F#5, C#5, D5?
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha
#9
Quote by Dr. B

For example, B5, G#5, A5, F5, F#5, C#5, D5?


Well, that's pretty much not diatonic harmony. Right off the bat I'd say
F# Harmonic minor (one of its modes) would be a good place to start.
You might get some mileage out of Melodic Minor, Dimished and/or Whole Tone
as well.
#10
Instead of just running around in scales, think in your head what you want to play as you are playing, and transfer from your head to your guitar, that way you aren't just playing random licks.
#11
Quote by CowboyUp
Instead of just running around in scales, think in your head what you want to play as you are playing, and transfer from your head to your guitar, that way you aren't just playing random licks.


I could do that.
In fact I do do that.
But I am trying to improve my theory, hence why I'm posting here.
Scales exist for a reason and millions of guitar players use them as in improvisational tool.
Sure, I could forget my scales and try and play what I hear, but I'm playing pretty fast and would probably end up playing notes from one scale or another anyway.

I have sat down and written solos over riffs which use notes which I can't see which scale they fit in but they sound ok.

I just have trouble doing this on-the-fly at speed.

Most of the riffs I write do not adhere to a particular key - one contains the power chords B C C# D D# E, so it's not like I'm playing by numbers.

Thanks for the useful replies, though.
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha
#12
Quote by Dr. B
I could do that.
In fact I do do that.
But I am trying to improve my theory, hence why I'm posting here.
Scales exist for a reason and millions of guitar players use them as in improvisational tool.
Sure, I could forget my scales and try and play what I hear, but I'm playing pretty fast and would probably end up playing notes from one scale or another anyway.

I have sat down and written solos over riffs which use notes which I can't see which scale they fit in but they sound ok.

I just have trouble doing this on-the-fly at speed.

Most of the riffs I write do not adhere to a particular key - one contains the power chords B C C# D D# E, so it's not like I'm playing by numbers.

Thanks for the useful replies, though.
Of course. I'm not saying to avoid learning scales. I'm saying that you need to familiarize yourself so much that you don't need to play licks and stay in positions, and that you'll be able to utilize the notes of whatever key your in all over the guitar to suit your needs. It's boring at the start, but it's well worth it.
#13
I look at it from a different point of view - learn the scales, the box positions and then expand from there.
I can play minor scale anywhere on the fretboard in any key, at speed.

Which means I can step out of it as well and play non-scale notes that can still fit or not fit in a good way at least.

This way you can always drop back to the scale if you get lost

But different scales give a different flavour to the solo and I'm trying to find out where and when I can play them.
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha
#14
Quote by edg
That's not any different that what I was saying.
Yep, I guess you're right, edg. I wasn't trying to correct you either. But I didn't get what you meant with implied the first time I read your post. English is not my native language.
Quote by Dr. B
Quote by Withakay
To say it with a cliché: learn some theory. :-)
Heh, that's why I'm asking here.
I was just trying to end the post on a lighter note (hence the smiley). No harm intended, B.
#15
That's pretty much how i visualize the pentatonic system ,
a guide something to fall back onto if i get lost. Do some simple riffs or
hold a note off of the arpeggios. Even if the chords are in complete. I get a viusal of
the missing arppegios..but it leaves the door open to wheather i want to
go maj or min.
If i get a bright idea of hitting a b2 or b6 it won't sound too bad.
i can also slide or bend it back if it dosn't sound right.
Something about 11 notes that my brain will retain until i sound out.

A lot of it has to do with how familar i'm with the riff as a background.
So i'm antispating. Depending how the riff sound, certain
parts of the riff is going to stand out more than others.

To me a backing or rythem section involves more than just the guitar.
So whatever riff that's in the background...they're just background noise.
I might be playing around the drumming instead.
Kind of like playing through a off the wall drum fills.

and I'll play modes over those chords.
Last edited by Ordinary at Jun 11, 2008,
#16
You know whats a mark of pure guitar skill, making the pentatonic scale sound good with phrasing. No accidentals, no scale notes, no modal notes. Just you and creative phrasing. I cant do it
#17
Using the pentatonic minor gets you a no nonsense rock/metal sound.

What I was after was more of a "use such and such a scale under these circumstances for such and such a sound".

I know, just from messing about, that playing an E lydian starting at the 7th fret, 5th string over a droning bottom E has a different character to the major or minor in the same position.

In Holy Wars for example, Marty Friedmann gets an eastern sounding type solo by using a particular scale (I don't know what).
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha
#18
The problem is that really for playing modes more into depth you need to play with altered chords.

Major, Minor, Major7, Minor7, Dim, 11 etc etc etc.

If you have E7, the scale you are playing is E Mixolydian.
If you have Emaj7 the scale you are playing is E Ionian (major) or E Lydian.
If you have Emin7 the scale you are playing is E Aeolian (minor, E Phrygian and E Dorian.
If you have Edim7(b5) the scale you are playing is E Locrian.
Fender Telecaster Thin Line

(For playing fusion as a solo project)
Ernie Ball VP Jr
Vox Wah
Korg DT-10 Tuner
Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
Mxr Phase 90
Electro Harmonix Small Clone
Boss DD6 Digital Delay
#19
Get/make some backing tracks and jam to them a LOT!

DON'T follow scales, just hit any note. Try to find NON-SCALAR patterns that sound decent. Work with dissonance, and try to develop a feel for using tension and release effectively. Try to accent the note the way you would if you were speaking.

Once you've done that for a while, go back to doing more common shapes and scalar patterns but throw in weird notes here and there.

Then forget everything and play like a drunk baboon.
#21
^
Excellent video.
Thanks very much.
Main Gear:
Ibanez RG550EX
Ibanez S470
Epiphone SG CS Ltd Ed 1966 Reissue
Cort M200/WS
Richwood RS17CCE acoustic
Hayden Mofo
Harley Benton 2x12 Celestion V30

My Band - Haemasmtha