Soloing Basics II. Part 2 - Resolutions

author: plikk date: 07/19/2004 category: soloing

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Ok, for those who missed Part 1 we discussed soloing in major and minor keys and used a Dm-C-Bb-C progression as a starting point. Let's delve into this enigma of soloing a little more and find out how to do it, shall we? The easiest solo: The easiest solo is one note, that's it. Now, a one note solo may state a particular emotion that fits the tune, but it does not state an awful lot. I suppose the second easiest solo would be two notes, followed by more notes. By the way the solo to "I wanna be sedated" by the Ramones is just eighth notes of one tone. And hey, it works. But if you have a chord change under your one tone (eighth notes or whatever) now you have developed an implied note change even though you are still playing the same note. Let's see why. In the Ramones tune the chord changes are E-A-B in quarter note strums, each chord being one measure (real fast tempo though). The solo is eighth note open high E's. When the solo starts it is playing the tonic (E) which gives a particular consonant sound when played with the chord E. When the chord changes to the A, the solo is now playing the 5th of the chord (still an E) which is another harmonious, albeit different tonal relationship from the first note. Now the chord changes to B and the solo is playing the 4th of the chord (still E), another consonant tone. The note E is not in the B major chord (B-D-F#), but the perfect 4th is still effective. So what we have found is that your solo is a relationship between the solo notes you are playing and the chords that the rest of the band is playing. Hmmm... now you really don't want to be playing just a bunch of licks. What about speed players? They can't sit around and wait for the rest of the band to catch up with their solo notes, so they must analyze specific notes or groups of notes in relation to the underlying chords. One way is to think about only the first and last note of a scalar passage, however long it is. Assuming we're playing in the proper key the notes will be alright, but if we're playing pretty fast the listener can't really discern them anyway, but they will the last note. This note is where you were going with that scalar run; your destination. How you got there (fast or slow) is not important, this is the statement you wanted to make. This brings us to: Resolutions: When listening to a piece of music, the ear always wants to return to a stable place. This place is either the tonic (root) of the piece, or the tonic of the underlying chord. This "return" is called its resolution. A flurry of notes that don't adequately resolve, while technically impressive, leave the listener uncomfortably misdirected. In our previous example using a Dm-C-Bb-C chord progression, the listener's ear will always want the solo sequence to return to the D note. Not only that, the return (or resolution) should be on the beat. There is also resolution to the underlying chord. So if you resolve to the C when the C major chord is playing, there is resolution. However when the chord then changes to he Bb, the resolution is lost. Playing in a minor pentatonic scale over a I-IV-V progression yields many opportunities for resolution. This is because of the notes in the scale, (root, m3, p4, p5, m7) three of them resolve to the underlying chords, and the others resolve with a small bend. This is one of the reasons the pentatonic scale is so easy to use. Now that we have established that rule. Break it. Play a little solo melody and leave it unresolved. Go ahead, rules are meant to be broken. Resolve to the "C" while the tune is still on the Dm, but hold it until the band catches up. Let's get really wild and play notes that are not in the scale! Let's add passing tones to our scales like this: Play real fast in Dm Pick the asterisked notes and pull-off the rest.
   *     *     *     *     *     *
Notice the passing tone inserted between the "D" and the final "C" note? This lick resolves to the C, however, if you hold the C for a moment and then hammer-on or slide to the D at the seventh fret, we have a nice resolution to the tonic. Remember that your main goals in soloing are: 01. Entertain the listener 02. Add to the song 03. Take the song someplace that the lyrics can't 04. Reinforce the melody or chord structure Listen to some of your favorite solos and pick out the resolutions. They will be very obvious as you listen to each tune. Listen also to those spots where resolution is delayed, or not there. If you have a recording of Yngwie's first album with Alcatrazz, check out the way he incorporates speed with resolution. For kicks also listen to "The Four Seasons" by Vivaldi and pick out the resolutions in the melody, or try "La Gazza ladra" (The Thieving Magpie) by Rossini. For blues scale resolution, check out David Gilmour's solo in Comfortably Numb from The Wall. Ok, that resolves that. I hope this helps in your melody writing and soloing.
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