Chord Solo­ing

If you’ve ever mar­velled at how great jazz gui­tarists solo with chords fear not, as Mil­ton Mer­mikides ex­plains that there are codes we can all crack in or­der to master this beau­ti­fully mu­si­cal style.

Guitar Techniques - - PLAY JAZZ -

The conventional roles of the lead and rhythm gui­tarist are quite clear: the rhythm gui­tarist plays chords that ac­com­pany the lead gui­tarist who plays the (usu­ally higher, faster and more ‘im­por­tant’ sin­gle-note ma­te­rial). This di­chotomy, how­ever, is not al­ways true, or help­ful mu­si­cally – and the long (and on­go­ing) his­tory of the in­stru­ment in­volves many play­ers who have cho­sen to ex­plore the mid­dle ground: solo­ing us­ing a va­ri­ety of chords for both har­monic sup­port and tex­tu­ral vari­a­tion. It can how­ever be over­whelm­ing to start con­sid­er­ing solo­ing with chords, when it’s hard enough to learn chords and scales sep­a­rately. Fur­ther­more, the idio­syn­cra­sies and anom­alies of the gui­tar fret­board make it par­tic­u­larly chal­leng­ing. Be well aware: a gui­tarist who can solo ef­fec­tively with chords in a va­ri­ety of con­cepts knows mu­sic the­ory (im­plic­itly or ex­plic­ity) and the gui­tar fret­board very well in­deed; one needs to be ag­ile both men­tally and tech­ni­cally to han­dle this ap­proach.

Luck­ily for us, there are ways to de­velop knowl­edge in this area through a se­ries of con­cep­tual and prac­ti­cal ex­er­cises. Al­though there are many highly-ac­com­plished blues, rock, soul and pop chord-soloists, I’ve opted to stick with the broad genre of jazz here. This is to act as a way of in­tro­duc­tion to the style, but also be­cause it al­lows a wide range of melodic, har­monic or modal con­cepts to be en­gaged with, from the Mi­nor Blues scale to stan­dard jazz chord pro­gres­sions to modes. Of

aS uSual, we have a fi­nal ex­am­ple Solo Show­ing how th­eSe Con­CeptS Can be uSed in the ‘real world’

course, th­ese con­cepts can be trans­ported out to what­ever genre you like, but the rich, eclec­tic and beau­ti­ful world of jazz gui­tar is a great place to start. Work­ing on th­ese ideas will not only im­prove your solo­ing, al­low­ing greater har­monic sup­port and in­de­pen­dence, par­tic­u­larly when play­ing in smaller en­sem­bles, but also al­low much greater vari­a­tion of tex­ture that can help build a solo ef­fec­tively and keep it in­ter­est­ing.

The ar­ti­cle is di­vided into 11 ex­er­cises fo­cus­ing on var­i­ous con­cepts. Ex­am­ple 1 shows how the all-im­por­tant Mi­nor Pen­ta­tonic or Blues scale can act as a ba­sis for oc­tave, dou­ble-stop and chordal solo­ing. Ex­am­ple 2 deals with bluesy dou­ble-stop ideas for Dom­i­nant 7 chords all over the fret­board. Ex­am­ples 3-5 build agility and flu­ency with the m7, dom7th and ma­j7th chords on the top four strings of the gui­tar. Ex­am­ples 6-9 will help you quickly de­scribe a va­ri­ety of fun­da­men­tal modes and har­monic con­texts (Do­rian, Ly­dian, Mixoly­dian and Al­tered) wher­ever you are on the fret­board. Ex­am­ples 10-11 of­fer very use­ful and har­mon­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tions for nav­i­gat­ing the es­sen­tial Ma­jor and Mi­nor II-V pro­gres­sions all over the fret­board.

Then, as usual, we have a fi­nal ex­am­ple solo show­ing how th­ese con­cepts can be used in the ‘real world’. This ex­am­ple solo is just one of count­less pos­si­ble from the ma­te­rial pro­vided, so do use it as a tem­plate to com­pose your own. Also, I’ve cho­sen to use just one key cen­tre for each con­cept (for the sake of suc­cinct­ness and fo­cus) but prac­tis­ing th­ese ideas in dif­fer­ent keys and con­texts is es­sen­tial for their proper ab­sorp­tion.

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