Nailing the Changes Through Blues Guitar Solos - Part 5
The proverbial kitchen sink here for solo five. We see some more superlocrian action but this time in bar 4. When a Dominant 7 chord resolves up a 4th it is said to be ‘functioning’. Altered intervals give a functioning dominant chord a greater push along the way to the next change so our superlocrian can be used at this point too. John Scofield and Scott Henderson are both masters at balancing this jazzy tension and release whilst still retaining a strong blues feel to their playing.
Solo Five: The Superlocrian / Half-whole scale
A different treatment for the penultimate E7 chord ends this solo. This time I chose to use the symmetrical ‘half/whole’ scale, which is as its name suggests, built up out of the intervallic pattern semitone, tone, semitone, tone etc. The symmetrical nature gives this scale a rather floating open ended quality. Robben Ford attributes his use of the scale to the influence of Jazz legend Miles Davis.
Technique Focus: Preparing a tune for improvisation
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information you need to process when dealing with playing through changes. Fear not as help is at hand; just remember the 4 P’s, Patience, Preparation, Precedents and Pathways.
Patience: Just like any other skill your ability to negotiate changes will respond positively given the correct stimulus and the all-important ingredient, time. Consider the difference between something that you have ‘learnt’ and something that you ‘know’.
Preparation: There is a huge difference between practice and performance. If you’re serious about mastering playing through changes then you need to invest in either a means of recording yourself playing backing chords to solo over at every conceivable tempo or better still, some form of software to digitally create backing material for you that you can manipulate to stretch your ability at manageable increments in any key and style.
Precedents: What does everybody else do? What better insight into solving your soloing problems than checking out what the masters have done before you? Transcribing can give you an all-important insight into the thought process behind why your favourite players play the things they do. Scott Henderson and Mike Stern swear by using transcribing as the ultimate soloing inspiration tool.
Pathways: Aural, visual and intellectual. The guitar is a particularly pattern friendly instrument, check out the fretboard boxes that accompany this month’s feature. See what changes between our chords of A7, D7 and E7. Don’t hurry studies of this nature. What is the closest intervallic move? Go from the 7th of one chord to the 3rd of the next perhaps. Establishing pathways through the chords is the single most effective method of playing through changes with ease. Better to look at one area in detail than all of them in haste. Once you see the patterns clearly in one position then the rest follow suit so it’s never wasted time. Remember our first rule, Patience.
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