Let’s go to the videotape!
For this column, I made two short videos demonstrating “free playing” over a loop of GMaj7 – Dmaj7, the main Ventura Highway chord progression.
In my previous post, I suggested that you practice only in the D major scale from the 10th position and then only in the B minor pentatonic from the seventh position.
I filmed myself playing from these two positions and used some of the soloing ideas below.
Call & Response
Think of this as asking a musical question in your first line and answering it in your second line. Make up a melody of your own over the G major 7 and try to “answer” that melody with another musical statement over the D major 7 chord. Call and response lines are very common in all kinds of improvising.
I will repeat an improvised melody or rhythm from one chord to the next. Think about music you like, and you’ll notice lots of repetition – musicians know we love repetition. Repetition also helps you ingrain solid fingerings and strong melodic patterns to your hands and ears.
Start slow and take a breath here and there – Ah, the guitar players curse. Try to start your free play session with simple, slow musical statements. Play half notes or even whole notes to begin. Playing slowly at first not only can sound beautiful, but it will “set up” your more expressive playing later during your solos.
Up & Down
I’m not the first to say that playing ascending lines creates tension and drama, and descending lines give a sense of resolution. Like the call and response idea, you can make ascending and descending lines with any scale. Try creating an ascending line on the G Major 7 and a descending line on the D Major 7.
String Skips, Triplets, Straight & Jazz Eighths
Try these variations with the lines you create. Stringing skipping in small or wide intervals often surprises listeners with an unexpected gift because you’ve created new tensions and resolutions in your improvisations.
Bends, Slides, Hammer-Ons, Vibrato, & Trills
These are “ornamentation” skills that so many great guitarists use to add that proper sense of emotion and expression. You’ve probably heard that these are like spices, and you shouldn’t “overdo” playing ornaments, but this is your practice session, not a performance. Go ahead and overdo these ideas for several loops of the chords. Your goal is to execute these ideas accurately and to listen for the expressive qualities that you like.
Dyads & Triads
Playing two-note or even three-note groupings across strings that you can visualize in the scale and pentatonic patterns can add some modern, sophisticated sounds. Explore and create note groups and play them over the changes. You’re making mini-chords that can sound awesome after single note soloing.
I hope you’ll give these ideas a try and that they help you develop more creative soloing skills. Please let me know how it works out in the comments.