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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Soloing over I IV V chords properly

Had a nice blues gig this past weekend with my co-lead band Echo and Twang. It's amazing how an attentive enthusiastic crowd really makes you play better. You seem to care more about your playing because I guess you think people actually care.

I have students come to me all the time with questions about how to improvise over chord changes. Big question. I start them out with the minor pentatonic scale over the I - IV - V chords ,which is an easy scale to play on guitar plus one that they are familiar with. They all seem to listen to Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Angus Young etc and they all use that scale to great affect. If you use the minor pentatonic scale (Rt., b3rd, 4th, 5th, b7th) based on the relative minor of the major key you are playing in, the scale will fit over all three chords (I- IV and V). This is a good start as all they have to do is play those five notes and they will all sound pretty good. When they are comfortable with this I take them to the next step.

The next step is adding notes that are in the chord but not in the scale. Let's take the key of C. We would use the A minor pentatonic scale to improvise over the I - IV and V chords. The C chord (I) is made up of C, E and G which are in the A Minor Pentatonic (A, C, D, E, G). The F chord (IV) is made up of an F, A and a C. The root of the IV chord (F) is not in the  A minor pentatonic so you must add it in order to make the chord really sound like it fits. The G chord (V) is made up of a G, B and D. The 3rd (B) is not in the minor pentatonic scale so again you must add it in order to really make the chord fit.

This works in all keys. The IV chord you add the root and the V chord you add the 3rd.

I have been listening to.

Red Garland "Soul Station"
A great jazz record recorded in 1957 at the famous Van Gelder studios in Inglewood New Jersey by Rudy Van Gelder. I love pianist Red Garland's playing. He had such a groove when he played. No superfluous notes, just the one's that are needed and he really swung hard. Red Garland was Mile Davis' pianist from 1955 to 1958 and recorded the famous Smokin', Cookin', Relaxin and Steamin' for the Prestige label. Miles owed the label 4 records but had already recorded Round About Midnight for Columbia but the threat of legal action sent Miles and crew back in the studio to fulfill their obligation to Prestige. The four records were all first takes apparently. Miles even stops the band during Red Garland's piano intro and says "block chords Red". Soul Station features Red Garland on piano, John Coltrane on tenor sax, Art Taylor on drums, Donald Byrd on trumpet and George Joyner on bass. Buy it if you don't have it!!

Merle Haggard - Greatest Hits
Merle Haggard and the Strangers were part of the Bakersfield sound in the '60s along with Buck Owens and the Buckeroos. Guitarist Roy Nichols was a big part of Haggards sound and was a fantastic guitar player. Merle Haggard sings from the heart and you believe every word he says after all he has seen his fair share of life's hard knocks having spent time in San Quentin. Great country troubadour. Teles rule in Haggard country!

That's all for now!

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