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Ken's Corner: Guitar Improvisation for Starters - Lesson #27 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 26 February 2007 05:08

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This is Lesson #27 in a series on Guitar Improvisation. In our last lesson, Lesson #26, we finished up our series on improvising with Option #3.

During the last series of lessons we learned how to apply specific scale forms to specific chords. To reiterate, the main purpose was for you to learn how to recognize and to utilize the chord tones from within the scale when needed. A lot of guitarists are in the habit of randomly playing a bunch of scale tones in the hope that it will sound good at any given point in time. I like to call that, “Putting your fingers before your ears.” In other words, you are not internally hearing what notes prior to playing them. If you work from that process enough you can occasionally come up with some cool stuff. However, you are more than likely to hit a lot of notes that are not part of a cohesive melodic phrase.

I believe the approach I have been teaching you is much more effective because you eventually learn to hear what you are playing before you play it. This approach does require a lot of consistent thinking and practicing. It may feel restricting and unnatural for a while but before you know it, it will become second nature to you. One might even say, think during practice and feel during performance.

Ken's Corner Archive

In the past series of lessons, we have been using three chords for our progressions, A Major, D Major and E Major. Now, let’s start working with a slightly different chord progression. The chords will be A7, D7 and E7. These three chords are known as dominant 7th chords. Later on we will get into more chord theory, and discuss chord construction and the naming of chords. I suggest using these three chords in a standard twelve-bar blues progression. For now, we are going to back-pedal to get a point across.

The notes in the A7 chord are: A, C#, E, G
The notes in the D7 chord are: D, F#, A, C
The notes in the E7 chord are: E, G#, B, D

Instead of using a different scale for each chord, we are going to use just one (1) scale. The A Pentatonic Scale will work nicely for all three chords. Once again, try to focus and hear the chord tones from within the scale. Let’s take a closer look at this.

The A Pentatonic Scale contains the following notes: A, C, D, E, G

When using this scale with the A7 chord, 3 of the 4 chord tones are common.
These notes are A, E and G.
When using this scale with the D7 chord, 3 of the 4 chord tones are common.
These notes are D, A and C.
When using this scale with the E7 chord, 2 of the 4 chord tones are common.
These notes are E and D.

As we have spoken about throughout this series, pulling out the specific chord tones from your scale(s) can be a very effective way of creating cohesive melodic statements. One common question in guitar improvisation is why does the Pentatonic Scale sound pretty good when playing over the A7, D7, and E7 chord progression; but doesn’t sound so hot over the A Major, D Major, and E Major chord progression. The answer is what I have shown you in this lesson and earlier lessons in this series. Specifically, there is a greater ratio of common chord/scale tones throughout the entire progression.

In our next lesson we will continue along this path. I’ll see you all at the next lesson.

Ken's Corner Archive


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