Freedom on the Fret Board
Music is just another form of me. Its constant pull evokes feelings to build everyday. This comes to me as a blessing because even on the rare occasions I’m not be playing or practicing, it’s always inside me creating. Without these feelings of angst there would be no need to continue studying. I’d like you to know that people have different musical goals and you could spend a lot of time learning things you may just forget. If you learn anything, try to understand what drives you about music and find the most appropriate path getting you there. If you want a foundation on which to build then please read on.
During my years at music school and self study I found many assignments, licks, practice repertoire, solos, songs etc.… that I learned at one point but merely weeks later finding myself baffled how I forgotten them. Except this, the ability to spit out the notes of almost any chord and use this as a creative tool. I’ve always called myself an odd guitarist because my path of learning is somewhat backwards in the fact that never did I learn many covers, studied guitar players note for note, learned all the obvious solos. I studied music theory and practiced writing my own songs. Now that most of the work is done, I’m confident in learning from guitar greats and incorporating it in my own playing so Ill never forget it.
My guitar life all started making sense after 1 lesson with Greg Howe. He showed me that I needed to see the fretboard in an easy to understand map using 3 basic arpeggio patterns that outline the Chord Scale. From these patterns we can then build. This lesson is a culmination of all my studying and from this method creative possibilities are endless.
First I want to strongly urge you to understand C major. From this all other keys, chords, arpeggios, positions and modes are much easier to translate. I can’t possibly cover every aspect to what I’m talking about and if you really want to learn this, you’re going to have to do a little extra credit. Feel free to ask me any question you might have. Let’s begin!
Ex.1 When someone says C major to me I instantly think “CEGB”, that not only stands for the notes in a Cmaj7 chord it’s also a pattern of root note chords that sound beautiful over Cmaj.
LOOK AT THIS CHART
NOTES: C D E F G A B C
Chords: Cmaj Dmin Emin Fmaj Gmaj Amin Bdim
Chord Tones: CEG DFA EGB FAC GBD ACE BDF
When I look at one chord in its simplest form, it says a lot. Take Cmaj “CEG” I see that if I want to write a lead over it and want it to sound unique then I should probably not play “CEG” primarily. It needs some other tension, so where can I find it? Lets make a Cmaj Super Chord.
We have C=1st, E=3rd, G=5th, B=7th, D=9th, F=11th, A=13th, C=Root. Notice anything? How about now, CEGBDFAC or the same notes ordered CDEFGABC. That’s 1 chord using every scale tone! The point is that every scale tone has a unique quality against the root. BY NO MEANS ARE YOU ABLE TO REMEMBER THIS WHILE YOU ARE PLAYING, SO WE NEED A SYSTEM.
Chords are built via stacked Major and Minor 3rds. A Major 3rd has a distance of 5 steps. A Minor 3rd has a distance of 4 steps. So in Cmaj: C to E = Maj3rd, E to G = min3rd
If you take the 3rd fret on the A string you have C. Go up a Maj 3rd to E, another Min 3rd to G, another Maj 3rd to B, another Min 3rd to D, Min 3rd to F, Maj 3rd to A and finally Min 3rd to C.
As complicated as it sounds, it’s really simple once you sit down and play it. It is an easy pattern that you must learn. You need to know what chord is ahead and behind you and beyond. To help aid this memorization, learning Root 5 arpeggios gives a clear map of the fret board. Once you learn the Chord Scale Arpeggios then we get creative.
Lets write a lead melody over a Cmaj7 chord, the notes are C E G B. I already know that Emin, G and Bdim are closely related to Cmaj7. That’s three separate Chords/arpeggios/ positions in which to start with. Take a Emin7 EGBD arpeggio, the B and D notes are going to add a lot of tension to resolve to C, so maybe take an Root 5 Emin7 arpeggio and start picking the notes out over C. You will find some of those notes have a special quality. Best of all that quality will never change, so remember where in the arpeggio gives that sound. You’ll be able to come back to it later as your improvising. Another way is to start with a lead that you already know and then move to the Emin7 arpeggio then back to the original lick. So with this thought process Cmaj7 just got cracked wide open. You can play any chord over Cmaj, but you have to be careful because you need to still keep Cmaj as home. As you practice your arpeggios, start adding the root note of the chord your playing over. Basically you want to add tension and resolve it, tension, resolve, tension, tension, and tension, resolve. Adding the chord tones of the chord your soloing over gives a relieving quality.
Example: If you play a Emin over Cmaj you’re accentuating the 3rd 5th and 7th of Cmaj. Gmaj over C your accentuating 5th, 7th, 9th of C. “bdim” over C and your playing 7th, 9th, 11th. If you play Dmin over C you’re accentuating the 9th, 11th, 13th. Fmaj over C: 11th, 13th, 1st. Amin over C: 13th, 1st, 3rd.
Ok so you theoretically can play any note over any chord but here are some basic rules to get started.
- Do not mud up the bass frequencies, Ex. Playing a C and a D in the bass will sound unclear and a mixed tonality. If you are going to use those tones in the bass try to make them quick passing tones or play them an octave up.
- Do not stay out of key too long. If your soloing over Cmaj and your heavy handed in Bdim then get back to home bass before the listener has no idea where your are. Think about driving to the store “your comfort zone” and you suddenly hit a roadblock “New learned lick” eventually your going to get to the store and then back home. The point is you’re never on a detour most of the trip.
- 3. This is most important, take these concepts and make them your own. Play them the way it seems right to you. Learn a pattern and add rhythm, add feeling, stomp your feet and play it, nod your head, play harder and make a mean face, play with your fingers and melt away.
- 4. If you’re soloing over say a progression Cmaj, Amin, Gmaj, Cmaj. Your notes will change C=CEG A=ACE G=GBD and if you don’t change with the chords the listener will not understand the changes. Try hitting just one of the notes when the chord changes, as you gain confidence it will become natural.
Any Questions or Comments please contact me!
I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully something to walk away from and try. If there is interest shown on the topics I’m talking about then I will definitely start making video to correspond with the writing.
I’m always looking for musicians to make music with. I’m fluent with recording in my house and exchanging files and open to playing any genre.
Take it easy and keep making music!