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John Mizarolli


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Advanced Music Theory

Playing Over Chord Changes

Playing over chords and soling for beginners is difficult. What scales to use? Here is a simple analysis of chord scale relationship for beginners improvisation. When someone attends my beginners guitar lessons I'm inevitably asked how do you play over changes? The simple answer is, you must have at your fingertips, the arpeggio of a chord and the correct scale or mode. Playing the arpeggio over the chord gives you the center of tonal gravity. Using the mode or scale over the chord means you are weaving in and out of the center of tonal gravity. If you want it in street language, then the right scale and arpeggio just sound good over the chord in your progression. Problem is, it is not so easy to sound fluid over chord changes without sounding as if you are practising scales. So let's say you have a chord progression for 4 bars like:

| Ebma7 | Fm7 | Gm7 | Am7 D11 |

First memorize these arpeggios.
1st bar or measure use Ebma7 arpeggio (red = root or 1)
1-----------------------------------10-11-10------------------------------------------
2-------------------------------11--------------11--------------------------------------
3---------------------------12----------------------12--5------------------------------
4------------------12-13----------------------------------13-12----------------------
5---------10-13----------------------------------------------------13-10-------------
6-10-11---------------------------------------------------------------------11-10----
Formula = 1 3 5 7 Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
2nd bar use Fm7 arpeggio (red = root or 1)
1----------------------------8-11-13-11-8--------------------------------------------
2--------------------------9-------------------9------------------------------------------
3-------------------8-10------------------------10-8-----------------------------------
4---------------10--------------------------------------10-------------------------------
5--------8-11-----------------------------------------------11-8-----------------------
6-8-11-------------------------------------------------------------11-8--------------
--

Formula = 1 3b 5 7b Practise and memorize with alternate picking!

3rd bar use
Gm7 arpeggio
(red = root or 1)
1-----------------------------------10-11-10------------------------------------------
2-------------------------------11--------------11--------------------------------------
3---------------------------12----------------------12--5------------------------------
4------------------12-13----------------------------------13-12----------------------
5---------10-13----------------------------------------------------13-10-------------
6-10-11---------------------------------------------------------------------11-10----


Formula = 1 3b 5 7b Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
4th bar use Am7 arpeggio (red = root or 1)
1----------------------------8-12-8------------------------------------------------------
2---------------------8-10-----------10-8----------------------------------------------
3------------------9--------------------------9-------------------------------------------
4-----------7-10-------------------------------10-7------------------------------------
5----7-10----------------------------------------------10-7----------------------------
6-8-------------------------------------------------------------8---
----------------------

Formula = 1 3b 5 7b Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
4th bar use D11 arpeggio (red = root or 1)
1--------------------------------------10-12-15-12-10-----------------------------------------
2---------------------------8-10-13-----------------------13-10-8-----------------------------
3-------------------------9----------------------------------------------9---------------------------
4--------------7-10-12--------------------------------------------------12-10-7---------------
5-------7-10-------------------------------------------------------------------------10-7--------
6-8-10--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10-8-
-

Formula = 1 (3) 5 7b 9 11 Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
So far you have 5 arpeggios to memorize. Remember to be concscious of the root of each arpeggio. If you play over each chord for about a 5 minutes using only the notes of the arpeggio you will hear that everything sounds pretty cool i.e it fits over the chord. Because the notes of the arpeggio are exactly the same as the chord formula, then we have a perfect fit, like glove and hand. You can end on and hold any of the notes in the arpeggio at any time in your soloing. Now memorize the following modes or scales.
1st bar use Eb major scale = Eb Ionian mode (red = root or 1)
1----------------------------------------------------------10-11-10-----------------------------------------------
2--------------------------------------------------11-13--------------13-11-------------------------------------
3-------------------------------------10-12-13-------------------------------13-12-10------------------------
4-----------------------10-12-13----------------------------------------------------------13-12-10-----------
5----------10-11-13-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------etc .....
6-11-13-----------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Formula
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Notes
Eb
F
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Eb
Key Signature
Eb
Ab
Bb

Practise and memorize with alternate picking!

2nd bar use F Dorian mode (red = root or 1)
1-----------------------------------------8-10-11-13-11-10-8------------------------------------------------
2-------------------------------8-9-11-----------------------------11-9-8--------------------------------------
3------------------------8-10-------------------------------------------------10-8-------------------------------
4------------8-10-12----------------------------------------------------------------12-10-8-------------------
5-8-10-11---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------11-10-8-------
6------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------------------------

Formula
1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b 8
Notes
F
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
Key Signature
Ab
Bb
Eb

Practise and memorize with alternate picking!


3rd bar use G phrygian mode (red = root or 1)
1---------------------------------------------------10-11-13-15-13-11-10----------------------------------
2------------------------------------------11-13---------------------------------13-11-------------------------
3-----------------------------10-12-13--------------------------------------------------13-
12-10------------
4---------------10-12-13------------------------------------------------------------------------------etc..
5-10-11-13-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6--------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Formula
1 2b 3b 4 5 6b 7b 8
Notes
G
Ab
Bb
C
D
Eb
F
G
Key Signature
Ab
Bb
Eb
   

Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
4th bar use A dorian mode (red = root or 1)
1--------------------------------------5-7-8-7-5-----------------------------------------------------------------
2------------------------------5-7-9--------------9-7-5---------------------------------------------------------
3-------------------------5-7------------------------------7-5----------------------------------------------------
4-----------------5-7-9-----------------------------------------9-7-5-------------------------------------------
5---------5-7-9---------------------------------------------------------9-7-5-----------------------------------
6-5-7-8-------------------------------------------------------------------------8-7-5---------------------------


Formula
1 2 3b 4 5 6 7b 8
Notes
A
B
C
D
E
F#
G
A
Key Signature
   
F#
   

Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
4th bar use D mixolydian mode (red = root or 1)
1-----------------------------------------------------------10------------------------------------------------------
2----------------------------------------------10-12-13-----13-12-10----------------------------------------
3----------------------------------9-11-12---------------------------------12-11-19--------------------------
4----------------------9-10-12-----------------------------------------------------------12-10-9--------etc..
5----------9-10-12------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
6-10-12------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Formula
1 2 3 4 5 6 7b 8
Notes
D
E
F#
G
A
B
C
D
Key Signature
F#

Practise and memorize with alternate picking!
Form Object
Now you have 5 modes. Each mode will fit over the chord but the way you phrase is crucial to the musical result. When using the Eb Ionian mode over the Ebma7th chord, don't hold the 4th note, which is Ab for too long. It is better felt as a passing note as opposed to a held note. This is because of a semitone clash between the 3rd and the 4th, creating a minor 2nd interval, which is very dissonant. You can hold all the notes of the F Dorian mode against the Fm7 chord, but use the 6th, which is a D, sparingly unless you like the flavour. When using the G Phrygian over the Gm7, don't hold the b2 = Ab or b6 = Eb because they create a dissonance that is not pleasant to the ear. All notes of the A Dorian mode and D mixolydian can be held or sustained over the respective Am7 and D11 chords.

When you listen to the chord, arpeggio and scale or mode played together they create what is called tonality. Practise different number sequences on the chords, with arpeggios and modes. This will give your fingers basic motor skills which in turn give the rudimentary musical language of creating musical phrases. Try varying the rhythmic aspect of your phrases and apply question and answer type licks over the changes. Try not to sound like there is a new scale being applied every time you change chords. Remember that all the arpeggios you have memorized are already part of the modes, so if you end your phrases on the arpeggio notes, you will create the satisfying melodic cadence that is required for the listener!

If your a total beginner guitarist even this simple type of terminology will probably baffle you, so consider professional tuition and lighten the load. John Mizarolli 07958 427 236

Free blues guitar lesson. Download a free beginners rock lesson by leading cult rock Uk guitarist. Click here! John worked for years with Ginger Baker who was the first superstar rock drummer. Ginger formed the legendary Cream in the 1960's featuring Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce. Cream went down in rock history.


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Playing over changes is definitely not easy, but if your chord sequence is not too complicated then you can always look for a simple major or minor pentatonic blues scale that will work! The music theory behind soloing and playing over chords is the same regardless of the style or idiom of your song. So maybe you should take the theory side of music more seriously! Guitar with music theory gives you an interface between imagination and fingers! Learn guitar with Uk's leading guitar teacher!

 

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