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Soloing over the old D - C - G progression

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Califiddler, Sep 12, 2009.

  1. Califiddler

    Califiddler Friend of Leo's

    Jan 21, 2005
    I'm sure that this has been addressed before, but I searched and couldn't find anything, so my apologies if the answer is out there and I just couldn't find it.

    I'm talking Southern Rock here, like Sweet Home Alabama, Can't You See, etc., and I'm talking about scale-based improvisation. And I'm really talking about that sound that is kind of blues and kind of country.

    What scales do you use to get that sound over this chord progression? Is there one scale that you play over the whole thing? Or do you need a different scale for each chord? Or do you use one scale over the D and C and a different scale over the G, or one scale over the D and another for the C and G?

    Major pentatonic? Minor pentatonic? Mixolydian?

    Thank you for any help!

  2. Lerb21

    Lerb21 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 10, 2007
    New Florence, PA
    I use Minor Pentatonic Blues Scale coupled with a few other things (Major bends and 7ths) over it.

    This old guy.


  3. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

    the main 'lick' in can't you see is in Dmajor pent...

    I think you can find stuff that works and over the years, I just blur the different scales together... most southern rock and fast country stuff you can mix and match major and minor and have it both work... as long as you stay aware of getting back to your root, you are good to go.

    you can also isolate over chords and find really cool stuff.... mixing the scales helps you create the tension you want if you ask me.

  4. jazztele

    jazztele Poster Extraordinaire

    Sep 19, 2006
    D mixolydian and a little Dminor pent with the added major third (that's a must--don't hang on the m3 over the D), and certainly, like getbent advised, isolate the chords and rip off some G major and G major pentatonic runs over the G.

  5. jamester

    jamester Tele-Holic

    Aug 1, 2009
    Baltimore, MD
    The southern rock sound uses a lot of Major Pentatonics. You can get away with using the key's scale only, but it'll be better if you move the scale to fit the chord. Use a lot of 3rds/6ths and double-stops with hammer-ons, you'll start getting a feel for it...

  6. ddewerd

    ddewerd Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    The age old discussion....

    The solo in Sweet Home Alabama looks like it's in G major pentatonic, which is "where" I play it, but I don't think of it quite that way. For instance, to resolve to a D note, it's not in the same position as you would normally think for a major pentatonic scale.

    Whew, that goes back to the Thinking About Modes thread. I'm sure you're playing some other mode of a D scale, which just happens to sort of look like a G major pentatonic scale, but I'll leave to someone else to say which one. I can play it, but I'd be lying if I said I understood it all.


  7. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Sweet Home Alabama is definitely G major pent for solos. I can't tell you how many times I've heard this classic tune destroyed by some guy playing a D minor pent scale and they just don't hear it!

    Along those lines, the guys in my band end the song by punching the last 3 chords F, C, D and it makes me insane! It needs to end F, C, G. They're all really good players and get the solo parts right but that D chord ending makes me crazy. It just doesn't resolve like G does.

    Can't You See is different in that it dwells on the D and resolves there so a D major pent will work there. Sweet Home dwells and resolves on the G. Two very different feels.

  8. Budda

    Budda Tele-Holic

    Apr 27, 2009
    Here it goes..........


  9. DavyA

    DavyA Tele-Meister

    Dec 19, 2006
    Longmont Colorado
    If I had to think in terms of scales I would probably use a D major pentatonic but add the b3rd and the b7th and just go with that. I guess its like a D major and a D minor pentatonic put together...really I would work each chord seperatly and use those chord tones and extentions..

    Have fun

  10. getbent

    getbent Telefied Ad Free Member

    I think for those two tunes... telenator has the most direct path for what you are looking for.... those two songs have a lot of the same chords in them but are pretty different types of soloing situations...

  11. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Atlanta/Rome, Georgia, US
    I have to chuckle a bit because "Can't You See" is usually a tune I toss out if the Skynyrd faithful have a full head of steam and a bit too much sauce under the belt. Last night's gig was among the very best of the year, and after several encores, the room wouldn't let us leave. For the last one, my partner decided to launch into the Marshall Tucker tune, and I leaned over and said "You're kidding, right?", to which he replied, "Nah, milk it to death, they'll love it."

    It's tough to remember everything I played since it was spontaneous, but I'll try. The first solo was very Toy Caldwell, and peppered with some of my fave butt-simple Floyd Cramer slip note piano chordal stuff. Had the tune showed up earlier in the evening, I'd have probably left it at this. The second solo just went on and on and ON. I started with sort of a Richard Thompson type approach with a Celtic bent that took advantage of open string drones, and I made use of harmonics and some ear tweaker 'in-between' bends. Then I started playing some things out a Bm7b5 arpeggio along with some chromatic stuff (I guess I was thinking "southern rock jazz" at this point). I then started playing some melodies with octaves and diatonic sixths and "tenth" (3rd) intervals. After that, I upped the gain and went back into Toy Caldwell mode, skirting between major, minor, and mixo stuff. Ordinarily, I like to resolve the tension and bring it back down by copping that signature flute riff, but as the room was aching to be brought over the top, I started playing some melodies in fourths and then did this (BS-approved) triplet root-octave-fifth chromatic figure that kept ascending and descending, until it finally landed on a D5 chord. At this point, I reached down and tweaked the MXR Carbon Copy toward flying saucer noises and fart/splat sounds through the speakers. The delay allowed me to hit the mute button with lots of ambient trail hanging over afterward, which in turn allowed me to put down the instrument, leave the room with the desired "WTF was that?" effect, and walk outside to get some air while there was still some noise emanating from the rig.

  12. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    Bwah ha ha! Sheer genious!

  13. Tim Bowen

    Tim Bowen Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 17, 2003
    Atlanta/Rome, Georgia, US
    In truth, probably more like inspired BS and wankery at the end of the evening... but good clean fun nonetheless!

  14. Telenator

    Telenator Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

    Sep 19, 2005
    LOL! I was impressed most by your ability to actually put a name to each movement of the jam and create a literary cresiendo along the way!

  15. SweetTea

    SweetTea TDPRI Member

    Jun 29, 2008
    Kackalak del Norte
    As for Sweet Home Alabama, here it is from the guy who wrote it. Even Ed King and Steve Gaines had differences of opinion over it.

    "Kooper simply didn't like the solo because it wasn't in the key of D. He probably would've loved Steve Gaines' solo on the live album. As great as Gaines was, I was always surprised that he couldn't "hear" the real key. And to compound Kooper's error, he played the song for Mike Bloomfield and Bloomfield laughed when he heard it. "That guy played the solo in the wrong key!"

    In my defense...both guitar solos came to me in a dream. Note for note. I just played it as I saw it. The tune was recorded at Studio One, Doraville, GA. NOT L.A. I believe I did the solo in 2 takes. (I've had other song ideas come to me right before drifting off to sleep. But I never actually SAW a solo like the two I saw in SHA.)

    I have heard stories that Kooper wanted to redo the solo with either Collins or Rossington and they couldn't come up with anything that fit -- I have heard that story but I have never asked either one of them about it. The guys actually stuck up for me. They said that since I had saw it in a dream then that is the way it was going to be. I didn't just hear it in a dream, I actually saw it. When Billy [Powell] plays his piano solo, he plays it in the key of G.

    My crazy logic always told me that the song is actually in G...NOT D. The song RESOLVES in G....listen to Billy's piano solo at the's in G. In 1989, Wolf Marshall did a transcription of my guitar solo for Guitar For The Practicing Musician. He indicated ONE SHARP...which IS the key of G. I rest my case." - Ed King

  16. thessandman

    thessandman TDPRI Member

    Jul 2, 2009
    Gainesville, Fla.
    One sharp would also be D MIXOLYDIAN, which is the key the song is on.

  17. slowpinky

    slowpinky Tele-Afflicted


  18. JayFreddy

    JayFreddy Poster Extraordinaire

    Nov 6, 2006
    Dallas TX USA
    +1. Follow the major chords with Major Pentatonics. You can use minor pentatonics on the D too, just make sure the minor 3rd gets bent up to the major 3rd pretty quick...

  19. Wailin' Tele

    Wailin' Tele Tele-Afflicted

    Jul 2, 2009
    Im always amazed when I read threads like this because I never consider scale types modes etc when I play.

    I concentrate on playing what I hear in the moment and have over the years tried to develop an understanding of where the next interval I want to play is in relation to the note I am on.

    I am not a gigging musician, Im more of a songwriter I guess. I can see the importance of following certain scales and such when nailing the piece for the public.

    Don't get me wrong, as a kid I studied scales up and down the neck , developed a few of my own, and have studied theory. I think every serious guitarist should know these things. However, speaking for myself, I found it worthwhile to approach my soloing from another angle. I reserve the right in a few years to go back and look at it again from a more structured perspective.

    Does anyone else just 'wing it'?

  20. strat a various

    strat a various Tele-Afflicted

    May 9, 2008
    Jay is right. To elaborate (or belabor the obvious), "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Can't You See?" are identical in terms of their progressions being I, bVII, IV. This is an interesting subject for me, because, even though I pay the rent playing Jazz, I do country and Blues recording sessions and the occasional classic rock gig with old friends.
    This quandary has been around since these tunes came out. I remember a bass player with a MUSIC DEGREE(!) telling me that SHA was in "G" and that the D was the V, the C was the IV. That was funny.
    You can write out the simple melody in any key you like ... you'd be surprised how many lead sheets are written in the wrong key, even the Real Books have mistaken key signatures. Harmonically, the tunes, SHA and CYS are in the key of the first chord. That can be confusing, because your ear can tell you that there is a resolution to "G", say if you start on "D". This is misleading. The IV chord degree is a partial resolution chord, and it sound like "home", but it isn't in this case.
    Another interesting thing about these Southern Rock tunes is that, like Jazz, you have a choice in your solos of playing over each chord respectively, or playing bluesy with attendant "blue notes" over the root chord.
    In "D" (Sweet Home Alabama is in "D"), you can play major tones in the tone center of each chord, play a blues scale over "D", or mix them up.
    I don't want to address what the original soloists played, anyone can look up the mp3s and examine them, and I don't want to comment on the style or theoretical knowledge of the original players.
    Speaking strictly from a music theory viewpoint, if the first chord is "D", progressing to "C" then "G", you're in "D" on these tunes, and, much like "Wicked Game" (from another thread), you can solo over the changes in a blues minorish pentatonic scheme through the whole progression over the root (first, in this case) chord. This alone supports the root key being the first chord.

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