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"I'm just playing out of the chord shape" What the hell does this really mean?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by rich2k4, Dec 5, 2015.

  1. rich2k4

    rich2k4 TDPRI Member

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    A lot of players I admire (specifically country players) always mention that they are "playing out of the chord shapes" when soloing and navigating through chord changes. However, none of them go in to any detail about what exactly that means.

    I figured it shouldn't be that hard, learn the CAGED system for every key, learn the associated major scale, and pentatonic shape around each chord, and then apply it. When the chord changes, you look for the nearest chord shape that matches what's currently under you and play around in the associated scale.

    Seems easy, but it's still not clicking. I've been working on this for months and it's still not sounding good at all. I am thinking that it is more too it than this.

    I have yet to find instructional material that dives deep into this concept of "playing out of the chord shape" soloing. I'm essentially looking for someone to break it down as much as possible and basically hand hold through everything, because it's just not clicking for me.

    I created an earlier thread asking if Doug Seven's 3 Pillars of Soloing dives in to this or not, but couldn't get any information.
     
  2. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Great idea for a thread. Can't wait to hear the responses.
     
  3. Chicago Matt

    Chicago Matt Friend of Leo's

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    I think these players probably mean you play around in the notes of the chord you are in, not the "associated scale" as you are saying. When asked what notes to play when improvising in jazz, Carol Kaye says "What's wrong with the notes in the chord?" She goes on to say that it's not about scales. This concept works alot better for me than even thinking about a scale as such. You will probably get many answers better than mine. :)
     
  4. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

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    I didn't learn that way, so I don't think of chord shapes when I solo. I learned scales and fingering patterns from a shredder teacher (mid '80s), and then by trial and error figured out what works and doesn't for each chord progression, gradually building a palette of places to go on the fretboard that sound good to me. I've also found that phrasing and note inflection is just as important as note selection. It sounds like that may be the part your having issues with - the transition from technical and mechanical to artistic. It's not so much what you play, it's how you play it.

    The way I learned to play lead was to jam with my friends. None of us even tried to sing, we'd just find a progression and then toss the lead around between us. Did this for many years multiple days a month. No judgements, just out to have fun. Just trying to find those magical moments when everything clicks. I'm so happy I did it this way.
     
  5. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

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    Gotta ditch the scale thinking, at least when learning it.

    Sit down and learn Charlie Christian's Rose Room and see how each note and phrase sits perfectly over the current chord in the progression.

    Other Christian songs: flying home, grand slam, wholly cats, shivers. Actually all of them, but these songs are very approachable.

    Herb Ellis has a trilogy of instructional books that focus on precisely this style of playing. You may want to check them out.
     
  6. klasaine

    klasaine Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    That's a really good question.
    I play a lot of jazz and I'll play over chord changes which means I know what notes are in the chord as well as it's appropriate extensions, alterations and substitutions but I don't usually think 'shape' as in chord shape on the fretboard. Of course this results in me playing what ends up being a physical chord shape on the guitar. Chicken/egg ... I don't know.

    *I do occasionally think/see actual chord shapes when I improvise - and I definitely did when I was learning as a kid.

    **I also use scales A LOT in conjunction with the chord tones. I think everybody does ... whether they admit it or not. If you play 3 or more notes in a row that are a half step or whole step apart, ascending or descending, you're playing part of a 'scale'.
     
  7. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Playing out of chord shapes...
    Rich2k4, I think you are on the track with that 'caged' thing. That is, there are some chord shapes....and therefore some scale shapes...that lend themselves to a certain style or passage or song or tonality. Country players often play out the barre G and barre C shapes, for example.
    Big +1 with what Klasaine says...especially the last paragraph. Otherwise one is off into some very esoteric music about which I know little...would that be called atonal????
     
  8. janopack

    janopack TDPRI Member

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    Changes playing is not easy. It really takes time. I think what the players mean when they say "I'm just playing out of the chord shape" is, using chord shapes as a framework for locating notes. The CAGED system certainly helps in this aspect.

    When playing over a chord, the best notes to use are the chord tones, they fit and sound the most reassuring. However if you just play chord tones all the time it gets very boring. So you have to utilize other tones to introduce some colour or tension.

    So essentially it's about note choice and placement. Because really there is only one scale, which is the chromatic scale (all twelve notes). And you have to know how each note sounds against a given chord in a musical situation, and use this information to come up with interesting musical phrases. It's not about playing scales

    These two vids should help


     
  9. fakeocaster

    fakeocaster Tele-Afflicted

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    +1
     
  10. Wally

    Wally Telefied Ad Free Member

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    janopack, that first video emphasizes playing scales....or rather, playing notes from the scales (other than the 12 note chromatic)....as I understood what he was doing and saying. So, your statement 'it is not about playing scales' is imho not quite accurate. I guarantee that Mr. Govan plays with reference to scales and chords...and their various shapes. I take him at his word adn his playing.
    I believe that this is what the OP is asking about. How to play out of chord shapes??...which ime leads to playing out of the various patterns of scales....of which there are quite a number.
    What is achievable physically with scales and tonally with chords by utilizing the various shapes lends versatility to one's playing. There are things that cannot be done in one shape/pattern that can be easily done in another shape/pattern. Mr. Govan went through three chord/scale patterns at the minimum in the first minute of his Aminor thing there.
    With regard to the country thing I mentioned, for example.... There are certain bend techniques that are available in the barre C shape that simply cannot be done in any other shape.
     
  11. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    What I am going to suggest would take a little effort, as it involves reading music. But you can translate notes on the staff to TAB.

    Find of make a chart showing the notes in the 12 major and 12 minor triads.

    Get a lead sheet that shows the melody and the chords above it. Using your chart, circle every note that is a member of the chord above. Then play it and study it. You will learn almost everything you need to know about how melody and harmony work together.

    I have probably offered this advice once a year on this forum since 2007. No one has ever replied that, yeah, they did it and how cool it was.

    Reading music is not just so that you'll be able to play something written down. It is an amazing door opener to learning. But it is a delayed gratification thing, and I don't get a feeling that many guitar players feel that the payoff would be worth it (as if they would even know what a payoff would be like). Sorry, that's the pain talking. Grrr.

    Anyway, you would be able to see that notes on the beat, or strong sub-divisions, repeated notes, and long notes have a strong tendency to be chord tones. A chord tone is one of the notes of a chord. All of the other notes, the non-chord tones, are traditionally called dissonances and are usually either passing tones (which fill in the space between chord tones) or neighbor notes (which are a step above or below a chord tone).

    I would start off with triads only. Whenever a 7th or 9th chord tone appears in the melody, it might very often be treated as a melodic dissonance. One potential hang up that beginning/intermediate guitar players seem to have, is to regard 7th and 9th chords as being on a par with triads. For example, when someone gives advice on this forum about chords, what they are, and how to use them, they almost always recommend that you learn major triads, minor triads, 7th chords, and 9th chords. If someone doesn't mention 9th chords, sure enough, someone else will say in a later post, "don't forget about 9th chords." Then, someone will say "and 11ths and 13ths, not to mention the altered chords." As a teacher or student, you need to learn what is most important at the time.

    I'm veering off to where the pain is taking me, so, no more rant = no more pain? Maybe? Please, God?
     
  12. Larry F

    Larry F Doctor of Teleocity Vendor Member

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    By the way, the more closely a song adheres to the model of chord tones on strong beats and sub-divisions, with non-chord tones landing on the weak beats or sub-divisions, the more it sounds like a nursery rhyme or TV commercial. Exceptions exist.
     
  13. Itwang

    Itwang Tele-Meister

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    It's a mighty big topic for sure. I play out of chord shapes constantly, or should I say chord fragments. Never do I hold a 5 or 6 string chord grip and then attempt to play lead lines. Rather, I mentally map the shape and then play melodically from where the chord tones lay on the guitar neck. Each grip has its own idiosyncrasies and lend themselves to different techniques like arpeggios, sweep picking, hybrid picking, alternate picking, fingerstyle, etc.

    One more thing, some people think that melodic playing (regardless of instrument) means only using intervals of a third or larger. They consider all other notes as passing tones.

    I say to the OP stick with the caged concept and use the chord shapes as a roadmap of the fingerboard. Then find techniques that are comfortable as you navigate playing lead lines.
    Start with say a pre-recorded I-V progression, then to a I-IV-V, then I-VI-II-V, etc.......
    It does become more intuitive after a while.........
     
  14. Skub

    Skub Poster Extraordinaire

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    I believe when you play the melody in the chords of a song it shows you the possibilities of playing the changes. If not,at least you have an unaccompanied song down! It's how I learned guitar,but then I know knob all proper theory.
     
  15. kent1113

    kent1113 TDPRI Member

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    I was waiting for someone to use the magic word 'arpeggios', that is, using the chords as notes instead of a series of scales. Because of the 'chord shapes' arpeggio are limitless and continue through the whole neck.

    Listen to Jeff 'Skunk' Baxter, Dickie Betts and you'll hear arpeggiated leads more than scale soloing.
     
  16. janopack

    janopack TDPRI Member

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    Hi Wally, this is an interesting discussion. There are many ways to look at this, so I'm not saying i'm correct. There is no definitive answer.

    I disagree that the first video is about scales in the sense that he is treating the A minor pentatonic scale as an entity per se. What he is doing though is demonstrating how various notes sound against the Am chord. He doesn't even bring up the idea of "scale" until later in the video, when he has introduced all fives notes of the A minor pentatonic scale. He shows the reason that the A minor pentatonic scale is so useful over a A minor chord is exactly because it contains the best sounding notes: the chord tones, plus the 4 and the flat 7. Then in the second video, he shows you can added the 2 and the major 6 to get the full Dorian modal tone. But again he shows the importance of note choice: what notes you choose to play can bring out different tonal qualities, even if all the notes constitute the Dorian mode.

    A scale is only a linear sequence of notes in order, just like the alphabet. If one thinks only in terms of scales, then your thoughts are mostly likely concentrated on patterns and shapes. It's not wrong to think this way, and has its uses, but it's too linear. Because you are putting the same importance on each note. Theory constructs such as scales/modes are just tools to help us organize information. You say that Guthrie "plays with reference to scales and chords", I totally agree. But the key word here is reference, because he understands scales on a deeper level, he is not blindly playing scales. Therefore it's not about scales.

    Go to 5m30sec of the first video, he shows that holding the D note over a A minor chord sounds "wrong" and requires resolution, even though D is in the A minor pentatonic.
     
  17. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Arpeggios, yes.

    To me, playing out of the chords is simply a way to target the strong notes.

    If you're playing over the IV chord, and you land on the 1 (of the IV), well, it's the root of the chord, and is going to sound great. But if you target (end your phrase on) that very same note when playing over the I chord, it's going to sound like crap. It's still a note in the scale of the key, but in that context it's not a good target note.

    Try noodling over a bluesy track. Play whatever notes you want as the chords change, but at the end of each phrase, land on the 1, 3, or b7 of that chord.

    All notes do not have equal value, and the values change with context (chord).
     
  18. eclipse

    eclipse Tele-Meister

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    One approach is to learn triads by string set such as on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd or the 2nd, 3rd and 4th.
    Lot of players combine these chords shapes with other approaches such as arpeggios or solo just out of these chord shapes and the notes that fall around them.
     
  19. ThermionicScott

    ThermionicScott Poster Extraordinaire

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    I feel bad for you, man! :lol:

    Still digesting this post, but it seems to make perfect sense so far -- I'll give it a whirl later.
     
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