What to play over the IV (in country songs)

McGlamRock

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I have been really working lately to play the changes better. A lot of the country songs I play are pretty simple 1 4 5 tunes.

However, my ear is having trouble with the "lydian sound" when I get to the 4, so I usually lower the 4 (of the 4) a half step. So if I'm play a tune in G, when I get to the C, I'll play an F natural instead of an F#. That F# sounds really out of place to me, even if I'm using it quickly as a passing tone.

I'm guessing this is because most of the old country tunes have a strong blues influence, so they just treat all the chords like dominants.

Is that how you chicken pickers think too?
 

loopfinding

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i only dabble in country tunes (and probably moreso western swing) but i think you're right to just treat it as dominant-ish.

in the same way the extensions to the I get treated more like a major 6th or 6/9 chord and a natural 7th sounds a little out of place to sit on for too long.

in G i guess personally i would do something like...

G - E blues, G bebop, G maj 6th arps
C - A blues, C bebop, G blues if you want to be a little spicy
D - B blues, D bebop, D7 or F# half diminished arps
 
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bottlenecker

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I have been really working lately to play the changes better. A lot of the country songs I play are pretty simple 1 4 5 tunes.

However, my ear is having trouble with the "lydian sound" when I get to the 4, so I usually lower the 4 (of the 4) a half step. So if I'm play a tune in G, when I get to the C, I'll play an F natural instead of an F#. That F# sounds really out of place to me, even if I'm using it quickly as a passing tone.

I'm guessing this is because most of the old country tunes have a strong blues influence, so they just treat all the chords like dominants.

Is that how you chicken pickers think too?

I think it's because an F# is a dim5 from the C. So it's dissonant in the chord, but it also can be a bit uncountry to play a major 7th in the I chord.
 

Edgar Allan Presley

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Using that F natural is a good thing to do if you like it. Another way to think about it is in the key of G, play G mixolydian over the G chord, and G dorian over the C chord. Yes, G dorian has the same notes as C mixolydian, but it makes for nice thematic playing. You play a run in G with the B natural (major third) then over the 4 chord, play the same run but with a B flat. You're outlining a C7 chord, keeping that theme adapting to different chords underneath.
 

middy

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I have been really working lately to play the changes better. A lot of the country songs I play are pretty simple 1 4 5 tunes.

However, my ear is having trouble with the "lydian sound" when I get to the 4, so I usually lower the 4 (of the 4) a half step. So if I'm play a tune in G, when I get to the C, I'll play an F natural instead of an F#. That F# sounds really out of place to me, even if I'm using it quickly as a passing tone.

I'm guessing this is because most of the old country tunes have a strong blues influence, so they just treat all the chords like dominants.

Is that how you chicken pickers think too?
Playing the changes in major pentatonic, you won’t be hitting the 4s… concentrate on chord tones. But yeah, a dominant flavor to all the chords works as country has a good bit of blues in it.
 

drmordo

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Playing the changes in major pentatonic, you won’t be hitting the 4s… concentrate on chord tones. But yeah, a dominant flavor to all the chords works as country has a good bit of blues in it.

Exactly my thoughts.
 

Rockinvet

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You can use the F but, if you land on it and stay on it it is what’s called an “avoid tone,” because it is a half step away from the 3rd of the IV chord. Yes blues notes are effective and the F is a flat 7 in G which is in the G blues scale, just don’t hang on it too long. And as @middy said you can’t go wrong with chord tones.
 

JL_LI

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I play most of my country solos off the chords. I'll hold the shape or at least a partial shape of the chord, voice it, and play my solo. One thing you learn to do pretty quickly is to use the scale of the chord in place of the scale of the key. I also use the IV sus4 as a substitution and for a solo. Another useful substitution is IV maj7, especially where the major 7 of the IV scale appears in the melody. I tend to avoid pentatonics in country. I need all the notes. And while you're at it, think intervals and don't be afraid to go to up or down half a step from the 5th from a dominant 7. It will keep you from playing the same thing over and over again.
 

Leon Grizzard

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I thought you’d never ask.

It depends on the situation and style.

Since we are accustomed to using the mixolydian over each change, ie G mixo over the G, C mixo over the C etc. that sounds good and right. And proper.

If you are really playing a major scale passage, then you play the major scale; the F# over the C chord will sound fine.

But using the F# over a C7 chord in G can really sound great.

Envision a swingy or blues type progression, say Corrine Corrina. Play G major pentatonic or G mixolydian over the G chord, and then when you get to the C chord, try this:

Code:
C7

-----------------|-----------------|-----

-----------------|-3---------------|-----

-------2-3---2---|---5-3-5-3-------|-----

-2-4-5-----5---5-|-----------5-2---|-----

-----------------|---------------5-|-5---

-----------------|-----------------|-----


C lydian dominant, baby! Play it two frets higher over the D7 chord. You’re Roy Nichols, playing Think I’ll Just Stay and Drink with Merle Haggard. If the tune has II chord, play it there, too. I like over the I chord, too at times.

You do have to act like you mean it.

Another way to look at it is if you are playing E F# G, the F# is an approach tone to the G. You can approach any note from a half step below.
 

middy

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I play most of my country solos off the chords. I'll hold the shape or at least a partial shape of the chord, voice it, and play my solo. One thing you learn to do pretty quickly is to use the scale of the chord in place of the scale of the key. I also use the IV sus4 as a substitution and for a solo. Another useful substitution is IV maj7, especially where the major 7 of the IV scale appears in the melody. I tend to avoid pentatonics in country. I need all the notes. And while you're at it, think intervals and don't be afraid to go to up or down half a step from the 5th from a dominant 7. It will keep you from playing the same thing over and over again.
I use pentatonics for fast licks and milestones, but I agree, almost all notes are fair game.

Like Brad Paisley said, country guitar is just jazz on the bridge pickup.
 

twangjeff

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It really depends on the song. Working Man's Blues and Cowboy Rides Away are both (except for a ii in Cowboy) I IV V songs. You can treat the IV in Working Man's as a IV7, but the IV in Cowboy for be a IVmaj7.

Like so many others have already said, the two basic rules of the road would be to stick to chord tones and to listen to the melody for hints.
 

WireLine

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I like to dabble on the 2m instead of the 4…same notes basically, but adds a sweet spot for resolving to the 5 or back to 1…
 

ndcaster

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I think it's Zeke Turner who plays through the IV really nicely on this solo



a fancy term for the IV is "predominant," which suggests it's more like a pathway to V than its own special watering hole -- which suggests you don't need to bang on it. it's more like a pit-stop than a destination, so you can gesture at it and not work it to death

getting INTO the IV is another story ... I had my hair raised once by a jazzer who played a descending augmented lick a half-step above the IV to get down into the IV
 

Leon Grizzard

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I was going to multi-quote some things in this thread and then stopped when I realized I would have to quote almost everyone. Great observations and advice. I tend to think overall G, which includes M7 and b7 plus blue notes in general, and over the IV chord think both of both G overall and C specific, if that makes sense. Like middy said: almost all notes are fair game. But I am definitely going to fool around with loopfinding's suggestions - using different scales purposely gives different vibes, even if I would otherwise be using those notes as part my G-ness or C-ness playing.

From Wally, I don't really think of the F# over the C as the b5; I hear it as lydian #4. I'll try to open my ears on that.

Focusing on McGlamster's inquiry about F or F# over the C, i sat and played measures of G chord, then hit the C chord and played major scale type lines, and find that both usually sound good, just different. I think the longer the duration of the C chord, the better the F would sound. The IV chord often sounds like a real departure from the tonality of the I, and the F sort of tonicizes the the C chord, being the b7 of the V chord in C. I think as part of my learning process I have made myself embrace the whang of F# and I'm pretty used to it. But in any event, if you are just passing through I don't the listener would often think you're playing a clam if you play F#.

I think the F sounds more modal in the country sense and you see that in some fiddle tunes. I think the F sounds good over IVM7 chord even though by definition you are trending jazzy and the F# emphasizes that.

Don't just play pentatonics to avoid the issue - be purposeful. Avoid note means probably don't emphasize it unless you want you want that sound; it does not mean avoid it like the plague.

Too wordy; sorry, but I've struggled like our OP with how to handle that specific note, too.
 




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