'Improvising Guitar Solo's' Week 9

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'Improvising Guitar Solo's'
Week 9 - November 10th 2003
Last week we started to develop our chord sequences/compositions with view to soloing over them. We looked at
choosing appropriate keys in relation to using modes and the whole concept of writing chord
sequences/tunes/compositions. We also talked about developing hook/theme/riff lines to start and finish our solo's
with, to create a comfort zone whereby we can settle into the composition before launching into the improvisation.
This week I want to work on the hook/theme/riff ideas and work on them further as well as a slight diversion to
visit the odd landscape inhabited by those pesky 'Diminished' chords. Finally to discuss how you would like to run
next weeks performance session.
1). Some more handy hints.............
With the hook line try really hard to keep it simple. There are a gazillion examples but think of something along the lines of 'Layla' - Eric
Clapton, 'Green Onions' - Booker T and the Mg's, 'Come as you are' - Nirvana', 'Original Prankster' - The Offspring.
The one thing they have in common, apart from being killer licks, is that they are all pretty simple. They are memorable; they set the
tone for the piece and allow the improvisation, when it comes along, not to be overshadowed.
By keeping the hook simple you'll be able to play it with ease and confidence and in doing so create that all important comfort zone from
which to springboard, all guns blazing into your solo.
Have a rough idea of how long you want the improvisation section to be, mainly because you don't want to run out of ideas and feel
stranded. Even though the solo shouldn't really have any predetermined structure to it, it's good to have in mind what you'd like to
explore in it. First part could use the Dorian mode, followed by a bit of Minor Pentatonic rounded off with a bit of Phrygian sprinkled over
the top before return returning to the safe haven of your Lick/phrase/hook/lick etc.
The best bit of advice I can give you though is the simplest and often the hardest. RELAX, infinitely easier said than done but totally and
utterly INVALUABLE.
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2). Diminished chords.
Hmmmmm....................Diminished chords. What is it about them that makes them so...well....ODD?
Cast your mind back to the first lesson where we looked at the fundamental difference between a Major and a Minor Chord. It was all to
do with whether we flattened the 3rd note or not.
This created 2 characteristic sounds,
Major 3rd and Minor 3rd.
It's easy to see if you simply play a
major barre chord followed by a
minor one in the same position and
key.
Now what make the Diminished chord such a peculiar beast is that it's based around a Triad of 2 minor 3rd intervals lumped on top of
one another. It also lacks any 5th note, don't forget that the 5th note is the one that gives our most common chords their 'stability' and
is common in Major & Minor chords. Without this 5th the chord has a 'restless and unstable tone' that cries out to be resolved. Oh
yes...... and then in the easiest fingering of the chord the notes are rearranged in such a way as to slightly obscure the root note !
(I ask you WHO made up these rules !)
First of all play the following shape 'A' Diminshed.
You can see that it has the minor 3rd shape between
the 4th and 2nd fingers (A & C) and then another
minor 3rd between your 2nd and 1st fingers. (C & D#)
(You can let go of the chord now as it's probably
beginning to hurt by now)
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This is the same diminished chord but using a much
friendlier, traditional fingering for the chord.
The first finger plays the 2nd minor 3rd (D#) the 3rd
finger plays the root (A), the 2nd finger now plays the
1st minor 3rd (C) and the fourth finger adds a 6th Note
to the chord (F#).
Confused? The trick to remember when using this
shape is that the 3rd finger plays the root, NOT the
1st.
"GREAT! That’s that then" I hear you say, Well........ this creates a little bit of a problem.
Cast your mind back to the first week when we looked at playing all the chords in a major sequence, and how easy it was if we used
barre chords.
The sequence flowed really nicely from 1 chord to the next.
Fret No
5th
7th
9th
10th
Open
2nd
5th
Chord
A
Bm
C#m
D
E
F#m
A
Also remember that we skipped the diminished (G#dim ) or substituted it for another Minor because it was easier to do so.
(We cheated!)
If we want to complete the sequence in a text book fashion we really should add the diminished chord.
However in doing so we would have to step out of this nice, easy to follow sequence and leap from the 2nd fret up to the 9th and then
back to the 5th.
Fret No
5th
7th
9th
10th
Open
2nd
9th
5th
Chord
A
Bm
C#m
D
E
F#m
G#Dim
A
Unfortunately there isn’t a simple way out of this, but there is another diminished chord shape that we can use.
In our example in the key of ‘A’ this would fall into the sequence nicely on the 4th fret, however the chord shape is a bit of a handful.
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The note spelling for this chord rooted on the 5th fret looks
like this A, D#, A, C, F#, A.
Now the sequence flows again.
Fret No
5th
7th
9th
10th
Open
2nd
4th
5th
Chord
A
Bm
C#m
D
E
F#m
G#Dim
A
Here are 6 of the most useful, moveable diminished shapes with the root notes highlighted
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