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Thread: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    I'm kinda stuck on this in a song I'm working on . . . typically I try to follow the changes in a solo and use lots of arpeggios and chord tones, but when there are no changes how do you kinda tell a story and keep the listener's interest without just sounding like boring wanking away in a single key?
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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    I mean this in all seriousness, listen to how Neil Young does it. Preferably the old stuff. He takes it to an extreme, sure, but nevertheless can make one note seem interesting.
    Also, B.B. King.

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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Quote Originally Posted by Demanic View Post
    I mean this in all seriousness, listen to how Neil Young does it. Preferably the old stuff. He takes it to an extreme, sure, but nevertheless can make one note seem interesting.
    Also, B.B. King.

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    ha.... yep -Neil Young is like a chicken pecking and hunting around the fretboard....
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Listen to Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue'. Much of that album is soloing over one chord for a whole lot of time. I think over a static chord, you have a lot more choices than you would if there was a constantly moving harmony. The key is listening how others do it first. Try this: loop a chord, then don't use the first 3 scales you think that will work. You are then forced to learn something new, and understand the relationship of that chord to the new scales you are using.
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    OH THE GLAZE! Clint 55's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Make sequences. Make up a melody, then a variation, back to the 1st melody, resolution, for example. Or use different voicings or inversions of the 1 chord in between your melody ideas or as melody ideas.
    Last edited by Clint 55; 11-27-2019 at 08:40 PM.
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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    I suppose soloing over one chord could be a bit different than soloing over one chordal progression. But Miles Davis, yeah, he knows what he's doing. But then, I think of David Gilmour. He doesn't solo over one chord, or does he?
    Maybe I'm not quite comprehending the question.
    But I'll leave this here.

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    One of Jerry's Kids Securb's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarStv View Post
    I'm kinda stuck on this in a song I'm working on . . . typically I try to follow the changes in a solo and use lots of arpeggios and chord tones, but when there are no changes how do you kinda tell a story and keep the listener's interest without just sounding like boring wanking away in a single key?
    Play around with the relative minor/major, chromatic movement can also open a lot of things up.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mincer View Post
    Listen to Miles Davis 'Kind of Blue'. Much of that album is soloing over one chord for a whole lot of time.
    That is a master class on the Dorian mode

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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Another?
    Well, I just can't help myself.

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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    More on the rock side is pretty much the entire first Mahavishnu Orchestra album. John McLaughlin absolutely rips non-cliche solos over one key center.
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    PenultimateTone Member Demanic's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Quote Originally Posted by NegativeEase View Post
    ha.... yep -Neil Young is like a chicken pecking and hunting around the fretboard....
    Seems to come up with a few grains.

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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    One thing that helps with tension/resolution is to avoid those chord tones. Starting on the 4th, 6th or 7th can derail that tendency to do the S.O.S. and may lead you in an interesting direction.

    Alternative modes are fun too. Minor chord - use Phrygian instead of Dorian. Major key - try Lydian.

    Again, it breaks the mold and often can inspire.
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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Thanks guys, I'll try out a few of these approaches and see what sticks.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas Adams
    This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    One thing you can do, is cheat!

    Instead of playing one chord, you can allude to it or play a suspension. One trick that works quite well is to play the 'home note' (eg, C) and the fifth (G); then you have the freedom to play around with modal interchange and dramatically change the feel whilst still playing 'in key'. Joe Satriani calls this Pitch Axis, there are a bunch of other names as well.

    The 3rd is what gives the chord its power (arguably; at least it's a big "I'm and X chord" sign), and is also the hardest to veer off of once it's in the chord. Playing just the root and 5th allows you to go from a major third to a minor third without changing the underlying chord. It also allows you to shift the root note and make it a different scale degree entirely as long as you remember to play the same 5th note that's in the chord (unless you're intentionally going for the rub).

    Edit: This is is a variation on what eclecticsynergy stated above; also good advice, though it will sound more like a key change than just a subtle shifting of emotion...
    Last edited by TwilightOdyssey; 11-28-2019 at 09:18 AM.
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    Sock Market Trader GuitarStv's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Quote Originally Posted by TwilightOdyssey View Post
    One thing you can do, is cheat!

    Instead of playing one chord, you can allude to it or play a suspension. One trick that works quite well is to play the 'home note' (eg, C) and the fifth (G); then you have the freedom to play around with modal interchange and dramatically change the feel whilst still playing 'in key'. Joe Satriani calls this Pitch Axis, there are a bunch of other names as well.

    The 3rd is what gives the chord its power (arguably; at least it's a big "I'm and X chord" sign), and is also the hardest to veer off of once it's in the chord. Playing just the root and 5th allows you to go from a major third to a minor third without changing the underlying chord. It also allows you to shift the root note and make it a different scale degree entirely as long as you remember to play the same 5th note that's in the chord (unless you're intentionally going for the rub).

    Edit: This is is a variation on what eclecticsynergy stated above; also good advice, though it will sound more like a key change than just a subtle shifting of emotion...
    The section of the song is in E, and the bass is playing lots of root and 5th with some 2nd, 4th, and b7th sprinkled in . . . so no third to be concerned about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Douglas Adams
    This planet has - or rather had - a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

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    Darkness on the edge of Tone TwilightOdyssey's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    The bass is still adding chordal harmonies, though. In this instance I would just play E in the bass. Once you have the solo figured out you can change the bass line to accommodate.
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    OH THE GLAZE! Clint 55's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Ya to me a factor in my solos sounding wankory is only maintaining 1 train of thought and trying to make it one big line. Or never taking the time to work out actual melodies and just fiddling with scales. If you structure it into smaller melodic phrases and then adapt them to contrast with and relate to each other while developing the solo as a whole, then it sounds more legit. If you do that, you can build a pro sounding solo with only pentatonic. Add in other scales, like the others said and you're gold.
    Last edited by Clint 55; 11-28-2019 at 11:38 AM.
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Well, lets say, over a minor chord, you can play pentatonic, blues, Dorian, Phrygian, Aolian, Harmonic, & Melodic minor (and a ton of other ones). That's a lot of options.
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    Mojo's Minions LLL's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    Start with a sweeping arpeggio, break into an 8-finger tap dance, toss in a pick scrape or two, then finish with a harmonic at the 2.5 fret (G string) dive-bomb flourish.

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    SDUGF Riffologist Supremö B2D's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    I try to switch up modes occasionally. For instance, if I'm in a minor chord/key I'll play straight minor, dorian, phrygian, etc.

    Here's an excellent example of jamming on one tonic with Joe Satriani. Go to the 24:00 mark to see what I mean.


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    Super Toneologist VinceT's Avatar
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    Default Re: What's your approach for soloing over a single chord for several bars?

    To me, it depends on what happens after that one chord - is it leading somewhere, either a new verse or chorus, or resolution to another chord, etc?

    If the next thing is a melodic section, like a verse or chorus, then calling forward hints of that melody into your one chord section will build expectation. If there’s resolution to another chord, then try runs to lead there, then pull back, like waves lapping a beach.

    Final thought, drawing on Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and others - don’t be afraid of motif repetition and drones.


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