Well, the first thing you need to know is what kind of chord changes they are.
Are you dealing with triads?
Are you soloing over 7th chords?
Is this pop harmony?
Is it jazzy?
Is it a rock oriented power chord progression?
The main thing is to understand the harmony and then the style of music. That will help you direct your efforts. That will help you develop your strategy. For instance, if someone asked me how to solo over a I-VI-II-V progression, I would ask whether it’s in a pop context or a jazz context. That will determine the kinds of melodies I would suggest. Pop melodies tend to be more scalar and singable. Jazz melodies tend to have a combination of arpeggios, scales and chromaticism (depending on which era of jazz). The more modern jazz melodies tend to have more dissonant ideas.
As an introduction, there are two main strategies to soloing over chord changes:
- key center soloing
- chord of the moment soloing
With key center soloing, we try to generalize the chord progression into the keys that you’re playing in. With a I-VI-II-V in C, you can solo with just the C Major scale. With chord of the moment, you’ll need to be able to outline the changes. This means you need to be able to play the arpeggios for each chord and connect them. In the end, you really need to be able to connect your melodies so they flow over each chord. You need to make them sound smooth and not blocky. What I mean by blocky, is that it sounds like the melody stops each time you change chords. This is what most players spend the most time developing, to get over this hurdle – to connect the melodies smoothly.
If you’d like to sound awesome over chord changes, try these action steps in your next practice session:
- Choose a chord progression you’d like to solo over.
- Decide whether you want to practice key center soloing or chord of the moment soloing.
- Create or find a backing track to practice this.
- Start improvising using the concept. Record your improvisation so you can hear what you like and dislike about your melodies.
- If you’re stuck, write lines/etudes to practice over the backing track. This is to develop both your ears and your technique.
- Practice those lines as your daily practice routine.
- Then, start doing variations of those lines. Begin to improvise around the ideas you’ve created.
- If you have no ideas, find solos by players that you admire and transcribe their lines.
- Analyze their melodies to get ideas for your own.
- Repeat steps 1-9 for the next chord progression.
Hope you found this blog post helpful. Please share this post if you think others might enjoy it!
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
Do you have problems soloing over chord changes?
Do you have another cool strategy or practice method?
Leave your answer in the comments below. Remember to share as much detail as possible so that we can all learn from one another. Your insight may help another guitarist someone from across the world.
Thank you for reading and for hanging out here! If you’d like to improve your guitar playing and get more lessons like this, subscribe now via the box on the right side of this page.