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__tsidewinder__

chord tones or scales?

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I'm not great at improvisation, and with all this talk of chord tones vs scales, I don't know which way to progress. there are great players who use chord tones, and great players who use scales. How do I choose? I improvise right now by either intuition (guessing which notes to play) or by using the ol' blues scale. Either way works alright, I guess. Still, I don't want to learn 10 scales and how to use them, when chord tones would do alright.

There seems to be a melodic advantage with chord tones, but it seems it would be difficult to solo fast with them. In fact, I can't imagine how to solo with sixteenth notes while using chord tones. however, scales seem harder to learn, and less leaning towards melody.

how do I choose which way to progress? Which would you advise, and which way did you learn? SHould i learn both?

Also, does learning solos help with learning how to improvise?

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allthumbs    8

Scales and chords are pretty much the same notes. How you see the notes determines your note choices.

Chord tones are more melodic since most tunes have melodies based on them as the strongest notes. When adding non chord tones ie. others of the scale or non chord notes, the emphasis is still on the strongest notes, the chord tones.

Scales tend to be more linear because they are learned that way. The emphasis is more on speed than defining a melody. To play really fast, you need your fingers to be on auto pilot to play chunks of notes at a time. You don't have time to think about what the strongest notes in the scale your playing are and to make them stand out.

The best thing to do is to see the chords in scales or the scales in chords. That way you can shred your scales and then switch gears and slow down to focus on melodic runs. Players tend to gravitate to one comfort zone or the other.

I think in chords but, can see the underlying scales too. Which ever way you choose, don't lose sight of the fact that chords and scales are the same notes. It is not a matter of VS.

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"It is not a matter of VS"

so I should learn both? Or learn one while being aware of the other, and the connections thereof?

Some of my favourite players include David Gilmour, Joe walsh, and Slash. What do they use? I would Guess Gilmour uses the chord tone approach. Joe walsh seems to play scalar at times, and still hits chord tones away from scales often. Slash plays some really fast runs, and still sounds really melodic.

Do you know which they use?

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allthumbs    8

That is the trick. To be able to choose notes outside the chord tones or the scale that will make or break your improv. You need to understand chords to play well using scales. You still have to choose the scales that fit over the chord progression or it will sound terrible.

Knowing scales to the point that you can use bits of them to bridge between chord tones is also a good thing to know. It keeps going back to them being part of the same thing called music. Focus on one without losing sight of the other just like you said.

After studying them both at length, I found playing through chords and adding bits of scales where needed much easier for me personally. You will just have to play with them and see how they blend for you and the kind of music you want to play.

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Kirk Lorange    128

Hi _tsidewinder_ ... allthumbs said it well.

I think that he ultimate goal when improvising is to create pleasing melody, and pleasing melody follows the changes. The easiest way to follow the changes is to track chord tones since they are the chords deconstructed. Certain genres make it easy to stick to one little bunch of notes and use them throughout the whole tune but if you want to feel confident that you'll be able to play over any tune, then you'll need to know the chord structure and create your lines accordingly.

I will always recommend that you start with chord tones and work your way out to scales rather than the other way around, but whatever apporach you choose, you're going to need to know where ALL those notes are and what they sound like in the context of the moment. I like the chord tone approach because it sets up a heirarchy in my brain that I find useful: chord tones are the boss notes; the other scale notes are subsidiary, they can connect chord tones; the few chromatic notes that are left over are last, they can connect everything.

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knight46    2

I have a question about Chord Tones, I have been following a few threads and I think I understand. I am I correct to say that chord tones are those dominant tones (notes) in a chord that give it's sound or signature?

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Fretsource    3
I have a question about Chord Tones, I have been following a few threads and I think I understand. I am I correct to say that chord tones are those dominant tones (notes) in a chord that give it's sound or signature?

Chord tones are ALL the tones of a chord, Knight.

For example, say someone is playing the chord C major and you, as a lead guitarist, want to solo along with them. C major contains just three differently named notes C, E & G. Those are the chord tones and you can play them anywhere on the neck that you find them, confident in the knowledge that they will ALWAYS sound good with the chord. Of course you don't just stick with those notes, as that would soon become very boring, so you introduce passing notes between and around the chord tones, such as D, and F etc, to add spice and flavour to the main ingredients.

If the chord then changes to F major, for example, you immediately shift your focus to the chord tones of F major, Which are F A & C - and so on.

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knight46    2

Fretsource,

Thanks for the reply. So Chord Tones are the notes of a chord that can be played accompaning or improvising with the chord anywhere on the neck that will accentuate and complement the sound of the chord.

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Fretsource    3
Fretsource,

Thanks for the reply. So Chord Tones are the notes of a chord that can be played accompaning or improvising with the chord anywhere on the neck that will accentuate and complement the sound of the chord.

I couldn't have put it better myself, Knight :yes:

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knight46    2

Thanks, Fretsource. The information and helpfulness of the members here is what makes this site so great. I think I am finally understanding the guitar and not just holding it for looks.

Thanks again.

Eddie

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Dewy    0

Blue Jean Blues (ZZ Top original artist?) illustrates that point well. The song is a 12 bar blues in the key of Bm. Solo is easily accomplished with Bm pentatonic, or B blues... but YOU MUST make the chord changes with the rhythm section. Never leaving the "Scale" but always playing those "chords" in that scale.

When they goto the Em, you must hit it... when they change back to Bm... you must acknowledge that in your solo. Then the last change to F# is perhaps the most crucial as it sets up the climax of the solo and the turn around.

All of the licks between the verses also are just glorified runs to the coming chord change, whatever you play you MUST end with a salutation to the chord change.

So its not a "Scales vs Chord tones" debate in my opinion... but more of "Chords are what you do with Scales" revelation. What is fingerpicking if not "glorified soloing" over chord structure. "Finding" the melody of the song in the chords.

Yes, you must do more than simply Arpeggiate the chords over and over...

Which I would like to add as a side note I stumbled upon weeks before finding this forum... 26 years into being a organic guitar tuning device/Riff junkie I have an epiphiny... and then find this fantastic site where its all laid out in a straightforward and insightful fashion. :brickwall:

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OldG    3

Wow! What a great Post, Dewy!

I play the blues/minor pentatonic scale on a lot of stuff that's jammed around, I find it works well played over rock, blues, acoustic, ballads or almost anything thats being played... as long as you keep the 'feel' of the song in mind and 'follow the changes'. :)

I think the blues/minor pentatonic scale is a great start into improvisation... one moveable shape that shifts up and down the neck to suit your needs, nice n' easy to learn and use.:)

box1.gif

play at the 5th fret or 17th fret for Am/C, open or 12th fret for Em/G, or as Dewy mentioned 7th fret for Bm/D

Use this to get your fingers moving freely and to help with building riffs, and as a stepping stone to chord tone methods like Planetalk - It's a nice ,easy starting place :winkthumb:

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Dewy    0

Umm, thanks... hope folks find it useful.

I love the blues "Box" there... that and the Barre chord have been the foundation of my electric guitar playing since my Ol' Danelectro with the amp in the case. Also no way to play down the importance of "Licks" and "Riffs" built on this template... or your ability to run up and down this scale every way possible.

This should also be the begining of everyone's "scale" knowledge... and we should all learn to expand the box both up and down, as well as other boxes to play with.

But my revelation is in finding the root of whatever the song is doing underneath the solo, and playing off and with those chord tones. So its not either scales or tones... its the blend of the two, its using both as paint and canvas.

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AX7221    0

To me all of music theory, and all you need to know to jam is this: know what a note will sound/feel like before you play it...which is much easier said than done.

So I agree with what the previos people have said about scales "versus" chord tones. You need to know what note of the scale you are playing in order to know what it will sound/feel like, and, you need to know what chord tones you will/won't play to know what it will sound/feel like. like if you didnt know what the next note will sound like that you may as well just play randomly and you will get the same results.

This should also be the begining of everyone's "scale" knowledge... and we should all learn to expand the box both up and down, as well as other boxes to play with.

I agree with this too. The first time i jammed i used the E minor pent with the root on the 12th fret like the picture. And all i could figure out about what my next note will sound like is pitch. Which allowed me to have fun but not play very well. So here's the diagram i came up with that worked very well for me. In terms of the feel of a note is dependent on what note of the scale it is. For example the first pentatonic minor diagram made the distinction between the roots and the rest of the notes, but the rest of the notes were all lumped together. the root has the most distinctive feel to it, but the 2nd 3rd 4th and 5th notes of the scale all each have a distinct and reconizable feel to them. So i gave them each their own color. (for every scale diagram that i made i kept the same colors consistent for each harmony like b3 is always light blue and dark blue is always the 3rd harmony if you guys want i can attach the others). So the more i played i started noticing what feel the guitar made when i played the red dots, then i started noticing what feel i got when i played the light blue dots and so on. Now I'm moving on to my diagrams for chord tones with marginal success.

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