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I notice you play bass. In jamming a bass line you rely upon the Root and 5 note of the chord, in jamming a chord progression you can rely upon the root chord and the five chord of the key. In rhythm guitar as in bass guitar the rhythm (beat) is important the actual chord or note sounded is secondary, i.e. in both cases you can get by with a root-five groove. Read on.....
Playing chords - lets look at what the rhythm guitar guys do. They first learn their 7 major triads, 7 minor triads and the 7 dominant seven chord. Then after getting those 21 chord shapes into muscle memory they start play rhythm guitar to some fake chord sheet music. Find some fake chord sheet music on you style of music and learn; 1) how to play from fake chord and then 2) what are the basic progressions used in your style of music. In my ole time Country everything is major chord so that narrows the progression down to the I, IV and V chord. Country and Gospel are normally three chord songs so again that narrows it down to the I-IV-V chords. In jamming I go with I-IV-V until proven wrong.
Now we could get into how chords move to each other and why a sub-dominant chord wants to move to a dominant chord and things like that, but, to jamm a chord progression that is not really necessary. Most songwriters seem to have several chord progression that they like to use in their songs - so that one fact will make it easy for us in our jamming. For example:
Country will use one of the following progression most of the time.
the ole standby I-IV-V-I, or...
I-V-I-IV-V-I, or I-IV-I-V-I, or perhaps...
Each of those have a V-I cadence - so the song is called out to be in the key of C. That tells us that the C chord and the G chord are going to be used in the progression ---- guaranteed! The IV or F chord is another good candidate. Anything else could be in this progression as all chords in a key will sound good with each other, but, if you assume the I, IV and V are going to be used you are in good company. My point - the songwriter has figured all this out for you, grab some fake chord sheet music and study what chords are being used and how they move to each other - in the style you enjoy playing.
OK just in case:
Chord number...... I....ii....iii..IV..V...vi....vii
Key of C chords = C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am, Bdim
If the rhythm guitar guy called the song you can also assume that he knows the chord progression that will be used in the song. While jamming look at his fretting hand and change chords when he does.
If you get lost in the jamm revert to a I-V-I vamp till you find your place. In a long set, over an hour, I've been know to ride a V chord and just play rhythm and take a quick break. It need not be rocket science.
It's not like playing single note melody where one wrong note stands out. As all chords in a key are going to sound good with each other, so you sound one that is not being played by the other guys, you will probably be the only one that hears that.
If the key is major the three major chords are going to be predominant in the progression.
If the key is minor the three minor chords are going to be predominant in the progression.
The other four chords are for color and or flavor. Worry with the predominate chords, the flavor and color chords will come with practice.
www.musictheory.net -- lessons -- common chord progressions will go into detail on what chords like to move to what other chords. If you let them move where they like to good things happen.
Jamming with Blues play-a-longs is good practice, because the blues progression is predictable and once your ear gets used to hearing the chord changes you are ready for more sophisticated stuff. http://www.freejamtracks.com/
Last edited by Malcolm; 11-23-2012 at 08:26 PM.
Something that has been helpful to me is finding artists online who I'd like to be able to imitate. For a long time, I wanted to sound 'better', but didn't know where I wanted to go. I think this was largely because I'd like certain groups, but I didn't have a band. One-person imitations of the sounds of a group only go so far (me strumming the chords of U2's 'Beautiful Day' doesn't sound nearly as good as U2 playing 'Beautiful Day').
I've overcome this in 2 ways--I play more with other musicians, and I found solo artists that I like. It's very hard to gain capability without a clear vision. Finding those artists has helped my abilities immensely.
Harmonic Improvisation? I'm not saying there's no such thing, but the term sounds odd. I think you may be asking about re-harmonization! (My favorite topic! )
there are many techniques used, but one used most often and that is Functional Harmony. How does the chord I'm on work and work within the chords surrounding it? Well, I wouldn't really call FH a "technique" as that just tell you the logic about how chords work; it's much more a concept, but there are techniques when trying to enrich the sounds of them.
Color Tones (Extensions/Alterations)
Inversions (6, 6/4; 7, 6/5, 4/3, 2)
Playing the chords certain ways (Block Style, Broken/Arpeggios, Close/Open, etc.)
Prolongation: Making a bigger string progression as to get more harmonic, but also melodic movement due to voice-leading. Of course, how much movement you want depends on you and how much is needed.
Some of these techniques can be combined to really enrich a re-harmonized tune.
Also, try to put chord tones under the melody, but also realize that not every note doesn't have to move. (Again, voice-leading). It'll be much clearer seeing these things demonstrated on a piano (and I also realize how difficult the translation can be).
Nothing wrong with vamping if you're stuck, but vamping is also the easy way out (at least that's how it can be viewed sometimes). If playing a modal piece where there's nothing, but two chords or the majority of the tune is two chords, then by all means and two-chord songs do exist (especially ones that are Ionian and Aeolian based - aka Key based)
Uru is correct in my opinion. Jam sessions really help as you're in a situation where the application can happen. However, I somewhat disagree with the "self-taught not working too well." Self-teaching works wonders for composers or if one is looking to get into composing or arranging. However, you still need that applicable situation to see where you stand.
Thanks Malcolm, uru, and color!
You're posts really helped.
I think I am on my way.
Here's what I figured out and am practicing.
I know how to visualize scales when I play along, so now I am visualizing the major triads and their inversions all over the fretboard.
The exercise I am using to practice is taking the major triad pattern and its two inversions and playing one of each starting on either end of the fretboard low e or higher e and playing the pattern from end to end each inversion or root triad by strumming or arpeggiating across
This is helping me to visualize the major triad in any inversion or the root pattern anywhere on the fretboard
Now I need to memorize the patterns and be able to visualize them as easily as I do the major scale
When I do I will be able to combine scales and major triads in any inversion, so I can alter the major triads to whatever I'm jamming along to anywhere on the fretboard so like if it sounds minor just alter the third interval etc
Now I will be able to jam chords just like I do with single notes
So now I can easily find chords to utilize when i jam as well as utilize intervals instead of mostly jamming scales
This is a really big step for me I feel like I am entering the beginning stages of advanced playing now
And please any more help would be great expanding on my post in context to the whole thread.
That's normal. It's what even the most advanced jazz musicians (mostly) do.
Originally Posted by extra_solar
IOW, when "playing along to songs" (rather than just jamming from scratch), you have a given chord progression.
The simple strategy is to play notes in those chords (the arpeggios) using other diatonic notes (notes from the other chords) as passing notes.
An intermediate strategy is to add chromatics to that pitch collection, so that you actually have all 12 possible pitches in play at any time - but you are still tied to the given chords as your foundation.
Ie, there are 3 levels:
1. chord arpeggios (most consonant)
2. diatonic passing notes (from scale of key, or suitable chord-scale)
3. chromatic notes, ie all remaining notes (most dissonant)
While the diatonic strategy can work fine, it can also sound bland. Adding the chromatics adds a bluesy/jazzy "edge".
Basic chromatic technique is to only play one chromatic at a time and always resolve by half-step to chord tone or consonant extension. Eg, when you play a D# over a C major chord, you'd follow it pretty quickly with E (3rd) or D (9th).
Advanced chromatics is what's traditionally called "outside" playing, and involves whole phrases of chromatics, such as an arpeggio a half-step away from the current chord. It takes confidence and experience to make this work. Generally one should always resolve back to the chord before it changes. (Otherwise those "wrong notes" will just sound - er - wrong .)
But as I say, that's still all based on accepting the chords of the song as a fixed starting place: improvising on given material in conventional jazz manner.
It's not limited to single-note playing, btw. That's jazz tradition because jazz soloing is based on what horns can do - and they can't play chords! So jazz guitarists (beginning with Charlie Christian at least) followed that example, playing horn-like single note lines.
The other issue is that jazz improvisation is/was always about melody, about emulating the human voice to some extent. A singer can't sing chords any more than a horn can play them .
But if you listen to Django Reinhardt (before CC) you'll often hear him inserting partial chords into his solos, or at least improvising rhythmic kicks behind Grappelly.
The guitarists that did improvise much with chords generally worked alone, or maybe with just bass and drums. They would still have been mostly playing the given chords (in various inversions or extensions) - not making them up -
but would have been free to insert substitutes if the mood took them.
If you're still dissatisfied with all those possibilities (and jazz musicians can play for years before they get to that point - remember the notes you choose are just a tiny part of what improvisation is about), then - as Color of Music says - the next step is reharmonisation: taking the melody and stripping out the old chords, to see what others might fit.
It's a complex craft because not only do the new chords need to harmonise the melody of the song, but they need to work functionally in a similar way to the originals; ie they don't need to have the same functions as the original chords, but they still need to make a logical sounding sequence.
So it requires a thorough knowledge of chord function (diatonic and chromatic).
Reharmonisations are often worked out beforehand (esp in a band, where it helps if all the musicians know what chords are coming), but advanced players can improvise them (and advanced soloists or compers will be able to follow them).
The essential point is (apologies if this is not what you mean ) that you can't improvise different chords than those in any backing you are playing over. (I mean, you can, obviously - it will just sound wrong!)
Last edited by JonR; 12-08-2012 at 07:40 PM.
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