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Playing the Changes

A young guitarist recently asked, “ How important is it to play the change when soloing?”

My Answer:

If you aren’t playing the changes, what would you play?

I’m not asking to be a smart ass. You should be playing as part of a group which means playing with the other members. The chord changes, bass line, melody, and percussion line will all be factors in what you play during your solo. Without this frame work then you are simply playing by yourself. Music is about communication. You wouldn’t start talking about politics if some one asked you for the time of day.

You will have more leeway if the changes are quick. In this case it becomes less of an issue to strongly articulate or outline the notes of a particular chord. However, if you are resolving a phrase it is mandatory that you resolve with a note from the chord or an implied note (meaning a note that would be part of the extended harmony like a 7th, 9th, 13th etc…)

Most players would say that you sound “more intelligent” if you pronouncedly acknowledge the chord changes. This can be tricky. Without total command of your instrument and the song, your solo could sound forced…or “square”. It’s helpful to practice over annunciating the chord changes at first. Create a short phrase, and practice resolving it on each note of the chord. Do this with a few different phrases. This is for practice purposes only.

Hint: Avoid resolving (ending) your phrases on the first beat of each measure. This is a sure way to bore your audience.

As soon as you can you will want to find or create situations to play solos with other musicians. You will need opportunities to implement these ideas. You will learn a lot more from playing in live situations than you will practicing or jamming along to rhythm tracks.

In the long run it is much more important to listen than to “think” about what to play. Listen and play what you hear, and you will NEVER make a mistake!




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