Playing Chord Sounds Makes Sense

In our previous lesson we began studying and playing flatpicking or 'fiddle' songs as a way of developing speed and accuracy as well as practicing scales. The focus of the course to this point however has been learning to play chord sounds, with very strong chord tones, approach notes and tensions. The idea is that you don't have to be, nor would you want to be, red hot, blazing, on fire, lightening fast all the time. Rather learning to play with a strong sense of melody and rhythm and careful note selection is much more interesting and is one more necessary skill.

Chordal thinking enables you to play thoughtfully, slowly and tastefully.  When you adopt this way of thinking into your playing, the music you makes begins to take on a melodic quality.  The technique of being able to pick and choose your notes carefully and intelligently lies at the heart of excellent improvisational skills. This is not to to say that fast scale passages don't have their place. Below is a table of legendary guitarists known for the ability to play in a lyrical, melodic and musical way:

Wes Montgomery Jeff Beck Mark Knopfler
Carlos Santana Eric Clapton Dickey Betts
George Harrison Hank Marvin Jerry Garcia

Dominant 7 Chord Roundup

Study the graphic organizer below, hitting on and reviewing these key points: major scale, chord formula, chord spelling, natural 7 and flat 7.

Use the interactive diagram below to get the sound of the C7 chord and also that of the C7 arpeggio in your eyes, ears and playing hand. Do this by strumming each one of the chords a few times and then by playing your way through the arpeggios. Make sure to commit all 4 of these chord forms and both of the arpeggios to memory. Hit each one of the play buttons a few times to get the dominant chord sound firmly in your ear.

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The interactive diagram below is a study and listening page designed to help you become familiar with the sound and musical character of the tensions available for use with dominant 7 chords. The basic dominant 7 chord is thought of as 'home base" but it does contain the flat 7 tension as part of its basic makeup. For the listening exercise below, the thought process is exactly the same as it was with the major and minor tonalities.

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Dominant 7 Experimentation

Use my backing track to experiment with playing over a C dominant 7 arpeggio. The diagram just below illustrates the locations of the b7, 9, 11 and 13th in relation to a C triad located on fret VIII. As I did in the interactive listening exercise, play a solo by picking one of the tensions to play repeatedly while occassionaly playing the C triad or C7 arpeggio as part of your solo. Do this with each one of the tensions.

Playing A Solo Based On Dominant 7 Arpeggios

Next is a 24 bar teaching piece using arpeggios and approach notes to illustrate the powerful sound and inherant melodic quality found in arpeggio playing. The backdrop for the solo is a 12 bar funky blues in the key of C. The melodic material was all derived from the arpeggios for C7, G7 and F 7 as illustrated below.

The smooth sound is a result of voice leading, or moving from chord to chord in a measured, melodic fashion -not always jumping to the root note of the new chord to play a new arpeggio but rather, when transitioning to the new chord go to the closest available note of that new chords arpeggio. Use the graphic below purely as a listening and ear training exercise, learning the sound of a melody based on dominant arpeggios.


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Funky C Blues Backing Track

Use this backing track to practice improvising arpeggio based solos and for learning the teaching piece illustrated just above. I highly suggest you print out and study the tab and transcription supplement.


Click here to open the sheet music and TAB for the C7 teaching pieces used in this lesson.

Transposing The Basic Dominant 7 Chord Sound

Use the graphic organizer below to review the musical theory concerning the G dominant 7 chord. The interesting thing about the G7 chord is that the flat 7 note, is actually F natural. That's because the normally occuring 7th note in the key (scale) of G major is F#, so a flat 7 in this case is F natural.

To follow, exercises are musical ideas, licks and soloing techniques based on a G dominant 7 chord sound. As is our process, we first think of any concept involving chords in terms of a root 6 and a root 5 voicing. Think of the chord voicings and arpeggio fingerings illustrated below as basic common knowledge or "square one" type thinking.

G Dominant 7 Melodic Ideas

For a listening exercise, below are two short solos based on a G7 chord sound. The first one uses a root 6 G7 chord as the source for its melodic material while the second example uses a root 5 G7 form as its source material -use the 2 solos below as a listening and ear training exercises. After you have the sound of the solos in your ear, print out the the TAB and transcriptions in order to play them.

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Click here to open the sheet music and TAB for the G7 teaching pieces used in this lesson.

Funky G7 Vamp Backing track

As a play along exercise use this one bar funk vamp based on a G7 chord as a vehicle for general soloing practice and to work the arpeggios and approach notes into your personal style. Learning to improvise is like developing your own cool, individual style (or language) based on the licks and lines you can invent and keep as part of your personal vocabulary.


Funky G Blues Backing Track

Finally, use this backing track to practice improvising arpeggio based solos by transposing the licks and ideas you've mastered in the key of C to the key of G.