Guitar Player

Breaking the Mold

IF YOU’RE LIKE me, you may have thought about your melodic leads and improvisations at one time or another and said, “I’m sick of playing what everyone expects to hear in my solos. Always the same scales, the same arpeggios… I need to take some chances!” It’s easier said than done, however.

So how does one take real melodic chances without sounding like your guitar is falling down a flight of stairs? The key to achieving this seemingly elusive objective is to use harmonic-melodic substitutions, or superimpositions. This means either performing a line based on an arpeggio that differs from the chord over which you’re playing, or employing a scale that operates outside of a given key. Back in the May 2019 issue, I touched upon this concept in my lesson “Elegant Strokes: How to Harmonically Broaden Your Sweep Picking Palette,” but that lesson offered only a hint of the possibilities. Each example’s superimposed arpeggios stayed within the bounds of the original key. But there’s nothing keeping you from superimposing arpeggios that venture outside of the given key. In jazz circles, this approach is referred to as “playing outside the changes,” or “playing out,” for short.

This concept was pioneered back in the 1950s and ’60s by innovative jazz legends John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and others. Jazz and rock guitarists such as John we’re playing the notes, as opposed to how they’re played — so be sure to observe all the pick-stroke and fret-hand fingering indications in the notation, which should hopefully provide all the hands-on guidance you’ll need. Let’s dive in!

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