Most guitar players learn how to solo and improvise with the pentatonic scale. All 5 of those notes are relatively safe to play and that’s a great place to start. But after a while, those solos start sounding a little bland and disconnected from the chord changes they’re playing over.
Learning how to ‘play the changes’ is a rite of passage that guitar players must pass through to take their playing to the next level. Targeting chord tones as you solo over changes is the central focus of Jeff McErlain’s Soloing the Changes.
”We’ll work on “soloing the changes” using 10 backing tracks featuring the chord progressions and feels used in many popular rock songs. For example we’ll tackle a patented Pink Floyd style progression, a vamp similar to the outro of Frampton’s Do You Feel Like We Do, a solo that highlights the flat six dominant seven chord, and how to play over an unusual five major seven chord on a progression similar to Jeff Beck’s ‘Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.
We’ll also check out a great way to solo over the ubiquitous one six four five chord progression, changes in the style of Bell Bottom Blues, a progression in the style of John Mayer’s Waiting on the World Change, a progression in the style of the Beatles’ While My Guitar Gently Weeps, a four major to four minor line that highlights the unique changes of a progression along the lines of It Hurts Me To, and finally we’ll get a bit quirky on a chord progression in the style of St. James Infirmary.”
For each of the 10 soloing studies, Jeff will first solo over the track and then provide a detailed breakdown of the solo emphasizing how the lines and target notes in the solo relates to the chord changes.
Gilmourish - ”David Gilmour is one of the masters of the perfect guitar solo. I see his solos as two different types and "Comfortably Numb" is a perfect example of what I mean. The first solo is extremely melodic and an integral part of the song. If you play the song, you must play that solo. It's like the vocal melody - it's not the song without it. The end solo is more bluesy with an improvised looser feel. To be clear, Gilmour composes all his solos.”
I Feel Ya - ”I'm showing my age here, I but I remember my sister listening to Peter Frampton's Frampton Comes Alive endlessly when I was a kid. She had a crush on him, as did most teenage girls at the time. I didn't play guitar yet, but I wanted to, and he made a big impression on me. It's still a great record and well worth a listen. Peter was also in a great band prior to that, Humble Pie. In the Pie stuff, you can hear him developing into the solo artist he became. Comes Alive is still one of the best-selling live albums of all time!”
Open Letter - ”This one is based on the verse from the classic song by The Boxtops, later performed by Joe Cocker which was one of his trademark songs. Joe's version is more groovy and bluesy than the original. The changes on this song provide us with many cool opportunities to solo over the changes. To dip your toe into the water, the first chord you want to outline is the bVI7 chord. You can't miss that one as it really stands out.”
Lovers End - ”There are few guitar players who and influenced me as much as Jeff Beck has. I know I'm not alone in this thinking, and as David Gilmour said, "On a good day, there is nobody better."
Beck has been around since the British Invasion with the Yardbirds. His band The Jeff Beck Group (featuring Rod Stewart) was the impetus behind Jimmy Page forming Led Zeppelin. In the 70's, Beck abandoned vocals and went in a jazzier direction with records like Blow by Blow, Wired, and There and Back. That's where he hit his stride. Beck is one of the few guitar players I can think of who keeps on getting better with age.”
Highlands - ”This tune is called "Highlands", and it's from my record I'm Tired. It uses one of the most common chord changes in popular music, the I-V-VIm-IV. It shows us how important melody is when composing. We could stick to an E major pentatonic scale on this tune and be fine, in fact, I largely do, as I think it works nicely.”
Bell Bottoms - ”In this tune, we're going to tackle the changes to the Derek and the Dominos classic "Bell Bottom Blues". The first two chords, C and E7, are an example of the very common Gospel change of I to III7. We see this in "Georgia", "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", and "Ain't Nobody's Business but My Own" to name a few classics. It's important to know that change when you hear it, it's not hard as it's pretty distinctive. Only one change sounds like that! If we look back at the "Open Letter" song in this course, we see a similarly common change that is equally distinctive, Im to IVb7. Actually, ALL CHANGES ARE DISTINCTIVE!”
Get Ready for Change - ”Ready for Change is a little bit of a mash-up between Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" and John Mayer's "Waiting on the World to Change". You'll notice a great similarity between these two songs. Another excellent version of "People Get Ready" was by Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck in the 80's. The production is full on of the era, with some great guitar playing by Mr. Beck. This song is not all that dissimilar from "Highlands" earlier in the course, but the changes go by very quickly and outlining them can be difficult, and frankly sometimes simpler is better. Actually, most of the time that is true.”
Weepy Guitar - ”Yep, this is clearly the chord changes to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by The Beatles. It's funny, like many guitar players, I wondered how George Harrison sounded so great on the song until I realized it was Eric Clapton. Not to sell George short, who I think played some of the best guitar parts ever, the solo is brilliant and perfect for the song courtesy of Mr. Clapton. Now with all due respect to one of my favorite guitar players, he did not make the chord changes in the way we've been discussing. So clearly, it's not something that needs to be done! But when you hear Clapton play now, he has progressed and is clearly much more cognizant of the chord changes and making them.”
Man, That Hurts - ”One of my favorite blues tunes is "It Hurts Me Too" made famous by Elmore James, a blues staple. It's an eight-bar blues progression and definitely one you should know. In terms of performance, it's great to have an eight-bar blues in your repertoire as it can break up an evening of blues music by adding some variety. Other famous eight-bar blues tunes are "Key to the Highway", "Someday After a While", and "Need Your Love So Bad". What I like about the song is that it can be performed on two different levels, the chords can be played all as straight triads, or we can dig deeper into the chord progression and spice it up a bit.”
St. James - St. James Infirmary is a classic American folk song that is a jazz/ blues standard. It's not known who originally wrote the song, but it's most closely associated with Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway and their separate versions. The song has been performed by countless artists and is one of my favorites to perform as it's nice and moody, people love it, and it fits right into a blues set.”
Jeff will explain and demonstrate all of the key concepts and approaches along the way. You’ll get standard notation and tabs for the key examples and performance studies. Plus, Jeff includes all of the rhythm tracks for you to work with on your own. In addition, you’ll be able to loop or slow down any of the performances so that you can work with the materials at your own pace.
Grab your guitar and let's solo the changes with Jeff McErlain!