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Old 05-12-2022, 10:39 PM
Leo MacIntosh Leo MacIntosh is offline
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Question HELP: What to play during a song's instrumental section?

Hello, I like to play guitar with a pick and sing songs by people like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. I play alone 99% of the time. I don't know what to do during a song's instrumental section, especially since I'm not good at musical problem solving -- choosing what notes to leave in and out. There's the flatpicking route, which seems associated with folk and bluegrass. And, even though I enjoy learning fingerstyle instrumentals, my hands lack the dexterity necessary for hybrid picking. I'm most intrigued by chord melody techniques, though they seem to be primarily for jazz players and leave out the bass. Can anyone recommend a systematic approach, Youtube lesson, or an instructional book that will help me out of this frustrating and depressing rut?

Thanks in advance!

Last edited by Leo MacIntosh; 05-12-2022 at 10:45 PM.
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Old 05-13-2022, 03:06 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo MacIntosh View Post
Hello, I like to play guitar with a pick and sing songs by people like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. I play alone 99% of the time. I don't know what to do during a song's instrumental section, especially since I'm not good at musical problem solving -- choosing what notes to leave in and out. There's the flatpicking route, which seems associated with folk and bluegrass. And, even though I enjoy learning fingerstyle instrumentals, my hands lack the dexterity necessary for hybrid picking. I'm most intrigued by chord melody techniques, though they seem to be primarily for jazz players and leave out the bass. Can anyone recommend a systematic approach, Youtube lesson, or an instructional book that will help me out of this frustrating and depressing rut?

Thanks in advance!
Personally, I'd go for two solutions:

1. Leave out the instrumental section altogether! I mean, if it's the same as the verse or chorus, just a space for a solo. If it's a genuinely different part of the song (and it's one everybody knows), then I guess you need to include it somehow. Otherwise, you're a solo singer/performer - people are not going to expect you to mimic the performance of a band. Make the song your own, in any way you can. Better to sound like you, than like someone trying to copy the original (and failing...).

2. I'd go for something like a fingerstyle or chord-melody approach. I'm hopeless at hybrid picking myself (why tie up one finger just to hold a pick?), so I would just lose the pick altogether and play with fingers the whole way. I.e., work out some kind of fingerstyle arrangement for the whole song, and sing to that. Just make it a little fancier in an instrumental section if you want to include that.

I don't see chord-melody as much different (in principle) from standard folky fingerstyle - you're just picking chords more as blocks rather than arpeggiating them to a rhythmic pattern. It's still about keeping the melody on top, and filling in below (or between) with whatever chord tones or bass line you can manage. I.e., there is a lot of overlap between the two approaches. I.e., the instrumental section doesn't need to be improvised; you can just play the melody (or as much of it as you can) on top of, or between, the chords.

If you want to keep the sound of a pick (if your fingernails are not too good), you could use a thumbpick, or even fingerpicks. Personally, my nails are fine.
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Old 05-13-2022, 05:08 AM
Bushleague Bushleague is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leo MacIntosh View Post
Hello, I like to play guitar with a pick and sing songs by people like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan. I play alone 99% of the time. I don't know what to do during a song's instrumental section, especially since I'm not good at musical problem solving -- choosing what notes to leave in and out. There's the flatpicking route, which seems associated with folk and bluegrass. And, even though I enjoy learning fingerstyle instrumentals, my hands lack the dexterity necessary for hybrid picking. I'm most intrigued by chord melody techniques, though they seem to be primarily for jazz players and leave out the bass. Can anyone recommend a systematic approach, Youtube lesson, or an instructional book that will help me out of this frustrating and depressing rut?

Thanks in advance!
A couple things that I do, if the solo is super long I generally shorten it, if there are multiples solo's I might take that down to just one. And irregardless, I will often just pick the most reccognisable phrase or portion of the solo, and build my own around that.

For playing solos, I use micro or partial chords as much as possible, really alot of my solos could be considered to be stringing partial triads togeather with runs. Using an open, or fretted drone in conjunction with a simple run, even moving your drone note and keeping the run going, can work well.

And especially if you are a rock player, I think its beneficial to delve into more rootsy sounds for your solos... alot of rock guitar solos sound pretty meh on an acoustic. If you want to get a bit gnarly, then borrowing from blues, bluegrass, or other types of music where the acoustic plays more melody will generally sound better.
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Old 05-13-2022, 06:44 AM
martingitdave martingitdave is offline
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Leave it out if you’re solo or learn to do a little hybrid picking or Travis picking of the melody. I mostly leave them out but will do the Travis picking when the melody is fairly easy to reach. I know guys who start wailing away on the lead for several bars without any rhythm. The audience loses interest in about 5 seconds.

Unless your Chet Atkins, you gotta know your limits. . Heck, even he said all the money is in the fist 5 frets.
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Old 05-13-2022, 08:38 AM
Bushleague Bushleague is offline
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A little more on constructing solo's... while allot of people seem to think that a solo exists purely to demonstrate ones skill, IMO what it should be is a chance to introduce alternative or modified melody lines to the song. So a good place to start is just with the melody of the song, find counter melodys and alterations and you start to have the makings of a solo.

Its also a chance to take that melody line in totally unexpected directions, and often this is the part of the solo that sounds best and is most memorable. Its also what sets the true greats apart from the crowd. Think of any Van Halen solo you can remember, most likely its not the blazingly fast parts you recall, but surprising twists and turns that he can throw into the melody line.
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Old 05-13-2022, 12:16 PM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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I'm a flatpicker like you, and yes those instrumental chunks are a challenge. Strategically, 1. I try to keep the break as short as possible, 2. I try to put the song in a key where I can get away with some sort of flailing open-string thing that will have some kind of solo-like shape, and 3. If #2. doesn't work out, I'll resort to a formula that's sort of "chord-notey-note-note, chord notey-note-note." Again, keeping it brief. Having really good time helps -- a rock steady metronomic tempo gives the impression that you know what you're doing.

Here's an example of the #2 open-string flailing tactic -- scroll down to about 1:15.

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Old 05-13-2022, 12:25 PM
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If I feel like a little instrumental interlude and I'm at a loss where to go for it I will play the chords and walk the bass line. I think they call it boom chick, or boom chicka if you add an up stroke to the strum. There are tons of youtube videos demonstrating the technique. Just alternating plucking the I and the V between strums is all it is. Some songs it comes out pretty good in fact. Some not so well, but I've done it long enough that I have a feel for it.
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Old 05-13-2022, 12:52 PM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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As a guy who does solo guitar as pretty much my main thing, you can definitely play bass notes and "chord melody"

The big thing is to make sure whatever you're doing during the other sections of the song isn't on "10." This way the whole song doesn't come down in energy when you go to the instrumental break.

Keep it simple when you start. It can absolutely be done with a pick, you just have to be able to control what strings you are hitting.
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Old 05-13-2022, 02:36 PM
reeve21 reeve21 is offline
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I like to try chord inversions up the neck which can create something like a simplified chord melody, chord extensions, hammers, pulls, slide, arpeggios, cross picking, maybe some bass runs or G runs. None of this is really soloing, but it is more interesting than scraping out the chords while signing.

Jeffery Pepper Rogers has a book/video called "Beyond Strumming" which focuses on all sorts of techniques to add interest to acoustic guitar arrangements. It will give you a lot of ideas that can be used during instrumental breaks to add some spice. I've spent some time with it recently and recommend it to you. He explains things very clearly, and his materials are very professionally done.

Lot's of folks like a book series called Flat picking Essentials. I believe it has a bluegrass slant but there are lots of flatpicking skills taught.
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Old 05-13-2022, 03:42 PM
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Finding "double stops", or two-note patterns, can be really useful for this. You can play the solo, or something like it, along with one other string to harmonize and fill things out. It can work really well if you can get the main idea of the solo going on one string, then add a harmony note on another string as you go up and down the neck.

I wouldn't be so quick to say you can't do hybrid picking if you can play fingerstyle, but you can play double stops with just fingers as well.
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Old 05-13-2022, 05:36 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Different ways to do this depending on the song and the players skills.

I sure admire great "chord melody" players and I have some understanding compositionally how it works, I can't execute it all that well myself. Similarly, independent fingerpicking motion, which I fake with a single flatpick has limits in what I can do.

If you're doing songs with lyrics, use the fact that the vocal part is what really connects most listeners most of the time. Instrumental players who can compel actually have a difficult task!

Someone's already mentioned "leave it out" for the instrumental bits. Sometimes this works in concert with that old magician's standby: misdirection. Is the solo or instrumental part "the hook" or one of them in the song? Make a new hook in your arrangement, perhaps a vocal one taken from the lyrics. Repeat something there that isn't refrained in the original version for example. Yes, there's part of every audience that (alas! I usually think) want to hear it "just like the record" but you can bring them over to your side with something else compelling. Or change the whole song so much that you're inviting the audience to consider something else about it rather than how well you can copy the "hit version." Example? Something that's been done effectively more than once: take a brisk paced, loud, party anthem and pare and slow it down and all of sudden it takes on a new air. Aztec Camera's cover of Van Halen's "Jump" or M. Ward's version of David Bowie's "Let's Dance."

Or make the vocal even more the focus. If you can do it well go Louis Armstrong or Ella Fitzgerald on it and sing the or an instrumental hook. Or gather the gravitas of a Johnny Cash doing "Hurt" and other instrumental colors or vocal gymnastics will seem beside the point.
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Old 05-14-2022, 01:52 PM
Robin, Wales Robin, Wales is offline
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I sing songs and play instrumental breaks. I only tend to use open cowboy chords when I play, so my instrumental breaks consists of whatever notes from the melody I can reach while holding down the chord shape for that particular part of the song. It is basically Carter style playing with a flatplick - and not rocket science to get it sounding good. Throw in some strums, double stops, hammer-ons and pull offs and it all sounds way more complex than it actually is to play. And don't be afraid to leave some room and be a little sparse at times.

Here is the classic example. Maybelle is playing the melody from the chord shapes with a thumb pick and filling out the sound with downstrokes of a finger - but you can do both elements with a flatpick.



Basically, I get away with using the same technique for all the songs I sing. You'd be surprised that with a little practice you'll find that you can pick out a melody or harmony pattern from those open chord shapes on pretty much any song, particularly if you make use of hammer-ons, pull-offs, double stops, strum fills and bass walks. You'll be making up your own lead breaks in no time. Start by strumming lightly through the chords then find the melody you are singing over each chord - the notes will be there somewhere!
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Old 05-15-2022, 07:10 AM
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Methos1979 Methos1979 is offline
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We (acoustic duo with wife on vocals, me on guitar) either just leave it out or she scats the solo if it's a particularly short but well know solo passage. The problem with leaving out the instrumental break or solo sections is that many of the songs we play are already very short oldies so leaving out the solo break(s) shortens them that much more. We also add a lot of movement and back and forth interaction between us to keep things interesting.

We are becoming the preferred regulars on the local assisted living facility circuit and a lot of that has to do with our high-energy performances. Most other duos sit and sing, which is fine. But we always stand (personal performing preference) and my wife, a former dancer, dances around and moves a ton and I feed off of her with a lot of guitar movement, especially during the instrumental breaks.

The residents love the high energy and movement. A lot of them get up and dance. We've had many ALF activities directors and staff tell us that they've never seen so many of their residents get up and start moving and they love that. Word is getting out (turns out these places do talk to each other after all) and our phone is starting to ring with people actually reaching out to us for a (nice) change!
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Old 05-15-2022, 08:43 AM
lpa53 lpa53 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonPR View Post
Personally, I'd go for two solutions:

1. Leave out the instrumental section altogether!...

2. I'd go for something like a fingerstyle or chord-melody approach.
I'm often confronted with this problem of the instrumental interlude and agree with these two approaches. When I can figure out an instrumental interlude I don't worry too much about whether it's just like the original. If it approaches the underlying chord structure or has a few elements of the original that's enough for me and I've never had a listener complain about it.

I recently learned Tears For Fears "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" and it has as very iconic. and long, instrumental interlude. I searched for acoustic covers of the piece and found that pretty much all left out the interlude, including two live solos of it by Tears For Fears member Curt Smith. Heck, in one performance he left out an entire vocal section. The audience still cheered. I ended up inserting an interlude that has a few similar phrases but is drastically shortened.
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Old 05-16-2022, 07:31 AM
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Some really good advice here. I appreciate hearing how others deal with it. As a solo flat picker, I've learned the same tricks as some have stated here already. You basically use every trick in the book. I use double stops, chords up the neck, basic E, G and C runs and fills plus good old cross picking. Or leave it out.
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