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Old 01-19-2020, 08:29 AM
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Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Default Playing the Changes

I'd like to hear your thoughts on playing the changes. From the flat pickers, finger stylists, finger pickers and jazz guys. Each will have an outlook different than the other I suspect. Maybe not. Do you do it? How do you deal with it?

I read an interview of Norman Blake the other day. In it he mentioned how when he was learning the fiddle from an old guy down the road from him how the old guy would get on him to play the changes. I have always been impressed by a single guitar player that can stop playing chords and cross picking and play single string runs and keep the structure of the song. Especially the minor chord changes. Thanks
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:00 AM
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I have no clue what "playing the changes" means. (finger style player)
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:33 AM
al_az al_az is offline
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I have been trying for years to get my head around 'playing the changes'. I started playing guitar in the '70s playing pop/rock /blues. My first focus was on pentatonic scales (major/minor, and then blues scales. Then combining all 3. Then diatonic scales. I always focused on the 'tonal center' of the song rather than the particular chord I was playing over at the exact moment. I also, however, was always a melodic player. If one were to analyze a lead I played, you would find a significant number of chordal tones were used, especially notes that were being held. This occurred because I was listening, not thinking.
Problems with my approach is playing over tunes that shift keys frequently. Songs like While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which just shift from parallel major to minor are not a problem. Some jazz tunes etc especially tunes with lots of altered chords can present lots of 'challenges'.
I have tried to focus on modal playing but just sound mechanical every time I focus on the chord and scale relationship of the note rather than the melody.
However, look at John Fogerty's lines. He frequently just plays the changes(at least for his fills) and it sounds great.
I finally have realized at this point in life I play like I play, I sound like me. I still try to expand my knowledge but the foundation is not going to change
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by TBman View Post
I have no clue what "playing the changes" means.
You're not the only one, TBman!
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Old 01-19-2020, 09:50 AM
Mandobart Mandobart is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TBman View Post
I have no clue what "playing the changes" means. (finger style player)
Its a term that originated in jazz. It means transitioning to the next chord by playing a melodic run, arpeggio, lead, etc. One example most of us have heard is the bluegrass G run.

Strummers may simply change chords with no lead in at all. When I play fingerstyle I don't think it's possible to not "play the changes."
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Old 01-19-2020, 10:07 AM
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I understand it simply as improvising with reference to the chords, rather than just noodling aimlessly on the scale of the key (as the average blues-rock player tends to do).

I.e., you play from the chord arpeggios, using the chord tones like stepping stones through the sequence. You can play passing notes (diatonic or chromatic), but you're always marking enough chord tones all the way that someone could tell the chord progression (more or less) from your solo alone.

A good example of this in rock is Sultans of Swing, where just about everything Knopfler plays - fills and solo - is a chord tone. A more obvious example, perhaps, is the end of Hotel California, where they harmonise the chord arpeggios - but even before that, Joe Walsh is "playing the changes".

This is not a difficult way to improvise, provided you know the chords well. The chords give you the path to follow, they guide you.

I play various styles, btw - folk (strumming, fingerpicking), blues, rock, jazz, country, soul, classical, etc. Because I learned chords first, "playing the changes" has always been a no-brainer for me. It seems weird to me that anyone would ignore the chords and just go for a scale. Why make it hard on yourself by trying to guess what will sound good?
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Old 01-19-2020, 11:48 AM
Bill Sims Bill Sims is offline
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A big part of it is knowing triads, triads, and triads. If you can watch this without getting a little flustered (because Brian tends to go at 90 mph sometimes) it might help.

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Old 01-19-2020, 12:24 PM
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All of this ^^^^^...

Funny, when you get "deeper" into jazz, "playing the changes" is actually a bit derogatory toward the player... like he can't break loose and play "free" against those changes....
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Old 01-22-2020, 09:25 PM
mattbn73 mattbn73 is offline
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"Chord tone soloing" is what it's called in jazz, but it's the same thing blue grass players do as well. It can be as simple as starting on the root, going away, and coming back. It's good to learn licks within scales which sound like the actual chord being played regardless of style.

A good non-jazz approach to learning to hear and play some of this is to play separate pentatonic scales for each chord. Gmaj-pent for G, Emin-pent for Em, D-pent for D etc. It's good for tightening up your ability to hear and be able to hit chord tones in the general key, but it also has big payoffs when you get to really DIFFERENT changes.

Tunes like Wild Horses don't necessarily work really well to just generalize the whole key. You really have to outline changes. This approach with the pentatonics really helps to convey the B minor chord and the F in that one. This approach works especially well for dealing with difficult "out" chords in things like Beatles tunes , with more modulation etc.
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:02 AM
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For me, "playing the changes" is a whole lot more than simply playing triads or chord tones, it's improvising (the melody is already "in" the changes) using all of the harmonic structure of the song. You can start with a triad, or an arpeggio of the chord at hand, but you need to progress to all of the scale tones of the chord, and then all of the extensions of the scale tones - the 9th's the 13th's, the 6ths, the 2's in a major setting. And then you get stuff like the melody has a flat 9 in it, so you need to be able to play or imply that flat nine - and definitely not play a 2 or a 9. Different styles of music have different needs in this regard - dixieland jazz is a whole lot of chord tone arpeggios, bebop jazz is a whole lot of extensions - all 13 notes are fair game in bebop. Bluegrass is probably a little less far out, and closer to the straight harmony of the melody.
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jseth View Post
All of this ^^^^^...

Funny, when you get "deeper" into jazz, "playing the changes" is actually a bit derogatory toward the player... like he can't break loose and play "free" against those changes....
Yes, jazz is about getting beyond that level. You start there and (eventually) move on.

In rock, it tends to be about getting up to that level. ;-)
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Old 01-23-2020, 08:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Jelly View Post
I'd like to hear your thoughts on playing the changes. From the flat pickers, finger stylists, finger pickers and jazz guys. Each will have an outlook different than the other I suspect. Maybe not. Do you do it? How do you deal with it?

I read an interview of Norman Blake the other day. In it he mentioned how when he was learning the fiddle from an old guy down the road from him how the old guy would get on him to play the changes. I have always been impressed by a single guitar player that can stop playing chords and cross picking and play single string runs and keep the structure of the song. Especially the minor chord changes. Thanks
Flat picker here:

My thoughts are yes indeed some kind of melodic embellishment to basic chord strumming was for me "the next level" and IMO a good goal.

With couple caveats: I do not do formal "cross picking" that is to say specific fingerstyle directional patterns of usually three string and note rolls. In other words I don't think about the embellishments I just let them happen
Also:
#1 Any embellishment can easily be over done
#2 that in doing so one not loose the basic flow of the rhythm.
#3 sometimes embellished off beat full chord strums or stops of the basic chord strum timing, can be interesting and musical ( but can also easily be over done)

And also in my case doing so (and not having it feel contrived or ackward) involved finally at long last, committing enough time to have practiced basically an hour or two every day for just over a year and 1/2 straight.

What that practice "regime" did for me, was finally commit the chord changes to muscle memory so that I no longer had to think about them. At that point the little note picking ,hammer on and offs ,etc. started to also flow naturally on auto pilot so to speak .

Here is and example of where my style progressed after the above mentioned practice regime
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Old 01-23-2020, 09:29 AM
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Mr. Jelly Mr. Jelly is offline
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Being an old country boy my experiments have drawn me to play off the root note of the chord being played. I'll expand on that idea for awhile.
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Old 01-23-2020, 02:01 PM
Sonics Sonics is offline
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Default Playing the changes

Here's a blues solo all single notes, but you can hear the chord changes clearly because the soloist is outlining and highlighting the important notes of each chord...if you have the ears you can *almost* hear the drums and bass accompaniment (...maybe even some piano and horns too!)

Yes, you have to know theory to play at this level.

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