** As featured in issue 45 **
Over the last nine issues we've gone over a multitude of concepts in Country music, from chord sounds to technique and beyond. In this instalment, we're going to try and put it all together and focus on some of the overarching musical concepts, and being aware of the chords you're playing over.
It really doesn't matter if you're playing over a honky tonk ballad, or an up tempo bebop influenced Bakersfield tune. If you don't make some sort of effort to outline the chord changes, not only are you not going to sound Country, but you're going to sound pretty stale. You'll hear this in the playing of certain Blues players, where they only use the minor pentatonic over a whole song, while that works great in Blues when done right, it's much harder to use that idea here.
We've already talked about outlining dominant 7 chords in quite a lot of detail, but as an example, check out lick 1 in the tab file. At the start I've included a chord for reference.
Next up is a lick that outlines a D7 chord, but rather than moving up the neck to use the E shape, I've stayed around the 5th fret and used the A.
Example 3 combines these ideas, moving between an A7 in bars 1 and 2, to a D7 in bars 3 and 4.
This information needs to be applied to any key though, so being able to do the same in Eb, or C# for example. Don't limit yourself to certain keys as you don't want to be caught out if you're asked to play in another key suddenly. And yes, while certain keys might eliminate the option to use open strings, your basic chordal frameworks will be the same.
As advanced players, another benefit of being able to outline chords is that you're able to substitute harmony that isn't there to create interesting sounds.
Now this could mean using chords that add one or two extra notes to the chord you're playing on. So over an A7 chord (A, C#, E, G) you might choose to outline a C#m7b5 (C#, E, G, B) which implies an A9 chord. You might play an Em7 (E, G, B, D) which will imply an A7sus chord, etc.
What I like to do is use diminished chords to create interesting sounds. So over an A7 vamp, I might use the notes of an Adim7 chord (A, C, Eb, Gb) which, when played against an A chord, gives you an Ab7b9 to A7 sound. It's not as theoretically sound as some other options, but it's a simple way to bring in some outside flavour to your playing.
Example 3 demonstrates this chord movement, and a lick I might play.
The final lick plays around with another substitution idea I like to outline an A7 chord, and that's to move down a minor 3rd and play a m7b5 chord, so over A7, I'll play F#m7b5 (F#, A, C, E) which creates a cool sound that uses the b3 and the 6th (almost like an Am6 sound).
Hopefully you understand that being able to outline the chords (and sweetly or jazzy as you choose) is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for expressing yourself, so get to work, and I'll catch you on the road!