Knowing lot’s of chords and lot’s of scales is a good thing. Knowing how chords and scales interact functionally with one another is very empowering for the creative musician. The notes in a chord are a subset of a particular parent scale. The most common scale is the Major scale which contains 7 notes and is a subset of the 12 note Chromatic scale. When a single note is played over an existing chordal sound there is essentially 3 classifications that the note will fall into. Any note played over a chord will either be a chord tone, a diatonic scale tone, or a chromatic tone not belonging to the scale. If it’s a 3 note chord being played then there will be 3 chord tones, 4 diatonic scale tones and 5 chromatic tones. Chord tones played over chords will only “fatten” the harmony. It will add texture, timbre, and presence to the chord but it won’t change the chord quality in any way. Diatonic scale tones played over a chord will change the quality of the chord. Each note functions differently over the chord with some producing consonant and other dissonant harmonies. The 5 chromatic tones played over a chord will change the quality of the chord and the overall key tonality. Chromatic tones will make the music transition, if only temporarily, into other scales. With each note functioning in it’s own unique way over each and every chord it’s easy to understand that there are countless possibilities when playing scales over chords. Therefore if you hope to become good at this it’s important to study the tendencies involved with mixing chords with scales. Certain scale and chord patterns allow for freely roaming through the notes of the scale while other styles will require more strict awareness for playing the “right” note and the “right” time. Sometimes “wrong” notes are emphasized in order to gain the desired aural effect. The process of playing scales over chords in music is called melodic soloing. If you are trying to learn how to solo or just get better at soloing then it’s good to select a style of music that you’re most interested in and focus exclusively on it. It will be easier to learn other styles once you’ve mastered the tendencies of one. You will need a good reference book and another guitar player to play chords or a good backing track CD. Check out Guitarist’s Guide to Scales Over Chords that has all the information you’ll need to becoming a pro at melodic soloing. Be sure to tell us your favorite solos in our comment box.
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