extensions. But I’ve made an executive decision to use a metaphor instead, and one that
involves Ted Nugent, lots of food, and of
course, the IV chord.
Playing a solo over the IV chord is like
going to a Thanksgiving party at Ted Nugent’s
house. Here’s why: You know that Ted is
going to have a turkey. He’ll have proudly
plucked it out of the forest with his bow and
arrow or possibly even his bare hands. Either
way, rest assured that there is a turkey in the
oven roasting away. So you, the guest, don’t
have to bring any turkey to the party. You
might want to bring some cranberry sauce,
mashed potatoes, green beans, or strawberry
rhubarb pie. But you don’t need to bring any
turkey. Uncle Ted has that under control.
After much playing and listening, I’ve discovered that the same is true for the IV chord
in a blues progression. The bass, rhythm
guitar, piano, or organ will be playing the root
(the metaphorical turkey) of the IV chord. So
you don’t have to play it in your solo because
it’s already there. It sounds more sophisticated
to play the musical equivalents of cranberry
sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, and
strawberry rhubarb pie, while leaving the turkey to the accompaniment.
The notes in our F#m7
5 arpeggio are
the cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green
beans, and strawberry rhubarb pie. If you look
at the four notes in this arpeggio they match
up exactly to the notes in our D9 chord,
with one exception. There is no D note in
our arpeggio. We’re not playing the root in
our solo. We didn’t bring the turkey! If you’ve
studied music theory, you know this is called
a substitution. If you’re a guitar player, you
can just think of it as moving a shape a certain
number of frets to get a nice new sound.
< q q __ __ = q e a3 b>
To digest this idea, let’s repeat what we
already did, but in some different keys. First
play the chord, then play the arpeggio.
There is some math at work here, and I’m
tempted to start rattling off some notes and
numbers. But I think the best way to “get it”
is just to play these examples a few times. I’m
going to spare you the explanation and trust
that you’ll play these chords and arpeggios for
five minutes. Even in that short time, the pattern should become quite obvious, and you’ll
no longer need any wordy explanation. Your
fingers and ears will already have it. How do
you know when you have it? Just try playing
dominant 9th chords in some other keys and
see if you can figure out where to put the
arpeggio. I’m betting that you’ll nail it. I’ll give
you five minutes to test it out now.
You’re back. Now let’s do a variation.
Since this arpeggio shape is fresh in your
mind, I want to show you one more substitution idea. This is where guitar players
have a maddening advantage over piano
players. On a guitar, it’s quite easy to play a
chord and move it up and down chromatically. All you do is lock your hand into the
shape and move it up or down a fret. On a
piano, chromatic movement requires different shapes. This can be difficult to play and
also difficult to visualize. I suggest taking
10 smug seconds to gloat about this. Piano
players have so many other advantages, so
it’s nice when we can have one too.
All right. Gloating over. In a blues progression, there are lots of opportunities
to do this kind of chromatic movement.
It adds a nice tension and release to our
old familiar progression. Now let’s use the
5 substitution we’ve been playing to
outline some of this chromatic movement.
In Fig. 4, I want to focus on the B
chord. To outline this chord (without the
turkey), I’ll play a Dm7
5 arpeggio. I want
to use the same shape that I showed you
earlier, but for variety let’s start on the high
note this time. Isn’t that cool? I’ve never
sounded so sophisticated in my life. All I
did was go up a half-step for a moment and
leave out the turkey.
I was so excited when I started experimenting with this sound that I decided
to search for more fingerings and variations. I’ll quickly show you a couple of
my best discoveries.
First, I found a more typical fingering for
5 arpeggio. I say it’s “typical” because it
stays in one position. For me, the fingering
shown in Fig. 5 is not as easy to play at top
speed, but it’s in such a convenient location
that I still find myself using it a lot. In Fig. 6
I play it over the IV chord and also over our
chromatic chord move.
Please make good use of these powerful
sounds, and if you missed my column last
month [“The Super-Hendrix Scale,” July
2011], I encourage you to go back and
have a look. It’s all about soloing over the V
chord in a blues, and this will connect very
well with the ideas about the IV chord in
And if nothing else, remember that there
are only four notes in an F#m7
Don’t let that long name clobber you.
6 oe#oenoeoenoe#oenoeoenoe#oenoeoeoe# OE
D9 A13 B¨ 13 A13
oeoeoeoe# oeoeoe#oeoeoeoe#oeoeoeoeoeoeoeoeoe#oeoeoe# oeoeoeoe## oen oe#oenoeoenoe#oeoeoeoeoeoe˙# Ó