More Melodic Guitar Solos – Three Critical Techniques without Arpeggios and Scales

It is difficult to play truly melodic guitar solos in any genre. We spend a lot of our time talking about what to play over the chords in a solo, but not nearly as much on how to make melodies with the things that we play.  In this video I want to go over some melodic techniques that will help you make stronger more connected melodies when you are trying to come up with your own jazz licks.

Using Pedal Points

The first example of a composition technique is using pedal points. A pedal point is a way to easily add the feeling of two voices to a melody. The idea is to have a static note that is repeated in the melody to give the illusion of a static 2nd voice. 

In the example below I am using the pedal point concept on the Am7 chord. Notice how all the other notes are giving a color from how they relate to the pedal point. This way of making melodies is a really good way to break up the melodic movement if your solos tend to be lines that are arpeggios or scales in one direction all the time.

You can of course also apply this to a modal setting and then have an extended version of the Am7 lick like this:

In the example above I use first an E pedal and then a C pedal note. Most of the time it is easier to make strong lines if you choose a pedal point that is very closely related to the chord like these (3rd and 5th)

Using Voice-leading in Jazz-licks

When you move from one chord to the next then we often consider the voice-leading of the chord voicings. IN that case Voice-leading is how each note in the first chord moves to a note in the next chord.

You can use this technique in melodies as well. This is really a way of generating motifs, but since the method is so specific I thought I’d mention it separately.

In the example below I am applying this concept to the melody in the first bar, taking the exact same melody and then changing notes to generate first the D7 and then the Gmaj7. I keep the notes on the same string so that it should be clear where the different voices are moving to.

The idea is really simple. For each note on the Am7:

A B C D E F# G A we can move that to the closest note in the D7 altered scale, which would give us this row of notes:

Ab Bb C D Eb F F# Ab

Making a few artistic choices

When working with this it is sometimes better to still adjust the mechanical results to get a better sounding melody.

An example of this might look like this:

In the example above I am starting with the same Am7 lick. But this time I am moving it up instead of down with voice leading.

The E in the Am7 line should really move to an F on the D7 chord, but in this case it sounds a lot stronger to move it to an F# because that makes the line a D7(b5) which connects much better to the D7alt than a Dm7(b5) that it would be if I used an F.

The melody on the G is then generated by strictly voice-leading the D7 melody which makes a nice line but it is a bit difficult to play.

A different way of voice-leading the melody from D7 to Gmaj7 is shown here above. This variation of the Gmaj7 line is much easier to play but is also breaking the melodic movement up a bit. What you like is in the end a question of taste.

Motifs and Odd note groupings

A more free way of using motifs is to just take a small melodic fragment and then move it around. In these examples I will combine that approach with odd-note groupings. This makes it possible to get some lines that break up the rhythm in a great way.

This first example is using a 5 note motif: E C G E B on the Am7.

I repeat this motif but move it up to E so: G E B G D. Notice how I now have 5 beats of Am7 so I am pulling the Am7 across the bar line into the D7 bar. On the D7alt I repeat the motif but move it up to what you could consider an Fm7 arpeggio.

3 note groupings and moving the bar line forward

Another example of the same type of motif is shown below.

Here I am using triads as a 3 note grouping. The first two on Am7: C major and E minor.

This is followed by 2 triads on D7alt: Cdim, B major and then a short scale rund to resolve to the Gmaj7 on the 4&.

In the first example I played the Am7 for 5 beats and extended it into the D7 bar. In this example I am only playing 3 beats of Am7 before clearly moving into the D7alt.

Better Melodies and more melodic solos!

If you have transcribed solos I am sure that you have realized that it is not so that the great solos use a lot of exotic scales or sounds. Instead the melodies that are contained in a great solo are really strong. Even if they are only using the scales and arpeggios that we already know.

If you want to play better solos you need to be better at coming up with strong and more interesting melodies. I hope you can use some of these techniques to achieve that.

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More Melodic Guitar Solos – Three Critical Techniques no Scales and Arpeggios

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