Playing Outside – Side-slipping

Playing outside is a mysterious skill that many improvisers go looking for to add surprise (or shock) to their solos. One fairly easy approach to playing outside is called side slipping or side stepping and that is what I am going to go over in this lesson.

Playing Outside

A lot of outside sounding lines are created by reharmonizing what ever you are playing over so instead of the chords that you normally play at some point in a song you play a chord that sounds very different to create a surprise for the listener.

In many ways a lot of altered dominant and similar scale choices are infact playing outside in situations where it is easy to come back inside.

Side Slipping

In this lesson I am going to talk about side-slipping which is taking the harmony that is there already and shift it up or down a half step to have a chord sound that has few common notes and therefore will sound far away from what is being played behind you.

The easiest way to work on this is to take a once chord vamp like this one:

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 1

and the scale that could be used to improvise on this would be this G dorian (or F major) scale

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 2

To vary the lines the idea is to use the chord 1/2 step above: Abm7 which could be played using this scale:

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 3

The scales in examples 2 and 3 are the same, just moved.

To get started we can then practice to improvise over the vamp using this progression:

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 4

Here the Abm7 will sound outside over the Gm7 vamp and we are working on both getting into the Abm7 and out of it in a logical way.

Understanding the concept of side slipping is not very difficult, but actually playing it and getting it to sound as a natural melody can be quite tricky.

How to make lines with side slipping

What we need to work on is getting used to hearing lines that get in and out of the Abm7 in a logical way and we also need to get used to making lines that are full of tension against the harmony but still make sense.

The first example is mostly a very simple way to get started using side slipping. The idea is really simple, we make a line on Gm7 and just move the whole line up a half step to repeat it on the Abm7 before it resolves to a strong chord note on Gm7.

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 5

This is a good place to start since repeating the line makes it melodically strong in the context. It can get a bit predictable if you over use it, and often works better if it is combined with some more interesting rhythms and not place too squarely in the bar.

The 2nd example is taking the motief idea a bit further so now the Abm7 is based on the same arpeggio that is played on the Gm7, but now the line is a development of the first line and not just a copy which could be a good second step. The idea is that if you develop the line on the Abm7 from the Gm7 you will still have a thread through the whole movement giving it a better flow overall.

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 6

In the 3rd example the lines are flowing and there is a movement from the Gm7 to the Abm7 but it is not based on a motief. What you can see from the lines on the Abm7 is that they are all basic and mostly using the lower part of the chords. This is because the good “outside” notes are the basic notes and if you start using the extensions you are likely going to find yourself playing chord notes in Gm7, since the 9 and the 13 of Abm are both chord tones in Gm7.

Playing Outside - Side-slipping - ex 7

That was some examples on how you can approach side slipping as a way to play outside. This approach is more efficient on a chord that stays for some time. If you are doing this on top of a moving progression you might have to resolve to another chord than where you started and it might not be as easy to work with.

One of the first things you should try to expand this with is to start moving back and forth from the sideslip on parts of the bar that are not the strong beat. Try moving a 5 or 7 note motief so that it resolves and creates tension in unexpected places. That will make the whole approach much stronger.

If you want to study the examples away from the video or article you can download a pdf here:

Playing Outside – Side-slipping

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