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Tension and resolution notes.

bratpack7

Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2003
Messages
242
When playing simple phrases in Blues, sometimes I hit a bad note. In the middle of the phrase it is easier to recover, but at the end it just kills the mood. My question is this: What are the safe tension and resolution notes in a given key?
 

Cogswell

The Duke of Dumbassery
Joined
Mar 19, 2002
Messages
15,716
I think probably the safest & most popular is a bend or slur from a flat third to a major third.
 

B Ingram

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Jan 3, 2016
Messages
730
When playing simple phrases in Blues, sometimes I hit a bad note. In the middle of the phrase it is easier to recover, but at the end it just kills the mood. ...

If you hit a bad note, you can almost always slide up or down 1 fret and land on a good note.

... What are the safe tension and resolution notes in a given key?

In a lot of ways, this is a wrong question.

Instead, you should be asking, "what is the melody of this song" or, "what solo melody do I want to hear" or, "what chords am I playing over?" If you're just playing licks and not something you can hum as an identifiable melody, you won't get anywhere. And you'll play the same licks over the same songs, boring yourself & the audience.

But let's say you do want to pick out target notes to hit, as a starting point for constructing your solo melody... What chord are you starting on, and what chord are you going to? Pretend you're in A major, and are going from A to D.

Maybe you hit "sliding 6ths" to outline the A major chord, where you go from E & C# notes on the 3rd & 1st strings at the 9th fret (these are the 5th & 3rd of A major), down 2 frets to the D & B notes @ the 7th fret (could be passing notes, or could be the 9th & 11th of A major), to C# (6th fret) and A (5th fret). Those last 2 are the 1st and 3rd of A major, so you've defined a key center.

Then while you have a beat or 2, walk that A at the 5th fret down to A-flat (4th fret) then G (3rd fret), and maybe alternate from G (3rd fret) to E (B string, 5th fret). You're now tweaking the audience's ear, because those notes are the 5th & 7th of an A7 chord.

But you're doing that last bit because you have a target of moving to a D major chord, and can slide those G & E notes on the top 2 strings down to F# (2nd fret) and D (3rd fret), resolving the A7 to D (which is a V-I move, in the key of D).

If you accepted a wider stretch, you might have played that G on the 1st string and a C# on the 3rd string (4th fret), moving to the same D & F#. Now C# moved up 1/2 step to D and G moved down a 1/2 step to F#. It would be an even stronger pull from A to A7 to D major. And the tritone you were playing between the C# & G begs for resolution.

Thinking it out, as above, should really only be a starting point for ideas... You gotta look at the chords you're playing over, decide where tones of one chord move the shortest distance to a tone of the following chord, and note that as potential target notes to play over those 2 chords. Rinse & repeat for the other chord transitions in the song.

But it will all sound mechanical unless you then use those target notes as a guide to develop your own hum-able melody. Sometimes it's as simple as approaching scale/chord melody tones from a half-step above or below. This Jerry Reed song is jam-packed with using both chord target-notes, and half-step approaches from above & below (plus a dash of fingerpicking magic with playing scalar melodies by using a mix of open & fretted strings, as well as playing an independent walking bass-line) to make a sound that contains a memorable melody even when different parts of the song seem to have a different sound.

If all that is too complicated, find a recording of the song that has a solo you like over the chords you'll play over, and steal it. Then as you're practicing, notice how the copied notes compare to chord-tones that are being played under the solo at that moment.
 

B Ingram

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Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
730
Carrying on with the idea of playing in a blues in A, you might consider the effect of switching between the A major and minor pentatonic shapes.

Maybe you kick off the solo playing in the A major pentatonic shape first over the A chord, for a brighter, uplifted sound. Play E (2nd string), F#, A (1st string), B bent up to C#. You may even land on a G note (from the A minor pentatonic) somewhere at the end of this phrase.

You might switch it up to play out of the A minor pentatonic shape over the D7 chord, because the A & C (and the bend up to D) notes on the 1st string are all chord tones of D7. You might hit the G (2nd string) in this shape, slide it down to F# (not in the minor pentatonic, but a D7 chord tone), pull off to E, fret the D (3rd string), etc.

Over E7, you might be back mostly in the A major pentatonic shape, because it has E and B naturally, while the A and F# notes lend themselves to making a continuous melody. But you'll also look to hit a D note from the A minor pentatonic shape (the 7th of E7), as well as probably throwing in the G# (maybe while playing a B or a D note) because that's the 3rd of E7. And that G# will want to move up to A while the D moves to C#; which just resolved the tritone (G# & D) of E7 to the A major (A & C#).



And none of what I mentioned even covers what happens when you get the cool 8- and 16-bar blues songs, which have chords beyond just I, IV and V. Like Freddie King's Someday After a While where the 4 chord (B-flat) has only its bass note raised to B-natural, making the chord Bdim7. Or later where from F7 (I), the chords go to D7 (the VI-7 chord, with an F# normally not in the key of F), G7 (the II-7, with B-natural, normally not in the key of F), to C7 (the V-7 chord in F), to F7.

Your playing over such a song can sound really cool & spicy when you know which notes are in those added chords, and take advantage of either playing them to draw attention, or playing straight F-blues licks to sound sour over those chords, etc...
 

bratpack7

Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2003
Messages
242
Carrying on with the idea of playing in a blues in A, you might consider the effect of switching between the A major and minor pentatonic shapes.

Maybe you kick off the solo playing in the A major pentatonic shape first over the A chord, for a brighter, uplifted sound. Play E (2nd string), F#, A (1st string), B bent up to C#. You may even land on a G note (from the A minor pentatonic) somewhere at the end of this phrase.

You might switch it up to play out of the A minor pentatonic shape over the D7 chord, because the A & C (and the bend up to D) notes on the 1st string are all chord tones of D7. You might hit the G (2nd string) in this shape, slide it down to F# (not in the minor pentatonic, but a D7 chord tone), pull off to E, fret the D (3rd string), etc.

Over E7, you might be back mostly in the A major pentatonic shape, because it has E and B naturally, while the A and F# notes lend themselves to making a continuous melody. But you'll also look to hit a D note from the A minor pentatonic shape (the 7th of E7), as well as probably throwing in the G# (maybe while playing a B or a D note) because that's the 3rd of E7. And that G# will want to move up to A while the D moves to C#; which just resolved the tritone (G# & D) of E7 to the A major (A & C#).



And none of what I mentioned even covers what happens when you get the cool 8- and 16-bar blues songs, which have chords beyond just I, IV and V. Like Freddie King's Someday After a While where the 4 chord (B-flat) has only its bass note raised to B-natural, making the chord Bdim7. Or later where from F7 (I), the chords go to D7 (the VI-7 chord, with an F# normally not in the key of F), G7 (the II-7, with B-natural, normally not in the key of F), to C7 (the V-7 chord in F), to F7.

Your playing over such a song can sound really cool & spicy when you know which notes are in those added chords, and take advantage of either playing them to draw attention, or playing straight F-blues licks to sound sour over those chords, etc...

Thanks for this detailed reply, I will spend some time going over it. I am trying to work on my phrasing so it doesn't just sound like scales, and I really love tension or uncertainty in some notes. Claptons lead in Badge, Page's last note in the first phrase of the Stairway solo, etc. and I never seem to land on the note I hear in my head automatically. So for extended solos where I have to improvise a bit, I would like to work on a bunch of 3 bar phrases in different keys knowing in my mind where the sweet notes to land on are located.

I also appreciate the other replies, I will give it all go.
 

B Ingram

Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2016
Messages
730
... I really love tension or uncertainty in some notes. Claptons lead in Badge, Page's last note in the first phrase of the Stairway solo ...

I can't even remember how Badge goes (I never really liked the song, and the last time I've heard it was probably the early-90's).

But the note you're talking about in the 1st phrase of the Stairway solo... It's an F-natural, so not a note in the A-minor pentatonic scale that the rest of the lick is played from. But he hits that note right as the rest of the band lands on an F chord. :hmm (and it sounds unusual because Page plays it on an off-beat)

The notes of F major are F, A and C. But the notes of the A-minor which kick off that section are A, C and E. So only the F note gives the ear a solid indication of the change from Am (through G) to F. So it's still all about spending some time to think about composing melodies to fit the chord sequence you're playing over.

... for extended solos where I have to improvise a bit, I would like to work on a bunch of 3 bar phrases in different keys knowing in my mind where the sweet notes to land on are located. ...

What if you heard an author say, "I'm going to write a short story [solo]. I'm going to develop a handful of random sentences [phrases], print each out, and throw the printed sentences into a bowl. Then I'll pull random sentences from the bowl to form my story..."

Of course, you're not saying this, and stealing phrases from songs which really grab your ear are time-honored tactics for generations of players. Be sure to think in terms which chord you're playing over as far as deciding which phrase to use. A solo is really just a mini-composition, and an improvised solo is just an "unplanned mini-composition". If your improvised solos are gonna sound good, you probably need to spend a good deal of time developing "written" solos, where you have the time to pre-plan how you'll get from one chord to the next with a good melody line or interesting sound.

The process is mechanical & artificial when you're practicing & developing licks. But once you have the lick under your fingers and can play it while just thinking about the sound you want, you'll find they come out naturally. If you're developing your phrases by stealing licks from audio/video of other players, you'll develop an intuitive sense of which chord they fit over or when is the best time to play them.

Are we talking about 12-bar blues? There are so many styles/approaches that you can get a lot of guidance just by the feel/style of the overall song & what the singer is doing.
 

Triplet

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 13, 2006
Messages
1,609
If you're trying to get something across and want to do it with emphasis or emotional, just remember you can't shout nor whisper in key... :teeth
 

bratpack7

Member
Joined
Nov 28, 2003
Messages
242
I can't even remember how Badge goes (I never really liked the song, and the last time I've heard it was probably the early-90's).

But the note you're talking about in the 1st phrase of the Stairway solo... It's an F-natural, so not a note in the A-minor pentatonic scale that the rest of the lick is played from. But he hits that note right as the rest of the band lands on an F chord. :hmm (and it sounds unusual because Page plays it on an off-beat)

The notes of F major are F, A and C. But the notes of the A-minor which kick off that section are A, C and E. So only the F note gives the ear a solid indication of the change from Am (through G) to F. So it's still all about spending some time to think about composing melodies to fit the chord sequence you're playing over
What if you heard an author say, "I'm going to write a short story [solo]. I'm going to develop a handful of random sentences [phrases], print each out, and throw the printed sentences into a bowl. Then I'll pull random sentences from the bowl to form my story..."

Of course, you're not saying this, and stealing phrases from songs which really grab your ear are time-honored tactics for generations of players. Be sure to think in terms which chord you're playing over as far as deciding which phrase to use. A solo is really just a mini-composition, and an improvised solo is just an "unplanned mini-composition". If your improvised solos are gonna sound good, you probably need to spend a good deal of time developing "written" solos, where you have the time to pre-plan how you'll get from one chord to the next with a good melody line or interesting sound.

The process is mechanical & artificial when you're practicing & developing licks. But once you have the lick under your fingers and can play it while just thinking about the sound you want, you'll find they come out naturally. If you're developing your phrases by stealing licks from audio/video of other players, you'll develop an intuitive sense of which chord they fit over or when is the best time to play them.

Are we talking about 12-bar blues? There are so many styles/approaches that you can get a lot of guidance just by the feel/style of the overall song & what the singer is doing.

Yeah, mostly blues stuff. I get the whol idea of making melodies as opposed to "letters in a bowl" I guess it is mostly for improvising that I am asking the question. And maybe the answer is simply to copy some leads that I like and start to develop the muscle memory. Like I said, I can usually find nice, soulful notes to play, using pauses and bends and vibrato etc., it's just either the last note of a phrase or the end of the solo that my finger, for whatever reason, lands on a bad note. Not an out of scale note, just the wrong one within the scale.
 
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