Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Soloing over Slash Chords

Q: Love your lesson on slash chords. By the way do you have a lesson on how to solo on these chords?

A: Thanks! No lesson on soloing over them but I'll tell you what I know.

Soloing over slash chords can be challenging because you really have to read between the lines when dealing with them. Most of them simply imply a bigger chord. Don't confuse these with triads in inversion though, these inverted triads are easy to deal with. Ex: C/E or C/G. Both are C chords, the first with the 3rd in the bass and the latter, with the 5th. No big deal here.

The difficult ones are the ones that are creating complex harmony. That is the beauty of these slash chords, they are simple and complex at the same time. Simple in the fact that they are just triads over bass notes, and every guitarist with a week of experience knows triads. Complex because they can be used to make chords that you would have a hard time figuring out to play on your own, like a like a Cmaj13#11 chord for instance could be played as a D/C chord. But the one thing that makes them easy to understand and analyze is the fact that they are usually in root position, meaning the bass note is the root. So a G/C slash chord is some kind of C chord.

Now on to figuring out what to play over them. This is what I'll do, I'll take a triad and move it up chromatically over the static bass note (C) and talk about what you should possibly play over it.

C/C - Simply a C triad and not really a slash chord.
Db/C - This one is tricky. Let's see, C-Db-F-Ab = 1-b2-4-b6. Looks phrygian to me. Like a b9sus chord (which is the phrygian chord) but with a b6 which can also be found in the phrygian scale. Just think phrygian here. Then again, it could also be a maj7 chord in 3rd inversion as in Dbmaj7 with the 7th in the bass. Either way, the same major scale: C phrygian = Db lydian = Ab major.

Concept: triad min2 above the root = b9sus = phrygian, or a maj7 3rd inversion.
D/C - C-D-F#-A = 1-2-#4-6 = lydian assuming the bass note is the root. No 3rd or 7th here so a lot of reading between the lines. Looks like a Cmaj13#11 chord but since there is no 7th, could also be C13#11. It could also be an inverted D7 chord with the 7th in the bass. Both the D7 in 3rd inversion and the Cmaj13#11 can be approached the same way however because D mixolydian and C lydian are both a G major scale. My experience tells me that chord is generally not the dominant chord with the #11 but it is still a possibilty. You sometimes see this in a C-D/C progression which is so lydian it makes me want to barf.

Concept: triad maj2 above the root = maj13#11 or dominant 7th in 3rd inversion (same scale, lydian or mixolydian from the same major key) but there is a slim chance could be a 13#11 (lydian dominant) chord as well.
Eb/C - C-Eb-G-Bb = 1-b3-5-b7 = min7 as in Cmin7. Easy enough. There is another exeption where this could possibly be a trick from the h/w diminished scale making it a C7#9 chord. I'll get to this later...

Concept: triad min3 above the root = min7 (dorian, aolian, etc.. but could be a 7#9 chord if part of a h/w diminished harmony.
E/C - C-E-G#-B = 1-3-#5-7 = maj7#5 as in Cmaj7#5. Lydian Augmented.

Concept: triad maj3 above the root = maj#5 = lydian augmented.
F/C - C-F-A-C = 5-1-3-5 = ain't nothin' fancy here, just a triad in 2nd inversion, in this case a F triad with the 5th in the bass.

Concept: zippo
F#/C - C-F#-A#-C# - 1-#4-b7-b2 = a h/w diminished thing going on here. Looks like a 7(b9,#11) chord. More on this later...

Concept: triad a tritone from the root = 7(b7,#11) = h/w diminished.
G/C - C-G-B-D = 1-5-7-9 = No 3rd but safe to assume it is a maj9 chord.

Concept: triad a 5th above the root = maj9 = lydian or ionian.
Ab/C - C-Ab-C-Eb = 3-1-3-5 = triad in 1st inversion, a plain old Ab chord with a C in the bass.

Concept: nada
A/C - C-A-C#-E - 1-6-b2-3 = h/w diminished here as well, a C13b9 chord.

Concept: triad a 6th above the root = 13b9 = h/w diminished.
Bb/C - C-Bb-D-F - 1-b7-9-4 = usually a 9sus chord mixolydian in nature But... sometimes this chord can be a min11 chord. You have to check the context clues to know but sometimes it pops up after a min7 chord of the same name like this: Cmin7-Bb/C.

Concept: triad a 2nd down from the root = 9sus = mixolydian. But may be min11 as well and probably aolian or dorian.
B/C - C-B-D#-F# - 1-7-b3-b5 = strange chord but you get it as a i chord sometimes in minor keys. Looks like a min/maj7(b5).

Concept: triad a min2 down from the root = min/maj7(b5) = diminished scale.
Slash chords and the h/w diminished scale: Sometimes you get four triads played over the root a min3rd apart as a h/w diminished harmonic magic trick: C-Eb/C-F#/C-A/C. See the above examples to make sense of what I just said.

Remember, you can always just play the triad arpeggio and a lot of times a major pentatonic scale that matches the triad in the slash chord.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Lydian Dominant Mode and b5 Subs

Q: I played through this progression today:


I tried using lydian dominant over the G7 chord and it sounded ok, but not that great. I know its meant to be used over a non-resolving dominant but why??

A: Although I suppose you could use the lydian dominant scale over the V chord, it may not be your best choice. If the V chord in your progression is not altered in any way, it may just be best to stick with the major scale throughout the whole thing (C major for your example progression). The lydian dominant mode of the melodic minor scale is best used over the b5 sub (or tritone substitution if you prefer). Using your original progression as our model, try a Dmin7-Amin7-Db7-Cmaj7 progression using a C major scale over the first two chords and a Db lydian dominant scale (Ab melodic minor) over the Db7. The Db7 chord is the b5 sub, it is a dominant chord placed a tritone away from the V chord.

To give you a simple explanation of why you would want to do this in the first place, substitute another unaltered dominant chord a tritone (b5th) above your V chord: it is to simply create an altered tonality. A Db7 chord placed above a G bass note looks suspiciously like a G altered chord. Look for yourself: Db7/G = G-Db-F-Ab-Cb. Analyze the intervals: G is the root, Db is the b5th, F is the b7th, Ab is the b9th and Cb (B) is the 3rd. You see, the Db7/G chord is really a G7(b5,b9) chord.

Now for a magic trick... What would you play over a G7(b5,b9) chord? That's right, a G altered scale. What melodic minor scale is a G altered mode? It is a Ab melodic minor scale. Remember our b5 sub, a Db7 chord? I told you you would want to play a Db lydian dominant mode over it. What melodic minor scale is the same as a Db lydian dominant mode? Hmm... an Ab melodic minor scale. Do you see the whole picture here? Both the altered V chord and the b5 sub chord are really the same things.

The lydian dominant scale is also commonly used over vamps as well. If you want to learn more about the lydian dominant mode go to these links: