I OFTEN HEAR THE TERM “OUT” FROM
fellow players. Playing “out,” or outside of
the tonal center, is one way of building tension
in a solo. Have you ever listened to
some guitarist take a solo and thought,
“What the hell was that? It wasn’t a minor
pentatonic!” I use a variety of symmetrical
scales to this effect. If your accompanying
instrument is only playing the root, then
the harmony or chord quality can be interpreted
as different things, such as Ddim,
Ddim7, or even G7b9.
In Ex. 1, I combine an open-string idea
with a diminished scale. Decide which scale
to use, either whole-step/half-step (a.k.a.
W/H, spelled D, E, F, G, Ab, Bb, Cb, Db) or
half-step/whole-step (a.k.a. H/W, spelled
D, Eb, F, Gb, Ab, Bbb, Cb, Dbb) depending on
which open strings are available within the
scale. Open strings: A, D, and B fall into
the H/W diminished scale from D. The difference
in timbre between the open string,
and fretted notes adds to the effect.
In Ex. 2 I play a three-note intervallic
sequence where I start on the root (D), go
down major 6th (F), then up a minor 2nd
(F#). Repeat that same shape up a minor
3rd and then up another minor 3rd for a
spooky, angular sound.
Ex. 3 illustrates a sweep idea. With the
background harmony of a C chord, this lick
starts on the root, but you can create interesting
tension by viewing this starting note
as the b7 (making the first phrase a rootless
D7 voicing). In any case, from your first tone,
go up a tritone, up a minor 3rd, then up
another minor 3rd. Then, slide the sequence
up a minor 3rd, play it backwards, slide it
up another minor 3rd, and repeat. Land on
a chord tone an you can bring your outside
sound back inside.
Check out a similar idea using a whole- tone scale pattern in Ex. 4. This will definitely
grab the listener’s attention over a C chord,
but the final slide up to the root makes sure
that no one gets too thrown.
Ex. 5 combines the whole-tone sweep with
a rhythmic grouping of five. The idea ends
with a whole-tone sequence (down tritone,
down tritone) descending chromatically.
Like any spice, use these flavors judiciously,
but they will definitely add some
pizzazz to your solos.