Soloing Workshop notes

Hey rockers,
Here are notes from RMO Spring 2010 workshop series, including the "quiz" which is essentially a music theory overview/review. Be sure to scroll all the way down to the "workout message."

BTW, Stephanie points out that, "soloing notes [for some songs] are on the new [this] website, they are filed by song. i.e., if you click on mesecina, pharoahs, sweet tater pie, you will see the solo notes for that song."

- roger clarinista, June 2010 (questions? -


Some overview bits:

- there was "less is more" soloing exploration
- we gave each other tips and encouragement and generally aimed at having fun
- there were questions and discussion
- it was pointed out that music theory is just a tool (crutch?) for picking notes to play in your solo - see 'anti-theory' bit below


Melody related:
- play the melody
- vary the melody rhythmically
- vary the melody melodically
- work with bass line or other part
- harmonize?

Chord related:
- play with notes from the chords
- add nice and not nice notes based on the chord

Scale related:
- play with notes from the scale of the key the song is in
- play with notes from the scale of the key the song is in, choosing mainly the notes used in the melody or chord
- blues notes
- play with notes from the applicable pentatonic or other fancy scale

Note related:
- Note treatment and technique: bending/slurring notes, trills,
use of dissonance, etc etc
- Instrument Specific related stuff: (etc etc)


Scales/Intervals basics:

Music theory is largely about numbers and useful for finding the "correct" notes for a particular solo.

An "interval" is 2 notes and the particular distance between them. Various intervals give distinct sounds. Different combinations of certain various intervals give us major, minor, and various other chords/harmonies.

There's plenty more to know (key signatures, circle of 5ths etc), but here is some quick and dirty theory in 5(7?) minutes. Answers in [brackets].

1) recite the musical alphabet :-) [A, B, C, D, E, F, G]

2) every fret on a guitar or key on a piano goes a "half-step" at a time. Which notes in a C major scale (no sharps or flats: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) are only a half-step apart? [E/F, B/C]

3) What is the step/half-step pattern for all major scales? [ 1,1,1/2 , 1, 1,1,1/2 ]

4) What is an "interval"? [the distance between two notes - include the notes when you count]

5) What is a "chord"? [2 or more notes played together, maybe a combination of intervals - It's where harmonies happen :-0 ]

6) What are the notes for the following intervals starting with C in the C major scale?: major 3rd [C, E]; minor 3rd [C, Eb]

7) Other important intervals are: 4th, 5th, 6th (relative minor). Most simple songs use which points in the scale as a base for the song's basic chords? [1, 4, and 5 (also, maybe the 6 (relative minor) - in C, Am. )].

8) What is the makeup of a major "triad" (chord)? [1, 3, 5]; minor chord? [1, flat 3, 5] . (Notice that the major chord has a major 3rd on bottom, and the minor chord has the major 3rd on top)

9) What are the notes for C Major triad (chord)? [C, E, G]; C minor? [C, Eb, G]

10) "Blues notes" played within a scale give things that special flavor. Which notes are changed, and how? [Blues notes include a flattened 3rd note and a flattened 7th note ("dominant 7th"). ]

11) What's the pentatonic blues scale? [ the stuff of much soloing - 5 note scale using: 1, flat 3rd, 4, 5, flat 7th ]

12) What are the pentatonic blues scale notes for bluesy soloing in C major?
[ C, Eb, F, G, Bb ]

13) A nice bluesy "C7" chord adds a blues note to a C major chord. What are it's
notes? [C, E, G, Bb]

14) extra credit: how many frets on a fiddle? [none that I'm aware of]

Communicate emotionally with the listener. Hear shit in yer head based on what the band is playing and get it to come out of your instrument. Get ideas from other musicians and recordings. The more time you spend with your instrument, the better for this (?).

"DO try all this at home, playing against sound files, or let the band play in yer head. Noodling for extended periods of playing, rarely possible at band practice, produces results. Try composing solos by SINGING ideas first, then transferring those ideas to yer horn. The purpose of the soloing workshops are to help set you up with tools to work on your own, and with others. It seems that people want to know what notes they can use when soloing. That'll be the main question we will try to answer."