How to Create an Awesome Solo Using the caged guitar system

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Steve Stine: Alright, so in this lesson, what we're going to be doing is looking at two different chords. We're gonna look at E minor, and we're going to look at D major. And we're gonna talk about some different ways of approaching being able to play these chords, different styles of chords across the fretboard, and also some different things that you can do to incorporate some simple soloing around those as well, some different things that I tend to see when I'm playing. So the first thing we're going to do is we're just going to start building this with a dry guitar tone here, just a little bit of distortion.

Okay, and what I'm going to do is I'm going to take the E minor and let's just think...How many different places on the guitar do we know how to play an E minor chord? Well, you probably know the open position. And maybe, you know, like the fifth string barre chord. Of course, the open chord would be a six-string barre chord up at the 12th fret.

So that's some really great places to begin. But let's fill in the gaps here with some other ideas, some different things that I like to see when I'm playing. And this could apply to any minor chord, we're just looking at E minor in this situation. So if I was to take this E minor right here, the first thing that I do is I visualize from these two notes, another chord shape for E minor where I'm going to bar over all the bottom five strings here, and I'm going to add on my ring finger on the third string, fourth fret and my pinky on the second string, fifth fret. Now, if I was just to strum from zero of the sixth string to the second string, it sounds like a glorified power chord. Now, if I wasn't in E, if I was in a different key, I would leave this string off. And I could strum all of this, cause I’m barring it.

Okay, so that's fine.

It’s a fine sound, but what we want to do is we want to add some color to this. So what I like to do is if I was to strum all the way through this, and I'm barring across the first string as well, what I wind up doing is adding in the note F sharp. So that F sharp sounds like the ninth. And what it does is it resolves quite nicely up to the third right there. Okay, so if I add my middle finger on right here, I wind up getting the sound of the minor third of that chord.

Now I don't have to play that whole chord shape, I might just play a couple of strings. The point is, is that you start visualizing these things and you see them and you hear them. It's a really nice sound. But if I do this, that note right there, that F sharp is kind of fresh to the ear.

Sounds really nice. If I add a little bit of, you know, delay and reverb back into this...See how now, because of that little bit of effects that I have...It gives me space to just relax a little bit not have to worry about playing so much I don't have to fill so much space, I can just enjoy that sound.

Okay, so that's a nice place to start. And again, you could do this over any bar chord if you were sitting on a G minor, for instance. Again, where these two fingers are, that's, that's my cue right there. So it’s sitting right there. Now if I take that first finger and move up, it becomes the minor chord but if I leave it back here, I've got that ninth I'm adding in right there.

Okay, makes it sound like a sus chord if you're familiar with what sus chords are. So it's a really nice sound. Now let's keep going across the fretboard. So we've got E minor. And of course, there are lots of different things we can do to this E minor...To make it sound a little more colorful too...There are lots of cool things. But so what we've done is we've added in this...Okay? Well, the next step for me is that I see I've got an E sitting right here, so I can start building off of that. You might have seen this before, this is a pretty typical arpeggio that guitar players learn. I’m playing 75453, and 7, but again, I'm thinking of it less about just being an arpeggio kind of off on an island on its own, and how I can use that as a chordal structure. So I can already see if I look up to the top of this thing, I’ve got this - four, five, three, well, that is that cord that we just talked about over here. But it’s overlapping. So if we keep going toward the ceiling, I got this five and this seven sitting right here. So I could play just the seven and five, or this five and four, or maybe this five and for, and this five.

See any of those things are legitimate to play as a little fragment in your playing. See?

So if you think about it, now if I add that back in...I'll add a little delay and reverb.

See how cool that sounds? I'm visualizing those notes and then playing the scale that surrounds it.

But kind of the trick to the whole thing is I need to play enough of that chordal structure within the context of my solo, to give it a chordal sound if I just do this...It might sound really nice, but you can't really hear the chord. But if I go...You can really hear that cord sticking out there.

See, it's got a really nice sound to it!

So let's keep going here, we're gonna move up. Now the next thing we're gonna do here is head up to our fifth string E minor, which is sitting right now, probably know that one.

But let's make it a little more interesting. Maybe what we'll do is we'll take the pinky off and make it an E minor seven sound, right? Or maybe what we'll do is we'll take that chord and we'll think about adding in the sixth of this E minor. Sounds quite nice.

So if we do that minor six here...Which is that note right there...So again, if I add a little...See how dark that sounds? It sounds really nice, doesn't it?

So there's my C up there. So if I went here and... Add it in up there...Maybe I skip over a string...I play the root, which is the E. And there's my C right there and play those together. Right, or maybe I played the fifth along with that...

Sounds pretty dark, right?

Where if I played the seventh, it tends to sound a bit more bluesy maybe? But if I add that sixth it's got a really nice sound to it. So I just have to think about finding the B right? And then thinking well if I've got my B so I have G and E - there it is right there. Okay, so that's another place we can go.

Okay, let's keep going. So if we move up again from here...Okay? We're gonna move up...It's gonna have more of a power chord sound at this point, right? So we've got nine, nine, twelve, twelve. Let's try and do something a little more interesting with this. So right there, what I'm doing is I'm adding this note right here, which is the A, over the sound of that E. Kind of cool. The other thing I could do would be to play 9, 9, 12, and then 10. Right here, I'm adding in the note D, which is that seventh again.

And then that'll lead us back up again into our E minor sitting up here.

So it makes for really nice little comps that you can do with your chord, maybe you're thinking about doing something...Again, if I can visualize my chord, and my scale at the same time...It's over an E minor, so it's gonna sound quite dark right now. Notice I'm putting E in the bass each time, right? So you don't really have to worry so much about having to play in time at this point, you can just kind of explore the sounds, but instead of going, you know...With your scale, think less about just playing that scale and more about trying to play something that's based off the chord.

Right, so there...So I know right here, I've got my root and my minor third, which makes the sound of that E minor right there. But if I drop down, or go up above that...So again, right there...There's my G, but I'm dropping down to my F sharp like I did down there...By moving up to my A, you can get some really nice sounds around that chord, or around that note. You could still hear the tonality of that E happening. So what I did was I just kind of made something where I'm moving around. Right? It still has the sound of that chord happening. See that? So I can use the fragments of these chords...Isn’t that cool? So I'm going from five to seven and nine and 10 here.

See how cool that sounds right over that E? And of course this, I just love this sound. You can always resolve, but you don't have to resolve.

Okay? So that's some ideas that we can explore with just the E minor just looking for some sounds, again to break you out of always thinking about playing...Not that doesn't sound cool in its own way. But right now what we're doing is we're really trying to focus more on making a connection to the E minor chord itself. Okay, so really thinking about the sounds...

Okay, so I'm always pushing myself to something that it might move away from the chord, but then it comes right back. So there's something if that's moving something else is trying to make a connection.

See, so as long as I've got something else there that's kind of making that connection...Otherwise, if I just start going...It might sound amazing. But what I really want to try and focus on is still kind of staying consistent with making a connection to that chord.


Now when the D chord comes up…

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Now, the D is a major chord, right? So I'm seeing D major...D right there, which you probably know, I've got a D fifth-string barre chord. Sounds wonderful...Six-string barre chords, here. So those are kind of maybe my outer points to connect to. So what I'm going to do is take this D chord, of course, I know I can make that into a sus2 by taking my middle finger off, which already is going to have a nice kind of sound to it, especially with this delay and reverb that I've got. And again, we'll talk about that in just a little bit...Right? Or the sus4 right there sounds really nice, too. Okay, and then we've got D sitting right here. So now what I'm doing is playing five, four, two, three, two. Okay, but I also want to be aware of some things here, like I could make my sus chord if I think about my D...Right, because I'm adding in the G right there. So it's like a sus4. So that sounds kind of neat. Again, I'm skipping some strings in between, but you can hear how I'm still kind of maintaining the sound of that chord. Okay, move up to this D. Right up here, of course, we've got our D sus2, we've got our D sus4. Okay, but the sixth also sounds really nice up here. So if I was to add in the note B, over that D...Sounds really nice. Okay? Okay, so that's a sus with that added B in there. Keep going, make my power chord right here where I'm playing...Okay, move up to this D...When I'm up here, I like to see the scale sitting there...See here I'm making a D as well I've got ten, nine, seven, seven, and then I can do seven or ten. But I love to add in that...Sea how that works? And then I could keep going up here. And then the really important one is using this D all over again one octave higher. So I've got here if I go up and do 12 14 15 and then either 12 for the sus or 14, for the D or 15 for the sus4, for that matter.

Part of the trick to this whole thing is being able to visualize them across your guitar. So if you're in one position and you're playing something that you really like, you know, maybe I'm up here and I've got D...See, now I've moved down into this position, and I'm seeing the D chord sitting right here. And then I've seen the D chord, sitting right here.

Right? So part of what you want to really spend some quality time on is learning how to visualize those. And you can just use one chord to begin with. Now as you get more comfortable with one chord, then you could try two chords and things like that, but don't worry about you know, the...People worry so much about like…” I need to know all the chords and I need to know them all equally.” Maybe someday. that's true. But right now just start with a couple of chords, like just learn how to take your E minor...And just learn how to make some cool sounds...That's a fourth and a fifth...Six right there sounds really nice, right? whatever it might be. And you just kind of explore those sounds. So you think I got this right? I can see my scale...Wherever it might be...Even if you move up into this area here, which is your minor pentatonic, you got to think what can I do that's different. We already talked about this note right here, which is the F sharp...We looked at that down here, the F sharp adds that ninth sound. So a lot of times what I'll do is take my pentatonic and at the very least, I'll substitute instead of playing G, I'll play that F sharp. And it changes up the sound of that pentatonic. It sounds kind of cool. Then when D comes up...So right there, what I'm thinking about is I'm moving up into this D, into the sus, and then I'm going to move up into this D right, up here, and this D...So I'm seeing this D and this D sitting right there, and I’m playing the pentatonic inside there. Moving up into this one.

Now, if these two chords were being played together, like the little demonstration I had in the beginning if I was going from E minor...Okay, then what I'm doing is I'm thinking about at some point, I've got to connect these two together, right? So if I've got...And that right there...That note is a nice note to try and connect to the E minor, right? Cause it’s part of the E minor there. So I could drop down to that, right? That's the F sharp or excuse me, the B. And I'm thinking okay, here comes the D chord. So I gotta think where can I go that would connect to that D? Right? Any of those notes...Any of those notes would be just fine. And even if I added in that sixth...Any of those notes would have been a great place to target as that D is coming. So I have an E minor...Right here, I got to think…Okay, right here I need to think - “Well here comes E minor”…Where can I go from there? Well, right now I’m on E and I can drop back to B, but maybe I’ll drop back to that seventh...See, if I like the sound of that, right… Then oftentimes, I'll use little things like that too, where I'll use maybe an open E...See, so there are lots of really cool ways that you can approach this, you just need to spend some time exploring it...Now...Right now all I'm doing is running a little bit of distortion. What I like to do is right now, if I turn this off, my guitar tone is fairly clean. Okay, and I love that kind of sound. So then, what I do is on top of that, I add just some sort of a maybe a stompbox, just a little bit of distortion. Just to kind of push me over the edge a little bit. Then I'll usually go to maybe my single-coil pickup in the center. It kind of starts there. But you can see when it's really dry like this again, it's great if I'm playing funk or something. But if I'm trying to make something that sounds a bit more ethereal and mysterious, what I want to do is I want to add in some delay and reverb. So what I've got here...Here, just a little bit of delay going on there. Okay? Not a lot. And then what I'm doing is adding in quite a bit of reverb. What I want you to notice is that it's quite large and it's quite long. Now what I always try to do with my reverb is make sure that it's not louder than my actual signal.

Now, in this case, I'm pushing it quite a bit to the limit. So I'm pushing it up about as high as I would ever have it. And in this particular case, it's kind of long to right? It’s quite a bit there and then that delay just kind of blends in with it very nicely. Okay, and in this particular situation, I'm looking at not really playing fast, I'm really just trying to think about those chords...Sounds really nice. So I might move from here...Thinking about my D sitting up here. Sitting right here, sitting right here...And moving down. The same idea with my minor except my minor, I'm really going to try and think about some of the darker sounds. Because it just sounds so creepy. Right there. Just climbing up the scale is all I'm really doing there.

Just take some time to get used to and explore a little bit. And again, that's why you're avoiding the parameters of setting a metronome and all that sort of thing. Just see what you can do with it.

Next time on the Steve Stine guitar podcast.

Okay, so in order to get comfortable with this idea, what I have to do is think about what I'm actually doing with my guitar pick, which is down, up, down, and then I'm doing up, down, up. And again, this is just called alternate picking. Basically, what you're trying to do is teach yourself how to just continually keep the pick moving, regardless of switching strings. So as I go down up, down up, down up...Okay? What happens is, the hardest part about this for most people is the transition from the second string to the first string. So when I go...Let's just focus on that for now, okay? So I'm playing down up, down up. So the first thing, of course, I've got to synchronize my hands and my fingers and all these other things need to happen too...

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