What's wrong

I know the chord shapes in my progression (G C G Am D G), the scale pattern underneath and I know the song I'm playing by heart. And yet - while I start soloing the song is gone. I can't make it sound like the song even though I'm highlighting SOME chord tones, for each chord in the progression.

How should it be?

[This guy][1] is basically playing a solo and yet, you can hear the song underneath even though he's playing a thousand notes a second.

I can't tell but could it be he's developing each chord in the progression by playing a lot more chord tones? Almost throwing the chord in your face so you can hear the progression? [1]:

Maybe I'm not formulating this question correctly but my purpose is to solo, even without a backing track, and yet portray a sense of song. An analysis of the above musician's playing maybe? Thank you.

  • 1
    Did you not notice that he does have a backing track? So that video is not an example of what you are trying to do. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 20:16
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    @ToddWilcox, it's only drums so it doesn't help lead the melody. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 20:20
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    Uh.. I wonder if we are watching the same video because the one I'm watching absolutely has a bass track. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 20:21
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    If you hear a sense of song before 24 seconds in (when the bass starts) then you are hearing something that I can't hear. As soon as the bass starts, it establishes the chord progression behind the soloing. Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 21:03
  • 2
    @Alexandre - can't see how knowing modes will help with a song in G major.
    – Tim
    Commented Apr 27, 2018 at 9:27

3 Answers 3


At the beginning, with no chord pattern obvious, it could have been any old song. However, the bass and drums ( and occasional keyboard and possible guitar) shape things into the well-known sequence. Unmistakable. He is actually playing parts of the song and the guitar breaks associated. So, for anyone knowing the song, every so often, they're reminded of what it is. probably even without the guitar, it would be recognised!

Now, good players can play without a backing track and it would be apparent what the underlying harmonies are. That's because they're using the chord notes as a basis for the notes played over that chord at that moment. A lot more than just arpeggios, as shown in your video. But that's a start. If you analyse bars from songs, you'll see that some ( sometimes all) of the notes from a given bar reflect those of the chord in the same bar. It makes sense, really. Playing all notes which do not belong to the chord? Either wrong chord, or wrong notes! They just don't fit together!

Having said that, when there's a flurry of faster notes, it's often the first and last that fit best, the ears/brain don't have time in the moment to analyse much more in the first hearing.

So, use chord tones, at good points in the bar - 1st and 3rd beats are a good start point - put in other diatonic notes and chromatics at weaker places in the bar. Emphasise important notes. See (hear) how that goes for starters.


You have to know the song. The chords alone do not make a song (even though many of us start writing with rhythm riff). I am interpreting your question as asking how do you structure a meaningful solo over chords rather than what is this guy doing. If you really know your chords, substitutions, poly-chords, etc, you can turn almost any tune into a basic I - IV - V, or part of the circle progression (which just follows the key in jumps of a fourth except for the 7 chord). The point is that if you ignore the head an just follow chords everything will turn out the same (one chord tone followed by another). Chords support or follow melody not the other way around. So use the head of a tune for lick inspiration. This will complement the song and the audience will "understand" what you're doing since you are throwing pieces of the main theme at them, and presumably they like the song. This is a common issue with young players first learning jazz. They see tons of chords and tons of possibilities for hitting "good notes" but the structure of the solo becomes disconnected from the mood or feeling of the song and even from itself. The connection between chords and scales that fit over them is valuable in theory but to say that the melody should fit the chords puts the cart before the horse. The composer probably (probably, not definitely) started with a melody and later put a riff or progression behind it. As for using the head (or melody) of the song you need to know it inside and out. Either learn it and memorize it and invent a few licks based on the main pieces of the melody or use your ear on the fly.


As best I can tell, his guitar part is following the backing track, drums, bass, and I hear a rhythm guitar part in there also, I don't hear the song until the backing track comes in. However, I am aware that it's possible to play rhythm and melody lines alternately back and forth to create the forward motion that makes a song. Maybelle Carter gained recognition as a player when she developed her style, Chet Atkins, and Chuck Berry could also perform quite well without any support. What I saw and heard in the video was a melody line with an occasional full chord thrown in, a lot of arpegiated chords, a ton of embellishments, and a backing track. If I were wishing to play that song that way, that's what I'd choose to study

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