Ok I'll explain the situation.

I have to play a guitar solo during one section of a song. The problem is that during that section the other guitar only plays the D5 chord in an irregular pattern with considerable time between strummings.

The song is in the F#m scale and I already had a solo where I played over that scale and I thought it was good, but after recording it I felt that it didn't sound quite right and decided to change it, but I don't know how to make something that sounds good.

There is a lot of tutorials about soloing over a chord progression, but I haven't found anything about soloing over just a chord repeating over and over.

I don't know if I should create a chord progression for that part of the song and play over that or play over D lydian or if the time between the strummings of the other guitar is messing me up.

So I ask you some advice on how to play a solo over the same chord over and over.

3 Answers 3


Chords are meant to support melody rather than dictate melody. This is something that many musicians get backwards when they first start improv.

Joe Pass, for example, would play beautiful melodic lines that defined chords progressions. It takes time to learn but there isn't a lot of variety in western music. For some musicians a drone chord or vamp is great because it does NOT dictate too much in the way of movement and you can create your own. For others, the more chords the better since they provide the improv ideas.

That said here are a few ideas.

  1. You are in a unique position to play around with multiple styles. If the song is in F#m you could play off any minor mode (though the one in key would be F# natural minor). You could also use F# phygian, dorian, or the blues scale.

  2. Try something with an ethnic style. Playing over drones is common in Indian music. Indian music is all Improv and Sitar players will play off exotic scales while other instruments play simple 2 note drone chords. Using ideas from Indian music became popular in classic rock. You hear it in Zeppelin and other bands. I'm referring to the use of a Sitar like in Beatles tunes, but the style of playing. You could also do this with the blues scale, or F# Phygian would sound Spanish.

  3. Use ideas from the song! This is probably your best bet. Before the solo part comes there is something being played by other instruments, or a singer. Get your hands on their music or figure out a few lines by ear. As long as the solo chord matches the key you're in you should be able to make that work. I don't suggest just playing the main theme straight, but taking highlights and embellishing them, turning them into something new. This is a solid approach as it complements the song rather than becoming something completely incongruent.

If you're new to improv don't shy away form composing a solo. Many great players do this. Even though the idea is to be spontaneous we really use ideas we are familiar with and string them together when we solo.

I hope that helps.


Improvisation is live composing, and composing is slow improvisation. If you haven't been given instructions on what to do, you have to make it up yourself. Whatever you don't have, you make up. If you don't have a rhythm, you imagine a rhythm. If you don't have chords, you imagine chords.

But you think you do have chords?

... over just a chord repeating over and over.

You said it's just a "D5". That's not much of a chord. There's any number of things you could add to that and make it something completely different. You can play a Dm and it turns into a Dm. Play an F and it turns into a Dm7. Play an Am and it's almost a D9. You can play an E and it turns to a D lydian feeling. You can play a C#m and it turns into a Dmaj11'ish sort of thing. You can play a G and whoah you even introduced a bit of a key change! How about F#, what does the chord become? What will an Eb make it? Try a progression D - Eb - E - F - F# - G over the D5! How about descending, A - Ab - G - F# - F - E - Eb - D? Try cadences like D - G - A - D. Or D - G - C - D.

There's literally any number of chords and chord progressions you could imagine on top of a "D5", and you can even change the key if you like. Playing only a D5 for a long time is like handing you the keys and the steering wheel. Everything is totally in your control. I challenge you to find something that could not be played over the D5.

And of course you don't have to play actual chords, it's enough to just imagine them and solo over it as if the chords were there.

Try it. Have a looper play that D5 indefinitely and play different things over it.

  • The OP indicates that "after recording it I felt that it didn't sound quite right", so s/he could very well have already found something that could not be played over the D5.
    – Dekkadeci
    Commented Sep 1, 2020 at 11:43
  • @Dekkadeci It would be very interesting to hear what it was. Commented Sep 2, 2020 at 14:17

The concept here is Modal. I think it came into jazz with Ahmad Jamal, but Miles Davis made it the center of his Kind Of Blue album. It entered rock with the Butterfield Blues Band's East/West.

Compare a standard chord progression as an obstacle course: the chord changes, the challenge changes, and you as an improviser must adapt. The toughest chordal obstacle course I know it's "Giant Steps" by John Coltrane, where the key center moves as far as possible as fast as possible, and in the original recording, the piano player falls off the changes.

Playing over one chord is like floor exercises in gymnastics: it's a wide open space for you to play with, and what you do with it is up to you. If it is D5, than you can easily switch between all the modes except Locrian, which uses a flat fifth. Here we get into later Coltrane, like A Love Supreme and "My Favorite Things", and the challenge is on your ability to play melodically and lyrically, not getting in a chord tone before the chord changes.

So, play in major. Switch to minor. Try harmonic minor. It all relies on you, so it's your time to shine.

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