Playing Outside Guitar Licks

Playing Outside Guitar Licks

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Playing Outside Guitar Licks - Playing The 'Wrong' Notes

Playing outside guitar licks doesn't mean improvising whilst in your garden (although different surroundings will inspire your creative juices). This week's licks are all about playing notes that are not in the given scale.

I have always been fascinated by how great improvisers can play notes and phrases that seem to be of no relation to the given key and they make the ideas sound amazing.

One of my favourite improvisers who was often playing outside the harmony was Michael Brecker. This multi-Grammy award-winning American jazz saxophonist sadly passed away on January 13th, 2007. Micheal Brecker was a genius improviser and he would often venture so far outside the harmony, yet everything he played would sound amazing and very musical.

How To Play Outside

There are many approaches to playing outside. To use any of these approaches successfully, you will need to play confidently and be able to resolve any idea to a consonant sound. Lacking confidence and stopping an idea before it has resolved will just sound as though you are playing the wrong notes.

Three approaches to playing outside are covered with this week's guitar licks. One could argue that the first approach is not technically playing outside as the notes have been taken from a diminished scale. Whichever way you look at it, much tension is created, so I like to think of these ideas as outside playing.

Choose Your Audience Wisely

Before you start playing loads of outside ideas at your local jam session, please be aware that there is a time and a place for these types of licks. No matter how confidently you play, ripping through a load of outside licks on a regular pop song might get you thrown out of the venue.

Please use these guitar licks carefully and try not to offend any audience members. With great power comes great responsibility.

Want to understand the workings behind these licks and have the knowledge to create similar ideas of your own? Sign up for my free weekly newsletter and analysis of these, and all the licks presented in these blog posts will be sent to your inbox each week.

Playing Outside - Diminished Scale

As mentioned earlier, playing the diminished scale over a dominant 7th chord could be thought of as inside playing as the dominant 7th chord could contain the notes of the 7th chord (root, 3rd, 5th and b7th), with added b9, #9, #11 and 13.

When playing over a static dominant 7th chord that doesn't resolve, the tension is not resolved to another chord, so I like to think of this as outside playing. Whichever way you look at it, the diminished scale is a great way to start playing some of those outside notes and sounds that are not your regular 'inside' sounds.

Play Outside The Harmony

This lick takes things to another level. The ideas used in this melodic line stray away from the harmony and it can definitely be classed as an 'outside' lick.

You need to be brave and full of confidence to pull off this type of lick as it strays away from the given harmony many times. Even the end of the lick finishes on the major 7th of the minor chord which sounds cool, but you need to know when to use this one.

It is probably best to take small parts of this lick and try including them in your solos at the appropriate time. If nothing else, this lick is a great picking workout.

Playing Outside Side Stepping

The concept of side-stepping is relatively easy to execute when playing the guitar as it simply means to move everything up or down one semitone. All you need to do is shift your hand up or down one fret within a melodic idea and slide back to where you started to return to the harmony.

This seems easy, although choosing your moment to employ this technique is very important. As with all these licks, much tension is created and that tension needs to be resolved.

Music is all about tension and release. Controlling tension and release means controlling melody. playing outside simply adds a great deal more tension. Remember, you need to be brave and confident for these types of ideas to work.

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