Playing to Changes

Hey Justin Guitar community,

I have been following the grade 4 and about to be finished with that. We have learned a lot of licks during this grade. Now I am learning about playing to chord changes from another source to develop my improvisation skills. So what I learned is to emphasize different root notes in a I-IV-V blues structure and change my perspective of “root” in my solo with each chord change.

My question is that, I have learned these licks in A minor and I know that they go over all of the chords but if I want to play the changes to sound more sophisticated, how am I going to translate my licks to emphasize those notes? I currently do not change to other scales such as from A minor pentatonic to D minor pentatonic on the chord change. I stay on A minor but emphasize the D note in it. Should I visit other scales during those changes or how do I adapt my licks for this purpose?



Your entry points will be triads, chord tone notes, and scale portions within the chords in the progression. Exploring phrases and melody helps as well. Slow down the progression and work through it. I do a lot of improvisation and never use the same method every time for playing to the changes. Know that staying within the same scale can be just as effective and often easier.

I’m pretty sure the major pentatonic might have been covered by Grade 4. You could start off on that and move to the minor pentatonic over the IV. Rather than improvise why not learn a classic such as EC’s Crossroads live which switches between major and minor pentatonic throughout.

Hey thanks for the replies.

@CT I know about triads (I am taking the theory course as well and working on them) but not sure about how to apply that to my blues playing, like I can only play them note by note or bend to some notes from triad and play others straight etc. Not sure about how to incorporate them in a fashion such that they sound bluesy like my licks. Do you have any supplementary resources on applying them in blues context? Maybe this problem will go away by itself when I work on more solos and pay attention to their use of triads but still more information doesn’t hurt.

Major pentatonic should be covered in Grade 5. But actually my question was different: It was more like: I am playing my licks in A minor at start and progression goes to D then should I play one of the licks I know in a D minor pentatonic pattern? For example I play a lick in A minor pattern 1, then I may imagine the nearest D minor position and play a lick on that.

Licks are movable just like scales and triads. So you can move them with the chord.
Try playing a lick over the A chord and when the chord changes to D play the same lick in D.

Yes I know. I was just asking if this is the best way to outline chords in your opinion. I am a bit confused on how to apply it because not every lick goes with every pentatonic box/pattern because of guitar’s structure. for example let’s say I am playing a lick in Am pattern 2. then I can play the same in Dm but I should find the pattern 2 of that with the roots on strings 2 & 4. This may be a bit far (Am pentatonic pattern 1 is around 5-8 whereas for Dm it starts at D string fret 12, for the E minor it is even further away from a minor and the pattern 2 top root is at 14.

This is a big change in sound and it might be better to stay close to the position. This is open to discussion I don’t know if this is the case but I recall justin saying a similar thing in triads course: he said that we should try to find triads in the same area and play the i-iv-v that way because they usually sound a bit more sophisticated and close in sound instead of going all over the fretboard to find next chord like we do with bar chords.

As an alternative, I could find the nearest D minor pattern which may be for example pattern 4-5 (I don’t know which one, just saying arbitrarily). But the same licks (from 1-2) don’t apply there.

Keep playing to the changes as a stretch goal. The I-IV-V blues progression isn’t going anywhere. Keep working on it and playing triads and pentatonic scales across the fretboard. Justin and every youtube teacher has triad and pentatonic lessons. Don’t get discouraged, keep it as a stretch goal as you work through the intermediate courseware.

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Thanks a lot CT :slight_smile: I get that these stuff take time. I am a rather experienced player (around 4-5 years) but never tried to learn the fundamentals of improvising or the fretboard. I am now trying to:

  1. Learn all the notes on fretboard
  2. Learn the triads and find some ways to utilize them in my solos
  3. Apply the pentatonic scale all across the fretboard with all keys.

I am already seeing some results but I hope there will be an “aha” moment where I start to apply these instinctively. For now I still have to think about it and plan beforehand, find my notes, think about what part of the scale I may play over which chords, look at some charts to see where my related triads and pentatonic boxes are etc. etc. This is a bit tiring but I have to admit that I am just starting out on this particular adventure and that won’t come in a day.

Probably after learning and analyzing many solos that utilize these stuff, I will start to come up with that in my own improvs.

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Your question wasn’t different. Your question was what other “scales” should you visit. I suggested the major pentatonic but you might also want to learn the major and minor scales. Solos are not only just in the minor pentatonic so learning that over the fretboard is useful but not the entire answer.

EG: If you are in the Amin penta and move to the Dmin on the IV then the only different note is F. If you move to the Emin penta over the V the only different note is B. Adding F and B to the Amin Pentatonic produces the A minor scale; simples.

Hey @yigiterinc, I’m more or less at the same stage as you. For now, I’m still just working within the A minor pentatonic. I try to emphasize the root note of the chord that is being played (all three root notes of the I-IV-V chords are in the Amin pentatonic, as you know). In particular, I try to have the lick land on the root note on beat 1 when the chord is changing.

Most of the licks taught by Justin in Grade 4 (in patterns 1 and 2), land on the A. To emphasize the D and E notes, you could play variations of the licks to make them land on the D or E, as appropriate. I also target those notes when I’m not playing licks, but just noodling in between licks (I don’t play licks one after the other, 100% of the time. Maybe I should be doing that?)

Note, you can emphasize chord tones other than the root note. For example, over the D7 chord, you could target the b7 (C) or 5th (A) and for the E7, b7 (D) or b3 (G, “almost” a chord tone). These notes are all in the A minor pentatonic scale.

I think the next step for me will be moving to the D minor pent or E minor pent at the appropriate times. This requires learning some licks in pattern 4 for D and pattern 3 for E (something I haven’t done yet), if you want to stay around the same part of the fretboard of A minor pent pattern 1. Of course, if you want to move up to pattern 2 for the A, then you have to move up the patterns for the D and E, also. So learning licks in all 5 patterns becomes pretty important.

The next steps: incorporating major pentatonic, arpeggios, etc., are further in the future for me. I have a theoretical grasp of how those are supposed to work, but my playing is not there yet. So, it’s minor pentatonic for me for the time being.

@yigiterinc If you want to stay in the same spot on the neck.
A minor pent Root E string also has a root on the D string 7 fret and a root on the e string. Over the D chord you have a root on the A string 5th fret and the G string 7th fret. For tge E chord mive everything uo 2 frets. Target the root note on these strings to start.
Modify your lick to fit, learn licks and phases using A shaped scales. Also triads are 3 notes out of the Major pentatonic scale. If you know your Major triads all you need is two more notes for the Major Pent.
Every thing will take time to become automatic in your playing.

What does this other source suggest you should be doing?