A guitar improvisation lesson by Matthew Hart
Dissonance is the use of notes that fall outside of the key signature of the tune. In turn, resolution is the return to consonance, to bring the melody back home. Consonant phrases can sound very good, in small doses, but quickly become tedious over the length of an entire solo.
The contrast between dissonance and consonance, used at opportune moments in a solo, is what keeps both yourself and the listener interested. Lets take a look at some phrases, over the same chord progression, but this time take advantage of dissonance.
All examples in this guitar lesson are played over a II V I in G major:
| Am7 | D7 | Gmaj7 | % | |
Here's the backing track:
You can also download the backing track here.
Listen & Play
"If you hit a wrong note, then make it right by what you play afterwards..."
- Joe Pass
Listen & Play
As mentioned above, phrase 1 and 2 both utilize the note enclosure concept.
A note enclosure is a grouping of three tones, usually including a dissonant tone, that resolves to a tone between its two preceding tones.
Sounds confusing, so lets look at some basic examples in G Ionian:
This is the simplest form of note enclosure, using only a three fret range, making it easy to play without much thought.
Here is a handy trick for guitar that makes this type of note enclosure easy to use:
Anywhere a scale has two notes that are one fret apart, the lower tone can be enclosed by one fret above, and one fret below. So looking at bar one in the example, the notes B and C, of the G Ionian mode, are one fret apart. The lower tone B can then be enclosed between C (one fret above) and B flat (one fret below). The sequence of notes is then C, B flat, B.
The following exercise is good practice for this type of note enclosure, and unlocks its full potential. Practice groupings based on the two examples above, adding a 4th note, within the key signature, to the end of the note enclosure.
Here are some examples to get you started:
Practice ending on different notes of the scale, especially the chord tones of the progression. Also try playing the same groupings at other parts of the fretboard. As with the consonance exercise you will eventually be able to link these small groupings together to create some basic bebop phrases.
Here is a phrase exclusively using this type of note enclosure concept, over the G Ionian II V I progression:
The following examples show another form of note enclosure that is used to imply substitute chords. The dissonant tone is played on the down-beat.
Take a look at the following groupings:
These implied substitutions create a very effective dissonance over the Am7. The groupings can be played starting on any down-beat, or for more variety, any up-beat. Playing them on an up-beat creates far less tension much like the previous forms of note enclosure.
The following phrase uses this form of note enclosure exclusively:
Once you are comfortable with both types of note enclosure you'll have a huge improvisational vocabulary to play with.
Let's take a look at the note enclosure forms combined into a single phrase:
As you can hear, the combination of the forms can produce a much more diverse and interesting phrase!