For the aspiring guitarist starting out, it is a common trait to assume that chords relate strictly to rhythm playing and scales and modes to soloing.
Following this ideology in your guitar playing can result in you possessing a weak chord vocabulary, especially if your most active pursuit is soloing.
An alternative view point to follow is that learning more chords can not only add greater musicality and imagination to your rhythm playing, but also to your soloing.
I will now offer my 3 reasons that learning more chords will improve your guitar solos.
1 – Improves Visualisation On The Fretboard.
One important benefit I have obtained from increasing my chord vocabulary is having a greater awareness of potential guitar licks when approaching a solo.
This is because when I view the fretboard, I use chords and relative inversions (variations of the same chord) to map out where I can have potential options to play guitar licks that are diatonic (in key) to the chord.
Viewing your chords in this manner will help you build your licks around more chord tones, creating licks that fit the chord your playing over more accurately.
I refer to the concept of using chords to map out the fretboard as ’Harmonic signposting’. Whereby chords are used to create ‘harmonic signposts’ on the guitar neck, acting as reference points for potential directions to take a lick idea. The more ‘harmonic signposts’ you can see, the greater the number of directions you can take your lick.
2 – Helps Create More Exciting Arpeggios To Use In Solos.
Arpeggios (‘broken chords‘) are commonly used by the lead guitarist to both outline the ‘sound’ of the chord, as well as to create musical sequences that can add excitement and suspense to a solo.
Another benefit therefore of learning multiple inversions is that you can fragment them and merge them into your current vocabulary of arpeggios to create new colourful sounds.
By expanding your vocabulary of arpeggios you help avoid the trap of overplaying the same cliché choices that sound uninspiring and predictable to the listener.
3 – Using More Chords Helps You Hear New Licks.
Although in my opinion the ability to visualize where you can play a lick on the fretboard is important, it’s equally as important to be able to use your ear to both hear and create licks as well.
Imagine hypothetically that a chord change was relative to that of a ‘topic of discussion’ and that all relative inversions were ‘alternative viewpoints’. If the same viewpoint was used throughout a topic of discussion, it would be logical to suggest that this could inhibit the number of ideas generated around that topic.
The same concept can be related to your guitar playing and chord vocabulary. As by using the same inversion to make a chord change, your effectively only hearing one ‘viewpoint’ possible over that ‘topic’. By utilizing multiple inversions over a chord change, you are in turn hearing multiple ‘potential viewpoints’ available to the ‘topic’.
Thus increasing the likelihood of hearing new ideas to express when approaching your solo.
I hope that this article has been of some use to you in terms of helping refine how you approach practicing guitar.
I cannot overstate the importance of developing a strong chord vocabulary in terms of progressing onto mastering advanced soloing concepts.
However I would like to help you to feel personally inspired to expand your chord vocabulary based upon exploring the ideas covered in this article.