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--- Feb 24 2000 Go to category
Subject: tricky changes
Category: Specific Tunes
From: Matthew White (Athens, GA USA)

Dear Pat; I really love your song "Never Too Far Away," and I wrote down the changes to play in a little trio I'm in. It boggles my mind!!! There is a change practically every beat, and while I have attempted improvising on it with respect to various tonal centers as they pass by, I always end up "guitar lick-walking" through it, and it sounds like stringing together stock licks. You solo on this (on the Q&A album) is so remarkable for its melodic beauty, and also for how the solo builds over the course of the tune passing by. Should I stop thinking about chord scales and just try to use my ear more? How can a player tread the fine line between the cerebral approach and playing from the gut without sounding bad? sincerely, MW

Pat’s Answer:

dear mattew,

playing on changes like what you find on the tune in question is kind of a difficult task, one that takes a lot of study to be able to play through them and have them not sound "hard" but just sound like music. no, giving up and playing by only ear is probably NOT going allow you to get really inside the changes at the level that most professional improvisors would agree on as being acceptable. the only clue i can give is to know as much as possible about the ways that each voice of each chord moves to the next logical place. that sounds kind of simplistic, but in a tune like this one, that can take some time to get together. in my case, i really need to memorize the tune so that i really know it cold - and i find that learning it in other keys can really help in this respect. i am assuming you are a guitar player, so i would also recommend that you be able to just voice the chords a bunch of different ways, sometimes this gives us a view of the neck that can really help improvising, especially if you are just learning. hope this all helps.

best from pat