Tip: Soloing Over Minor Chords

We’ve been exploring the use of scales for soloing to learn which scales go with a particular chord. Please see the previous entries listed below for the details.

Let’s look at minor chords now. What scale can we use to solo over an E minor 7 for example? Let’s rephrase and ask this: in what scales does E minor 7 appear? If we limit our choices to major and melodic minor scales, we get this:

  • C major: E minor 7 is the III chord
  • D major: E minor 7 is the II chord
  • G major: E minor 7 is the VI chord
  • D melodic minor: E minor is the II chord.

If you are just starting out soloing or learning about how scales and chords are connected, you might have had the idea that there was only one scale you could use for a particular chord, E minor 7 in this instance. But now you’re a bit more savvy, and maybe even relieved, to see that you have many choices for melodic improvisation. The point? Learning a bit of chord scale theory can enrich your playing.

Before we move on, do please try each of the aforementioned scales over E minor 7. You can have you mind filled with memorizations of possible scales to use for a given chord; but until you get “inside” the music and *do* it, you won’t truly be soloing.

A note about modes. Get out your guitar and play a C major scale — except start the scale on the E note instead of the C note. After you play the scale, play an E minor chord, preferably in the same area you played the scale.

The purpose of doing this is to get you to hear that you can imply a chord by playing the *modes* associated with that chord. How is that possible? We’ll cover that next time.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2007 Darrin Koltow

This first appeared in the Guitar Noise News – November 15, 2005 newsletter. Reprinted with permission.

Scales and Soloing Series