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Some frustration!

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Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 62
Topic starter  

Hey Everyone,
First off, apologies for the long, long post. OK:

I've been having some troubles with my lessons the past few weeks and I thought I'd come here and ask you guys for any suggestions. I've been playing for 1.5 years and I'd call myself an intermediate. My goal for picking up the guitar was to write songs; good, complex, interesting songs.

So, for example, I'm learning "Something," by the Beatles (George Harrison). I've got the chord progression down, we did some analysis of the harmonic structure of the song, which is pretty unconventional, and I learned George's solo, which I can do pretty convincingly. My practice has now been centered around solo'ing over the main chord progression, to get a sense of how the vocal melody and guitar solo work so well with the chord changes. The appropriate notes don't stick to the C scale, but requires some C dorian, and stresses other notes as the chord changes leave normal C territory.

And...I'm just struggling. I understand the theory of modes well (took theory classes in college), but can't seem to construct solo's that follow and accentuate the chord changes. I don't know the mode shapes down pat yet, and I think I tend to get lost around the fretboard after moving around, but I still can't seem to figure out a way of getting the lines and solo's in my head (which I hear when I try to solo) out into my fingers. I feel like I'm searching for notes by trial and error and come to more fruitful solos when approaching it this way, without learning anything I can take with me.

So, the question I have, and which my teacher has struggled with answering is: how can I concretely practice this stuff, besides plugging away at solo'ing? Should I practice the rote memorization of the mode/scale shapes up and down the fretboard? I'm at a loss.

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 62
Topic starter  

Haha, I guess it was too long!

Illustrious Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 5582


Sorry no one got back to you soon. I am not sure if I can really help. I think maybe you are over-analyzing George's solo. The Beatles for the most part were untrained musicians, early in their career they did not even read. I remember hearing an interview once where a music critic described their music in very technical terms, John Lennon laughed and said he didn't have a clue what the guy was even talking about.

I think you will find that the solo is pretty basic. It starts with the C Major Pentatonic. I know a little later in the solo when the chord progression goes to the D chords that George goes to the D Major Pentatonic. There are some nice little chromatic passing notes in the solo, and I really wouldn't think of them anymore than that. The Beatles were known to play by ear for the most part. George probably wasn't thinking scales or modes or anything like that, he was probably just playing "pretty" notes.

You may find it hard to believe that professionals like the Beatles played by ear, but many of your most famous pros did and do. I saw an interview with BB King, he said he just guesses for the most part where the next note is, but he said he believed he had a very good ear and was good at judging the correct interval. But he doesn't think scales or modes or anything like that.

That probably didn't help, but I hope it did. :D

If you know something better than Rock and Roll, I'd like to hear it - Jerry Lee Lewis

Estimable Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 103

i think your right wes when you're talking about professionals and how they play/practice. here is a quote from chet atkins when talking about practicing:
"Actually, I'm not real keen on it myself, if you're talking about scales, textbook exercises, and that kind of thing. I don't think anybody - speaking of professional players, now - really does that. I suppose a few do; beginners do it more because they usually read somewhere that they're supposed to. Any maybe they should. but when i'm practicing new material, i don't spend a lot of time going over major scales, minor scales, diminished scales, whatever. what i do is just play through the difficult parts of the tunes i happen to be working on. i rehearse them over and over until i get them in my head."

Famed Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4459

Interesting that's pretty much how i have been gearing my practice lately also. I just work on the difficult parts of what ever song I'm working on until I get it right.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 6348

I heard that the song Something was written by ukulele. the dvd Concert for George had Paul playing the uke.
there is a web site

the chords are there.
I have been playing ukulele and learned that song. I am working out the lead guitar line.
it is amazing what only four strings can do. most of the notes are so close together in a box shape
and sliding shape on those strings. C E A G low to high (uke tuning).