There’s something I’ve noticed about guitarists: we have an unhealthy obsession with scales.
What scale do I solo with here?
What scale do I use to get that jazz sound?
How do I learn modes?
Here’s a thought:
Guitar is more tolerant of not playing the changes when soloing.
I’m not saying that it’s good to be ignorant of where you’re at in the progression, or that it’s fine to not know the notes in the chords, only that it’s more common (and maybe thus more acceptable) for guitar players.
It’s interesting to see the split between bassists & guitarists on this one, and it has me thinking about a spectrum of chord awareness.
On the far left of the spectrum, there are drummers and percussionists: while it’s crucial that they know where they’re at in the form, knowing the actual chords in the progression isn’t all that useful to them.
On the far right of the spectrum is the bassist: if at ANY point she loses sight of which chord is being played, it sounds absolutely terrible.
It’s one of the cruel realities of being a bassist, sound guy, or lighting tech––when you’re doing your job well, you’re mostly invisible. It’s only when you fuck up that you get noticed.
When you put your average self-taught guitarist on this spectrum, I think you’d have to put him further to the left than anyone except the drummers & percussionists.
This is probably because the interface of the guitar is so conducive to playing shapes (ie. you can use a scale with absolutely zero knowledge of what notes it contains or how they relate to the progression).
Plus there’s a huge amount of guitar-heavy music that a person could solo over with just one or two scales, and still sound competent.
So maybe a better question to ask is how do we get the average self-taught guitarist to think more like a bass player?
And what color ribbon are we going to use to show our support of chord awareness?