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What are some easy runs that I can add to my rock solos to add that "outside" sound?

Posted 2013-05-09T16:44:18.0Z by JP13,143
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I'm a straight up rock lead guitar player with about 20 yrs. experience playing live. I want to add some "outside" sounds to my solos. What are some easy ways for me to add this?



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Reply — Posted 2013-05-09T17:07:20.0Z
Mac M11,188
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I am not sure I know exactly what you are referring to, what is an "outside" sound?


  • Playing "outside" in a solo means that you're adding dissonance to create tension.JP 2013-05-09T17:11:53.0Z
Reply — Posted 2013-05-09T21:26:12.0Z (edited 2013-11-20T21:29:33.0Z)
Jeff E13,406
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To play "outside" is to incorporate notes in a phrase that are outside the scale or chord being played. Or, to put it another way, notes that are not diatonic to the key center.

For example: imagine you are improvising over a Cmajor triad. The notes that are available to you from the C maj sacle are C,D,E,F,G A and B these are the "inside" notes. ( In C they are all the white keys)There are 7 of them. 5 notes (the black keys) are not a part of the C major scale. If you were to solo using the only the black keys, you would be playing quite outside, and to most ears, you would be playing wrong notes....the most wrong possible. 

To successfully play outside is to incorporate  notes not included in the original key in a way that rather than just sounding wrong, adds interest and tension to a melodic idea. 


There are tons approaches to adding outside notes to your playing, but roughly speaking most outside playing comes from one or a combination of these ideas:

  • Side slipping, or a chromatic approach: Typically this kind of idea will start with a lick or line inside the key center, then repeated (or varied) a half step higher or lower and usually resolved back to the original key. 
  • Superimposing new chords or scales not part of the original harmony over the existing chord or chords. This is where you can get really crazy and out...try playing an F# major arpeggio against an A min. The F#, C# and A# are the 13, maj 3rd and b9 of the A min. Discover what other chords yield. 
  • A symmetrical approach (I think this is also called sequencing by some folks). Play a lick or phrase thats inside, and move it sequentially. try halfsteps, whole steps, major and minor thirds.

Here's a simple idea that can be played over an Am7. It starts by outlining an Am7 chord, then a chromatically descending bit from the G to the E. The same chromatic idea is repeated, but "side slipped" a half step higher G# to F. It finishes by returning to a simple phrase in the original Am.


Here's a country sounding lick in G Maj. that starts of pretty typically, but then moves in a symmetrical pattern descending in whole steps until resolving back to a big old G chord.  You could also think of this as superimposing a whole tone tonality over a Gmajor's pretty out.


This one is a short repeating sequence that descends in half steps starting on an E and finishes with  Am pentatonic. Often, the trick is smoothly taking your outside idea back inside.


I think one of the keys to using more outside sounds is to really HEAR the sound you are playing. Many players wanting to be "out" just drop these ideas into the middle of an improvisation mechanically with out really hearing the sounds in their head. The result is often stiff, and comes across as a bunch of wrong notes. You have to play these sounds with purpose and conviction.


  • Thanks! I'll give it a try!JP 2013-05-09T23:08:33.0Z
  • Can you explain what you refer as the "symmetrical approach" or "sequencing" a little more?JP 2013-05-11T18:50:22.0Z
  • the second lick I transcribed is an example of this. the same little melodic idea is repeated sequentially a number of times in whole steps, yielding a wholetone sound.Jeff E 2013-05-15T21:56:28.0Z
Reply — Posted 2013-11-20T18:13:14.0Z
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  • Teacher

I just found this... this is about as simple as it gets.


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  • 2013-05-09T16:44:18.0Z
  • 2013-11-20T18:13:14.0Z

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  • Guitar,Jazz,Playing Outside,Rock & Roll

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