I, like many of you, spent much of my life playing blues influenced rock n roll on the guitar, stuck in the pentatonics, and never paying much mind to the chord changes of a song.
Those of us with this experience have struggled with the gypsy jazz mindset of following chord changes.
We try arpeggio etude practice, where we play the arps over the song as an exercise... But sometimes, I find that takes quite a while to get you better and better.
in the last few days, I have made a breakthrough that dramatically improves the efficiency of arpeggio etudes exercises and therefore dramatically helps increase your familiarity with the fretboard.
What I realized is that I take for granted that, because I can play an arpeggio shape, that I know it very well, and know enough to smoothly transition from one arp to another, but then I realized a few things -
1) It's not entirely easy to play the arpeggio up and down, and then move it chromatically one step up on the fretboard and play it again...now that I started doing that, I've improved at playing the arpeggios themselves...AND
2)MOST IMPORTANTLY - when I teach kids new chords, not only do I have them practice making the chord over and over with their chord hand to build muscle memory, I ALSO have them practice switching from one chord to another.. THIS WAS THE KEY !
SO NOW - When I practice a play along arpeggio based etude, for example - All of me, I start by taking the first 2 chords - C and E7, and play their basic Arp going back and forth between JUST THOSE 2 CHORDS. Up and down in one and then the other, up in one, and down in the other, and vice versa....
Bickity BANG - after doing that with all the chord changes in the song, two at a time, suddenly, with far less practice, I can fly through the arpeggios for all of me better than ever before, making it much easier to execute my "licks" and a jamming session.
Cheers, and I hope this helps someone out there
What specific exercises can I practice to improve my awareness of where I'm at in the song.
I'll try this for sure. And this makes perfect sense to me 'cause that's how I approach learning a new chord shape and changing from and to it.
Besides playing arpeggios is there anything else?
I try going through the song playing very simple lines while trying to be aware of the chord.
My guitar teacher once said you could, without an instrument, mentally go through the song and it's chord changes.
Anything else? And most importantly what's the most effective way to build this critical skill?
One thing to keep in mind with arpeggiation is thatnif one does q whole bunch of it, oneslines can start to get quite vertical, playing the chord tones as opposed to melodic.
I try to use my play alongs in different ways. Sometimes arp practice, sometimes straight improv where I try to keep track of the chords, and sometimes improv where I try to forget everything and just make music.
Buco - I do lots of things with arps. Sometimes I'll practice one chord, and try to connect it's arp shapes - Play the E form up, then jump up into the D form, and play that down, then jump up to the A shape and play that going up.
another thing both Paul Mehling and Robin Nolan told me to do which I haven't yet done much of - Play your play along, and practice playing one half note at a time (or whole note or quarter note) - Whatever speed allows you to make sure every note is "right". This practice takes discipline...
Then as far as licks - Always transpose any lick you're learning into at least 4 different keys to get them in your fingers better.
Also for play along practice - pick one lick, and find a way to fit it over every change in the song. It's best in this practice to use a song with similar types of chords - Sweet georgia brown, for example, is a good one to practice your 7th chord licks.
Minor swing is a good one to practice your minor chord licks.
If one plays ones licks and arps in differnt positions it tends to break up patterning.....something I and many other guitarists struggle wit
Its one of the big teasons I went back to playing sax...has done wonders for my guitar playing.
Is this what you mean -Take a lick I learned that goes over the E chord shape, and work out how to play the lick, or something very similar to it, in a D shape, and the A shape...
If so, I will start making that a focus.