Doing "Undoing"

Audio Examples


Note: The fingerings at the top of the transcriptions are for the fretting hand. Those at the bottom are for the picking hand: up- and down-strokes (U, D) for the plectrum, and 2, 3 and 4 for the middle, ring and little fingers.

Doing "Undoing" [Issue 45]

The intro to "Undoing" came about when I was showing a friend an exercise for a diminished arpeggio. I remember playing it and thinking, "Man, that's a good rhythm, but I'd like to jumble the notes around and find a melody in there." I eventually kept going till I wrote the intro. It just goes to show you how one minute you can be practising, then the second something suggests itself as a song, you change your mindset and suddenly you're songwriting.

"Undoing" Intro
Undoing Intro Notation
"Undoing" Intro Chords
Undoing Intro Chords


Initially, the chord changes in the verse were a little awkward for me to navigate. I actually sat down and wrote the chords first, then I had to work at being competent enough to solo over them. But if you want to play improvised music, it's important to work at it, because you want to keep redefining yourself and finding new ways of expression.

The first chord in the verse is an E♭Maj7, so I'm usually thinking E♭ Lydian here. Next is a Cm7 with an F in the bass, so I just think of it as an FMaj7sus chord and will usually play either C minor pentatonic or F Mixolydian. Then there's a Dm7, but I'll play D Phrygian, as it leads melodically to the F/A and B♭(add2) chords that follow. Over Gm7 I'll use a G minor (Aeolian) scale but try to omit the 6th, so it's basically the same as a pentatonic scale with a major 2nd. This is a really useful scale as it retains the elements of the blues and adds an extra note (the 2nd), but by leaving out the 6th it can't be identified as either the Dorian or Aeolian mode. Next up is Em7♭5, so regular E Locrian works best for me. Following that are F♯ altered, A altered and D7♭9, over which I play altered scales in each of the respective keys.

"Undoing" Verse Chords
Undoing Verse Chords

This is the approach I've borrowed/stolen from jazz improvisers who think chord-on-chord, and it works great for rock music as it makes everything very melodic. Most of these chords only last one bar at best, so, as usual, start really slow and get a feel for the movement of the chords. Also, focus on playing phrases that, when connected, have a songlike structure with dynamics, emotion and, above all, melody.

Exercise that inspired "Undoing"
Exercise that inspired Undoing