One day I was sitting in my bedroom on a lonely Friday night with my guitar and some manuscript paper (a very common scenario.) I was trying to write a bridge to a song, and decided I wanted to use the chorus/outro in "Caves of Altimara" by Steely Dan as a reference point as the chords go in and out of key and really sound cool and creative. I took the progression, put it in the key I was playing in (Eb) and worked from there. Now, the exact transition didn't really work for my song, but I changed it up enough to where I came up with a chord progression that sounded great. From that source of inspiration I created something completely different and far removed from where I began. It was through this chain of events that I was able to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. You start with one thing, and while you may get far off that track; that initial starting point really took you somewhere you wouldn't have traveled too without it. Interesting, huh? You can hear the results of that experiment at the link below.
Classics - Zookeeper
So, how can you do this? Well there are endless possibilities and you probably already do this in your practice. Say you practice a scale pattern, and from that pattern you start jamming. All of a sudden you find a riff in that scale that captures your ear, and than from there you write another part and than a song is born. Where as you didn't practice your scales to try and write songs, but it happened. I think some times we get caught up in the act itself of what we are practicing, that we forget that those things are simply launching pads for other creative ideas. Through my teaching, I always seem to ramble on (as I am doing now) about a subject, and by the time we are done with the subject we dove into a completely different topic that turned out to be very cool and creative. Those ideas were spawned from an initial topic that was simple in the beginning and than grew to something really interesting. This is is my first attempt at translating this concept across a forum to you guys. Hopefully it comes across.
Intervals in Motion: Playing Two Chord Voicings in Sequences
We all know scales, and in one way or another we have played sequences of those scales. Here is a lesson on playing scale sequences with Joel Van Dijk.
Major Scale Sequences w/ Joel Van Dijk
Once you are clear on the idea, than we can move forward. Something I started doing was playing this concept with two notes instead of one. I would play third intervals, sequencing in thirds. If you aren't sure how to sequence in thirds, check out this video by Ben Lindholm.
Playing in Thirds w/ Ben Lindholm
Here are the notes in the key of C major, and in (parenthesis) there corresponding third interval.
To play with this concept, start with running a C major scale pattern that you are familiar with and make sure you have that down. From there, start to play the scale two notes at a time, starting with playing C and E together, than D and F, etc. You are now playing the scale pattern in thirds, again playing two note voicings. Now that you have that down, try than sequencing those in thirds. This can get a little weird, so here is a reference to help you. Again, you want to play each two note voicing in sequence to the next two note voicing, harmonizing in thirds.
C/E to E/G
D/F to F/A
E/G to G/B
F/A to A/C
G/B to B/D
A/C to C/E
B/D to D/F
Now, once you work your way through this I can almost guarantee you will not be able to resist jamming on these and coming up with ideas of your own. I know the subject is a little strange at first and looks difficult, but I feel this is the first in many steps to moving beyond just playing scale patterns and will help you sound more musical in your playing. It's about taking the concepts and making real music out of them.
Hopefully this all makes sense, please post any questions your have and I am happy to make this more clear. :D