So here's my questions.
1) Like me, when soloing, are you just playing by ear or do you know the chords you're playing over?
2) If you know the chords you're playing over, do you think about individual notes when playing, think about intervals, or just riffs that you've learned and know would work in that place in the song?
3) Given a melody, is there an easy way to determine the chords? Usually I can do this, but some songs are real tough.
4) Where do you think I should go from here first; learn notes in all positions, learn chord tones/arpeggios for those 5 positions, take more lessons, or ? (I don't plan on learning to read music well at this point, but I do farily well with tab.)
1. It is a combination of both.
I know the chords (and if I donít know them before I start do I know them after one turn around on them by hearing what it is) and I use my ears to play what I hear in my head over it, melodies. I never stumble around on the neck to find notes that fit because I donít know what chords it is. I hear what chord it is when itís played and knows what scales that fit.
2. I donít think about intervals, notes, notes or arpeggios when I play (unless it is a studio or live job where I have to get it right the first take). It would be stupid to say that in know all theory over the chords (no one does), but I feel that I know enough, and where they are on my neck, so I donít have to think about it. So if I improvise a solo do I just let my ears guide me on what to play, but not to find the notes on the neck, only to find the notes I hear in my head.
3. It depends on what you think are easy. The best way are to work on your ears, then most of the time the melody will give you the chords without you having to think about theoretically.
It is really the same thing as playing over them by ear, you hear melodies over chords and you hear chords under melodies. If you donít hear the chords move in your head when you play a melody are you probably not playing melodies from your head when you are doing solos (you are most likely just moving your fingers around in shapes they already know).
Donít mean that in an evil way, but it is the exact same ďhearingĒ used. There are theoretical ways too, but it is to much to explain here.
4. Learn notes all over the neck (try to not think of it as positions, just that it is low notes on one side and high on the other). So donít look at it as learn the scales in various positions, look at it as learning were all the notes in that scale are on the neck and what relationship they have to the chords in that key. Think of that as intervals instead of actual note names. Like (in C major) this note (E) is the major 3rd if the I chord (C) are ringing but it becomes 1 if the III chord (Emi) are ringing. And it becomes the 5ht if the VI chord (Ami) are ringing, the 4th if the VII chord (Bmi7b5) are ringing and so on. It will take some time, but it will help you get the control of what notes are in relationship with the chords, both on the neck (and more importantly) in your ears. This will also make it very easy to transpose things (not make the knowledge locked into one particular key). My suggestion are to look at scales in one octave (7 notes), for example E to E in a E major scale (any finger positions will do, 3 notes per string 2 or 4 doesnít matter), then move that same thing to all other E on the neck.
5. Even if not asked for, get yourself a good teacher that can guide you.
Good luck with your playing!