Sometimes Wrong Notes Are Right… If You Know What To Play After

When you start to learn lead guitar, you are (usually) introduced to the concept of “good” notes and “bad” notes. Even if your teacher does not do that (and let’s be clear here, he may have some very good reasons for not explaining this to you at first), it’s quite plain that when you try to play a solo, some notes sound good on a backing track, and other simply sound “off”.

That’s a good “first approximation” to have. Yes, it is perfectly true that some notes sound better than others on a given backing track, and your teacher will help you learn (in case he didn’t already) everything about scales and keys and scale patterns and chord notes. That will help you sound better.

But then again, this is only an approximation. As someone said (this quote was attribute to every other past musician…) “there are no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions”.

But wait, didn’t we say that some notes sound bad on a backing track? So how can there be “no wrong note”?

Yes we did say that. Here’s the point: some notes sound bad on a backing track if you play them BY THEMSELVES. But – and here’s the ‘secret’ – if you play them together with other carefully chosen notes, then they sound good.

In short: one note ALONE may be right or wrong. But add a few other notes around, and the wrong note may just become right because now it makes sense in context.

Now the curious thing that happen when you are able to make the “wrong” notes sound “right” (and I’m going to show you a trick for that below) is that your solos now sound much better for two reasons:

  1. You have more notes available to play, because you can use not only the “right” notes but also the “wrong” ones. This allows you more control and more power of self- expression.
  2. By learning how to make the “wrong” notes sound “right” you learned how to control your soloing better.

These are both two very desirable things to have as a guitar player. And I guess at this point you are itching to see how it’s done. I explain a very simple example in the video below where I show how some metal riffs use “wrong” notes to sound more exotic:

About The Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock musician and a regular writer of columns about Music Theory for Guitar.