How can I learn to play outside the chords?

Hi all,

Been playing for many years on and off and consider myself an intermediate. One of the problems I have is that I find it very difficult to put together bass lines that really get outside the chords the keyboard/guitar are playing. Other than root - 5th or root - 3rd type stuff, I feel a bit stuck.

So if the the chords are G > C > D > C, I want to play better sounding lines other than playing along.

I hope this makes sense. If there is a part in the beginner to badass course, please point me to it.

Thank you.


G-C-D-G………for Gmaj you could play Bm which is the 3rd of Gmaj., or Em which is the relative minor of Gmaj. In the same regards, you could substitute Em and/or Am for the Cmaj.
You can play “outside” the D7 by playing Db diminished………which is just a D7b9 chord.
For the D7 you can also play an Ab7. That is called a “b5” substitute. You can do that to play “outside” for any 7th chord……C7 you can play Gb7, F7 you can play Cb7, etc.
Those are just a few of the substitutes I play when I want to go “outside”.
I am not the first to do this, but I’d like to think I “invented” it, is that I like to play something like this for a major chord like Cmaj7: I’ll play arpeggios Cmaj, Emaj, Gmaj during the duration of the Cmaj chord………I love doing that when playing “Satin Doll”.
Watch that Victor Wooten video about improvising…….that will open your eyes (and ears) to a whole new pallet of skills.


your answer lies within this module listing

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I’m just a silly garage plunker, so i can’t add anything to the great advice already given here other than welcome @OckhamsRazor15 !


I think what @OckhamsRazor15 is asking is not how to find alternate chords (or did you mean the corresponding arpeggios?), but how to create bass lines that go beyond standard root-5th or root-3rd.

@OckhamsRazor15: What I would suggest to try is to find chordal drones for the chords in question and then explore what notes would sound good, or not so good when played along that chord. You will find that all scale notes would “fit well”, but even some of the notes that are not in the scale can sound quite interesting and often quite spicy as well. You might not want to “linger” on those, but they can certainly be incorporated in bass lines.

Here is an example, but you should be able to find others, for all keys, major and minor:

After exploring what sounds you like and don’t like, you could then create the chord progression of the song in an app like iReal Pro and start developing your more advanced bass lines :smile:


I understand this desire!
I think it would be most helpful to listen to some music and figure out what bass lines you hear that are exciting to you and capture the thing that you feel you’re missing.
Once you have a concrete example of what you want, it’s much easier to hone in on that target.

As a general rule, to find cool ways to connect chords, studying jazz walking lines can be very helpful. There’s a forum topic on learning jazz styles here:


I’m thinking…



(might be too simple for you)

Know your scales:


This is great. Thank you

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Thank you everyone! Lots of great info shared. I’m excited to learn and get better