Soloing – improvising

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You can use the scale pattern as a base on which you can remember different solos with much more ease since most guitar players usually base their melodies on these same shapes. It makes sense to remember the solo/line/melody as a sequence within the scale instead of a unique TAB or Musical Notation(This is not mutually exclusive). This makes it possible for you understand the theoretical underpinnings of that piece of music. It also allows you to move lines between keys with ease.7

What I mean is that someone that is improvising/composing a solo/line isn’t really completely fabricating something new out of nothing. If you want to improvise, you first need to know where all the good stuff is located so you are not fumbling in the dark. This is not just a matter of locating a note that sounds good but also being able to jump between notes with speed and accuracy. For this you need muscle control and memory. Practicing the scale pattern repeatedly imprints the pattern on your brain. This makes it possible for you, with time, to see the pattern on the neck and follow it accurately with your fingers. In essence, see where all the good notes are located on the neck and use them as you please. Most guitarists have “hot spots” in their style. Meaning that their playing centers around certain shapes.

And I, like most, have my go to licks and phrases which you can describe as certain sequences or routes within the scale that I fall back on because I’m used to playing them over and over again. With time and practice you can create a grand library of licks and lines that you can use at your discretion in any musical situation. I guess this can be defined as a style of playing as well.  You can take these licks apart and use them in a different manner.  When I say the word licks I mean a string of notes with or without a rhythmic component of any length. Even just a short and simple jump between two notes.  For clarity a phrase is usually a rhythmical structure that can contain different notes in different scales.

Licks or Phrases in blues are most often found in the basic form of the pentatonic scale. The basic form is extended in the first and fourth position in the Minor Pentatonic video below covering the whole neck in five positions.

If you know the scale patterns you can see and understand with clarity what people are doing when they play something that sounds good. When I started to learn scales which I did before I actually learned any music theory, to speak of, I started to notice the similarity between guitarists and how they used the scales and shapes to create different music. Recognizing these similarities through the visualization of scale patterns on the guitar neck greatly improves your capabilities of remembering many different musical items even if seemingly different when you hear them.

Start by learning the basic form and then progress to learning the whole neck dividing the scale pattern into positions with some logical system. In this case the system is two notes on each string. In contrast you can look at the ‘three notes per string’ scale pattern used on my site when learning the Major Scale.

Jimmy Page uses the pentatonic scale a lot. His great solo in Stairway to Heaven is predominantly based on the pentatonic shapes and patterns found in the videos below. Be aware though that Stairway to heaven is in Am which means the root of the scale is A. The A note is on the fifth fret on E-string.