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How to Make a Guitar Solo - continued - Choice of scales

By Thomas Wilhelm

This article is meant as a continuation of the previous article; How to make a Lead Guitar Solo. A contemporary step would be to figure out which scale suitable to use for making the solo. As a rule of thumb blues scale or pentatonic scale can be used to some extent in all musical forms, but be sure not to get stuck in your development as soloing artist playing too much moll pentatonic and standard blues scale, especially over Major chords. It’s important to spice up your lead guitar or any other instrument soloing skill with other tones and scale without necessarily become an advanced jazz musician.

For starter it’s almost pure fretboard math stuff. Based on the riff or the chord base tones of some sequence of the song, try to find one or 2 scales sharing most of the same tones. (After a short while you will be able to train your air to do this in seconds without having to go through this.)

Let’s take an example, many basic rock song consist of just 3 chords, like 1st , 4th and 5th tone of some scale, let say chords A-D -E – D - A. Imagine all of them to be Major chords to make it more tricky. Intuitively a A minor pentaton or standard Blues scale could be used, containing A – C – D –E – G – A, in other words all tones of the chord’s base tones. It sounds quite ok, but you are not taking into the Major characteristics of the chords. An A major chord contains C#, Dmajor contains F# tone and E major chord have a G# tone. To make it more exciting you could also consider to combine the A pentaton or A blues with an A major scale.

(A – B- C# - D – E – F# - G# - A)

The A major scale contains all chord base notes of the chords and furthermore taking into account for the Major characteristics of all the 3 chords. Or you might consider an A mixolydian scale also containing all chord base notes and furthermore taking into account for the Major characteristics of A and D. Also if you isolate each chord you might find there are numerous of possibilities and I would say almost without limitations. Typically you could imagine playing some soloing theme for let say at least to following chords, A-D , D-E, E-D, D-A. Also if you get to chord progressions that might intuitively belong to another scale, you can even musically forthcome this “scale” change in the chord progressions with a few seconds similar scale change in your solo as an additional and I would say very strong effect. The changeover might exist of just a single tone even. This is for example sometime used in more advanced jazz progressions.

As a conclusion I would say not to become too theoretical about matters of modern music, as long as it still sounds good, and not as long as you start playing a scale a half tone deviated from most of the chords for a long time, like a A# pentaton scale or something similar, The idea is to spice up your improvisation or soloing to make it sound more exiting.
Guitar scale mastery

To be able to create solos you need to master the scales and visualize them over the whole fretboard. In the end put it all together in a melodic way...Learn more