How To Learn Guitar Solos Theory

how to learn guitar solos theory
Black Magic Woman How to Guitar Solo Lesson Music Theory

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Music Theory….Guitar Question?

I understand that a pentatonic scale is one with 5 notes….if it is 5 notes than why do you hit the strings more than 5 times….

Also I have heard that once you learn the pentatonic…you can improvise and make up solo’s in the scale….Can you explain how to do that….I mean you don’t just play the scale up and down…do you alternate up and down the scale? or do you play a part of the scale….slide to another scale…and back to the next?…..

The whole theory of it just throws me off?

oh one last thing….whats the easiest scale to play and solo in?

Scales are like a palette… they give you certain notes or colors to work with to paint your picture. You may not use them all and you may use some of them a lot more than others. You might even borrow a few other notes (colors) from time to time to help you make your point… but that’s up to you.

The major and minor pentatonic scales are the easiest to work with… partly because they have few notes, but also because they’re pretty neutral tones – they don’t seem to want to resolve to any one chord. You can do a lot of floating from chord to chord with them, and usually not get into a lot of trouble.

The idea of soloing is to create a melody that complements the song or chord progression, while adding to it. Part of it is a “feel” thing, part of it is technique. The more techniques you can draw from, the more at your disposal to help you say what you want to say.

One way to practice using the scale to solo over is to play variations based on scale degrees. What this means is that you take each note of a scale and assign it a letter. Then you play them in a repeating pattern.

Let me give you an example. C major pentatonic is C D E G A, so I would say that C = 1, D=2, E=3, etc. The normal scale ascending is then 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 etc. One pattern could be playing every other note, starting on each note of the scale in turn. That could look like 1 3 5 then 2 4 1 then 3 5 2, etc. After playing them ascending, try playing them descending…. 5 3 1 4 2 5 etc.

If you practice patterns like this, both ascending and descending, you develope an idea as to how to use these scales while soloing. This can be used for essentially any scale, by the way, not just the pentatonics. The only thing that’ll be different is how many numbers, the patterns you use, and of course the fingering will change.

The most proper answer about soloing is that it comes in two basic varieties – playing to the key or playing to the chord. If the progression is diatonic, you can play to the key very effectively, if it isn’t, you pretty much have to play to the chord.

What I mean is that if the song is major and only uses notes from a major scale, then you can use the major scale (or major pentatonic, or a mode of the major scale, etc) to play over the progression. You may have to pick your notes carefully here and there, but overall it should work. This is playing to the key of the song.

If a song uses notes that don’t all belong to one scale, then you usually need to take it on a chord by chord basis, and match a scale to a chord. For instance, an F mixolydian scale can be played over an F dominant 7th chord, a C minor scale can be used over a C minor chord, etc. This is playing to the chord… it can be called other things, too, like chord-soloing, whatever. You’ll need to study some music theory to learn how to do this effectively – it’s common in jazz.

Take it slow, you’ll do just fine. Do what I said above with the scale degree pattern thing, and play around with different patterns of numbers, and you’ll be just fine.

The easiest scales are the major and minor pentatonics, then the blues scale (minor pentatonic with a b5 added), and from there might as well jump to the major and minor scales, then modes, then … well, sky’s the limit!


how to learn guitar solos theory

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