How To Use Scales For Improvising On The Guitar

Published on 26 January 2016
If you would like to gain full access to all our Guitar Teaching Materials please visit the Secret Guitar Teacher Site and take a free tour: Here's the Video Transcript: I often hear from guitar students who have studied and drilled scale patterns and then felt disappointed when playing these scales against a backing track doesn't result in a great sounding guitar solo. So what are the missing steps between learning scale patterns and playing brilliant sounding solos? Well, we touched on the key steps briefly in the previous Sound Bite. In this lesson we'll fill in a bit more detail. The first major goal is to drill the scales enough to be able to play them without any conscious thought. And a great way to do that is to try what I call the 'Breakfast Test'. Can you play fluently, and rhythmically up and down the scale patterns whilst telling me what you had for breakfast this morning? Something like this. The point is that when you are soloing you need to have all your attention on listening to the notes you play and how they fit in with the underlying rhythm you are playing against. If you still need to think about playing the pattern, then you won't have enough spare attention for this degree of careful listening. Let's assume you have passed the Breakfast test and want to move on to the next step. Well the next step is best done against a backing track. I'll use this 12 bar blues in A backing track which is at the top of the list of audio tracks available to members of the Secret Guitar Teacher Site. First, listen to the track and pinpoint where the main beat comes .Then play notes at random from the scale in short phrases of two or three notes that end on the beat like this. To begin with, concentrate on rhythmic accuracy alone, although you will probably notice that some notes work better than others in terms of how they harmonise with the chords on the backing track. Once you are relaxed about playing phrases in time with that main beat, then you need to begin to get more critical with the choice of your phrase-end notes. I want to emphasise here that the notes at the start of the phrase are less important, but the note you end a phrase on need careful attention. Try and home in on notes that sound neat - notes that resolve with the backing. If a note sounds wrong, simply keep moving on the scale - the next note will almost always sound better keep listening and correcting as you go. And with a few hours of practicing like this you will develop a knack of phrasing perfectly over the chord changes and your playing will sound both in time and in tune with the backing track. Of course we are still a way off playing a great solo, but before taking off, it is vital to know where the safe ground is and this exercise establishes that for you. By helping you develop the confidence to be able to 'play safe' when necessary. In the next Sound Bite, we'll show you how to add colour to your playing, by introducing some techniques and developing some licks. On the Secret Guitar Teacher Site you'll find a wealth of resources designed to help you with each of these stages of lead guitar development. If you found this little video useful, please click on the ‘Like’ button if there is one, or leave a comment, and do feel free to share the video with your friends. And if you’d like to gain full access to all our guitar teaching materials please visit the Secret Guitar Teacher website and take a free look round at what’s available there. See you again soon!