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Author Topic: Soloing Question: what scale?  (Read 16259 times)

Offline mem555

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« on: October 07, 2009, 03:53:32 PM »
I am an amateur guitarist who recently started to play with a friend who is a pro (at least more pro than me).  I have never considered my self as a "lead" guitarist, but when I play with him, I felt kind of silly having 2 guitarists just playing rhythm, so I started to add some fills.  After adding fills, my friend said, "Oh, you play lead...here's a solo...go man!"  So I started playing lead solos with my fills.  Mostly just scales: major and minor pents, with some blues, thrown in.

But lately that has been getting boring and redundant (we play classic rock, I IV V, stuff mostly).  If a song is in the key of G, I will play a G major pent (g-a-b-d-e) or the Em minor pent/blues with the added Bb.  Sometimes I will play the G blues scale against the G chord, and then revert to the major or minor pent for the other chords (C and D).

Every once and a while I will try and embellish with a chromatic run or a major or minor scale run --  sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

My question is, what other scales do I have at my disposal?  What do other people do to spice up their solo's and keep them from sounding like the same scales from one key og G song to the next key of G song?  Thanks for your help.
 

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline mountaindewaddict

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2009, 04:52:42 PM »
It's only half your problem.  Ask your friend to try some more complex rhythms / chord structures.  Also, start playing with modes.  You could also try the CAGED theory (see the "Fretboard Logic" series).  Even that will get old, but it can open your ears to some new structures.  Good luck.

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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline spider

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2009, 05:29:56 PM »
The best place to start is the actual melody of the song....Then try using your scales and modes to expand on it further. Most classic rock has been published in books and the vocal melodies are right there and usually very easy to read, play and then use as a structure from which improvise! There are also an IMMENSE amount of TABS available online with the actual solos transcribed....
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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline bno

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2009, 09:25:28 PM »
One of the best ways to learn to "solo" is to woodshed on someone else's solo, (i.e., learn it).  Pick a guitarist you like and figure out their stuff.

Try fewer notes and see if there are ways to use rhythm and phrasing to take a smaller vocabulary and make it interesting.  You can have the largest vocabulary in the world and still be boring or you can be simple and say something sublime.  Think Forrest Gump.  Try a one note solo and use rhythm, syncopation, silence and dynamics to create interest.  

There are passing tones that are outside of the scale that create tension and a sense of relief/release when you return to your harmonic universe.  Think outside of the box.  

lick = letter
riff = word
phrase = sentence
chorus/chord changes = paragraph
solo = story

A good improvisation tells a story and has the same sense of introduction, exposition, climax and conclusion.  Think about you improvisation before you launch into it.

We all know about players who can play a bagajazillion notes, shred the neck into pieces and are totally boring and uninspired.  And then there are the B.B Kings of the world who can take a very limited vocabulary and make you cry. So, it's not about how many notes and scales you know, it's about what you do with them.  

Now, then there's "theory" which, in music, is usually analysis after the fact.  There is a whole complex mathematically based, psychoacoustical interpretation of the physics of our world and how all those sonic vibrations work together to make pleasing, soothing, discordant, wonderful music.  You don't really need to know all that ssstuff, but it can be fun to know.

My point is that you probably already know enough notes to play something interesting, you just need to try different assemblies of those notes - push them around a bit, put them in different places, play a C scale against a G or just play what you think is the wrong scale and find the notes that work - there's always a note that works.  G could use Dm or C or Am or Bm or D or whatever.  Just move your hand up a couple frets and play the same pattern, play the pattern backwards, upside down, inside out. Use bigger intervals so you're not playing scales but your playing in leaps and bounds.  
« Last Edit: October 08, 2009, 09:35:50 PM by bno »
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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Paul Marossy

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2009, 09:35:58 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by spider

The best place to start is the actual melody of the song....Then try using your scales and modes to expand on it further.


In the context of tunes that are songs and not instrumentals, I agree with that.

There's a lot of other things that you can do than just noodle around. Apreggios, triads, playing certain intervals (like 4ths, M3rds, m3rds, 7ths, etc.), octaves, 5ths, parallel 5ths, double stops, string bending, playing a counterpoint, a riff and so on. The possibilities are seemingly endless. What exactly you want to do depends on the song, the style of music it is presented in and what the song is trying to convey.

Also, try erring on the side of "less is more" rather than just playing a bunch of notes. Try to do stuff that is not cliche, that's interesting and catchy. Hooks are always a great thing that a "lead" guitarist can throw out there to make the song more interesting and exciting. Just some ideas to think about.

In terms of scales, I usually play something in the relative minor scale of the key, usually minor pentatonic or the Phrygian mode, sometimes the Natural Minor scale (Aeolian Mode). Once in a while, I like to use the Lydian mode, or even a modified version of the Hungarian Minor scale I like to use sometimes. I might also go "out" a little and come back in. Sometimes, I'll even do a bit of the whole tone scale mixed in with a pentatonic scale. There's a certain way to do it or it will sound a bit weird. It just takes some time and experimentation to learn all this stuff. If have a good ear, you'll come up with some very cool stuff eventually.

My "advice" would be to not be a carbon copy of someone else. Make your own voice. [;)]


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« Last Edit: October 08, 2009, 09:46:51 PM by Paul Marossy »

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Patzag

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2009, 01:03:15 PM »
Hi Mem555.
I'll pass on the advice of one of the greatest soloist of all times, albeit a keyboardist - Chick Corea.  he once told me, play only what you hear!  In other words, get past the scales and play what sounds good.  This may include notes that are not in "any" scale that "fits" with the chord.
It often means, for me, that I have to slow down and take care not to "let the fingers do the walking". It's often the trap of scales.  They sound like scales, but not always like a melody.
So here's another tip for how to achieve that:  Play the chords and record them (or hear them in your mind) and "sing" the solo before you play it.  Then find what you sang on the fretboard.  You'll see that it gets sometimes difficult to actually play what you hear in your mind.  But its a great exercise and it will open up your playing to sounds, intervals and melodies you'd never think of playing just by moving your fingers.
One last thing, get away from the guitar.  Listen to horn player or keyboardist solos and try to duplicate what they do on your guitar.  There's a whole vocabulary to be learned and then, armed with new "words", you can write your own essay.
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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Paul Marossy

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2009, 02:06:10 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by Patzag

Hi Mem555.
I'll pass on the advice of one of the greatest soloist of all times, albeit a keyboardist - Chick Corea.  he once told me, play only what you hear!  In other words, get past the scales and play what sounds good.  This may include notes that are not in "any" scale that "fits" with the chord.
It often means, for me, that I have to slow down and take care not to "let the fingers do the walking". It's often the trap of scales.  They sound like scales, but not always like a melody.



Very well said. I also try to do that, but I am not always on target like I'd like to be.

You know a good instructional video is Scott Henderson's "Jazz Fusion Improvisation". The first third of the video really can apply to any kind of music, and especially stuff that has a tinge of blues. Later on in the video it gets a lot more into heavy duty jazz stuff and my eyes gloss over and my brain starts melting. [:D]

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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline prjacobs

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2009, 10:15:42 AM »
All of the above advice is great.  My first thought was the melody.  But if you don't know enough theory, you really have limited knowledge to base your solo on.  So, learn key signatures, intervals, all major, minor, augmented, diminished chords and arpeggios.  Then learn what's happening harmonically.  Are you approaching a dominant?  A tonic?  But, basically, be patient and find a way to learn these things that works for you.  When you really know where you are harmonically, melodically, rhythmically, etc., then you'll have the tools to use.  If you can afford it, find a teacher.  There's nothing like a good teacher to take you out of your usual playing.  Good luck:)
 

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Paul Marossy

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2009, 10:27:21 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by prjacobs

All of the above advice is great.  My first thought was the melody.  But if you don't know enough theory, you really have limited knowledge to base your solo on.  So, learn key signatures, intervals, all major, minor, augmented, diminished chords and arpeggios.  Then learn what's happening harmonically.  Are you approaching a dominant?  A tonic?  But, basically, be patient and find a way to learn these things that works for you.  When you really know where you are harmonically, melodically, rhythmically, etc., then you'll have the tools to use.  If you can afford it, find a teacher.  There's nothing like a good teacher to take you out of your usual playing.  Good luck:)



Very good advice from a very good musician. [8D]

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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline mem555

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2009, 11:23:02 AM »
I hope you guys don't think I am being condesending, but every piece of advice that i got here, on my querey, is really quite good.  I really do appreciate the feedback and I think I can implement all of the advice above and it would be helpful.  Some I can implement right away, some I will have to work on.  
Someone said to listen to other musicians, well I recently heard a Willie Nelson tune (a ballad called "Valentine"), and listened to his solo.  Now I am not a huge WN fan, but his solo technique is kinda cool.  Real simple and melodic, I went back through my Ipod and listened to the handful WN songs I had uploaded over the last few years (4 out of 3,500) and he has that same technique on every solo --  simple, melodic and structured within the framework of the melody.  Very nice!  I think that would be a good start...comments?
 

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline spider

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2009, 12:31:52 PM »
Willie, in my opinion, has one of the most recognizable voices on his instrument in all of recorded music....as you said simple, melodic and within the framework of the melody...all you need to know!
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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Noodler

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2009, 03:24:50 PM »
The trap far too many guitarists fall into is the scalar approach to soloing.  The thing about scales is that all the notes you play in the scale are not created equal. So many instructional materials show you the patterns and they may also list the notes or scale degrees, but the piece they gloss over is the guide tones.  They usually only show the root notes and then act like all the other notes of the scale are "equals", but that's far from how it really works in musical melody and harmony theory.

I was a very scalar guitarist for many years.  I recently started taking lessons again as an adult and my teacher forced my to stop using the scales and start thinking and playing arpeggios.  Arpeggios provide a wonderful map of the guide tones where you should be starting and ending your phrasing when running single note lines.  I had never really spent much time playing lots of arpeggios before, but now I see the light and it's completely changed the way I approach my fills and soloing.  I think much more about playing over the chord and my knowledge of scales just fills in the gaps.  Now when I play a single note line you can still hear/feel the chord progression even though it's not actually being played.  

Obviously this has been the typical approach of jazz players for eons, but most rock players go straight for the scalar stuff at a million notes per hour.  Learn how each note of the scale plays against the tonic, third, 5th, and seventh (the main guide tones).  Once you get a good ear for the way the tension and resolution works within a scale you're able to express your solo in much more melodic ways.

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline jefsummers

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #12 on: October 17, 2009, 09:50:06 PM »
Also, fast scales and pyrotechnics impress other guitar players, but most audiences want to hear a solo that has a melody, that has something to do with the song being played. For example, listen to David Gilmour's solos on Dark Side of the Moon. They fit the feel of the songs, not too flashy, but really fitting in.
If you are really in a rut, there are exercises you can do to help expand your solo palate a bit - things like playing your solo without ever playing the tonic, just playing around it and hinting at it. Not playing two notes in a row that are together in the same scale. These artificial tools can be used in practice to open your eyes to other possibilities.

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Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline Paul Marossy

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2009, 06:27:22 PM »
quote:
Originally posted by jefsummers

Also, fast scales and pyrotechnics impress other guitar players, but most audiences want to hear a solo that has a melody, that has something to do with the song being played. For example, listen to David Gilmour's solos on Dark Side of the Moon. They fit the feel of the songs, not too flashy, but really fitting in.
If you are really in a rut, there are exercises you can do to help expand your solo palate a bit - things like playing your solo without ever playing the tonic, just playing around it and hinting at it. Not playing two notes in a row that are together in the same scale. These artificial tools can be used in practice to open your eyes to other possibilities.



Yeah, I agree with playing something that fits the feel of the song. I have always tried to that. Sometimes pyrotechnics are cool, but it depends on the context. I think it's better to play less, but more interesting and un-cliche stuff than it is to try and impress people with your guitarwan.king skill and playing stuff that's been done a million times by every guitarist before you. [;)]

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« Last Edit: October 18, 2009, 06:32:11 PM by Paul Marossy »

Soloing Question: what scale?

Offline prjacobs

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Soloing Question: what scale?
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2009, 10:43:23 AM »
quote:
Originally posted by mem555

I hope you guys don't think I am being condesending, but every piece of advice that i got here, on my querey, is really quite good.  I really do appreciate the feedback and I think I can implement all of the advice above and it would be helpful.  Some I can implement right away, some I will have to work on.  
Someone said to listen to other musicians, well I recently heard a Willie Nelson tune (a ballad called "Valentine"), and listened to his solo.  Now I am not a huge WN fan, but his solo technique is kinda cool.  Real simple and melodic, I went back through my Ipod and listened to the handful WN songs I had uploaded over the last few years (4 out of 3,500) and he has that same technique on every solo --  simple, melodic and structured within the framework of the melody.  Very nice!  I think that would be a good start...comments?



Yes, this is a good place to start.  Anything that speaks to you is a good place to start, especially since you really haven't played any solos and are just getting your feet wet.  I don't know what your goals are, but keep finding things that inspire you and play.  Everyone has certain things that seem to come naturally to them and other issues that don't work as well.  As you play, you'll discover what works best for you and you alone.  You may hold a note in a certain way, with a certain vibrato that works really well.  You may have a gift for taking the rhythmic essence of a melody and tell us why it's so cool....
We can talk about scales, chords, arpeggios, modes, etc..... Every piece of music can be broken down into these common building blocks, but what distinguishes each song is it's melody.  So, again, if that's what you're responding to, go with it.
One brief response to bno.  I tend to agree with him that you probably have more at your disposal than you realize. But, for me, I don't experience theory as analysis after the fact, I experience theory in the moment.  Theory is like a GPS, only better, because it's instantaneous.  You know where you are, how you got there and where you can possibly go from there.  There are different levels of theoretical knowledge, and even the basic ones like key signatures, intervals, chord structure, can go a long way.  You might be asking yourself, how can I process all of this stuff as I'm trying to solo.  The more you and I or anyone works with music, the more it becomes automatic, just like speaking english is to us.  But again, make if fun.  It you're stressing about all of this, you're missing the point.  Don't start comparing yourself to anyone, wishing you could play better, etc.  Just explore and see what happens.  So.... What scale should you use when you solo?  Who knows.[:)]  The sax solo for Temptation's song "Get Ready" was only one note.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJhiUpwy7P0