Scale Or Solo?

Well, after a lot of input from you all, one of the biggest
questions asked went something like,"How do I make my
soloing sound like music and not just scales?"

Everyone who plays guitar will have to pass through this
phase of accomplishment. That is, the phase when your
soloing sounds like music and not just the scale that the
music is based on.

Soloing is like talking. The notes we play are like the
letters of the alphabet. The words we speak are a small
number of those notes played together forming licks or
musical phrases. Sentences are formed when we learn our
vocabulary and thus can take those licks and string them
together to make a musical statement.

The first thing you must do is learn your scale positions!
You need to know your "alphabet". Here's the A Pentatonic
at the fifth fret that I referred to in a previous article.

notes     A   C   D   E   G   A   C   D   E   G   A   C
fingers   1   4   1   3   1   3   1   3   1   4   1   4

This is a very standard blues/rock scale, but can sound
great with some imagination! Play it up and down, back and
forth. Memorize it. You are memorizing and speaking the
letters of the words you are about to form.

Now let's form some words (licks or phrases).


   bend      po     bend      po      bend


    ho         ~   po ho   ~~~~~ (~ = vibrato)


                                             bend ~

Remember, the other side of knowing the notes is applying
technique and creativity to those notes. Heck, I wrote the
entire song, "Happy Are Those", from my new CD, around an
A Pentatonic lick that I made up.

Technique is how you will attack the notes on the guitar
such as hammer-ons, pull-offs, string bending, overtones
and blending two notes together. Even cool effects like
volume swells using the volume control on your guitar. Turn
your volume knob all the way down, hammer-on a note and
raise the volume. This is a very cool effect especially
when you apply some echo to it!

These are the things you need to spend time on--creating and
talking with words or licks. As you learn them, write them
down or record them so you won't forget any of them in the
months to come. Form your words with different amounts of
letters. Form a two note lick as well as a seven note lick.
Even a two note lick can sound great when applied to the
right kind of rhythm!

You also want to be creative with your note durations. Like
with that two note lick, the second note might sound really
good if it sustained over four or six beats. In other words,
mix up your timing as well as the notes themselves.

Another cool technique that can help is called "Pedal Points".
Pedals Points are licks that have a recurring note such as:



Besides finding note combinations on your guitar, let your
mind come up with some music. I'm actually writing this
article and tab without a guitar in site! I already know
what to tab out for you because I can see and hear the licks
in my head. This is where you want to be. I've said it before
that one of the best ways I come up with new ideas is by
just thinking about it!

I know you probably would like more examples, but it's
essential that you exercise your brain as well as your
fingers. Try working on some licks of your own now, keeping
these hints in mind.

The sentences will come naturally when you get your words
down. When you can play lick after lick, phrase after phrase
without running out of ideas, you will have arrived!

I hope this helps you with making your solos sound more
interesting. Remember, memorize those scale patterns!

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Will Landrum is a guitarist and composer from Virginia who dabbles in heavy rock Instrumentals with blues and neo-classical influences.

His latest CD is entitled "Living Digits", which features eight compositions produced by Landrum and Michael Fath.

Will Landrum