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Guitar soloing help

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Joined: 7 years ago
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Hello folks, my name is Mikey and I'm new to the forum. I've played guitar for about 10 years (on and off, and self taught) but my form and technique isn't the best. I've never had any formal instruction but I'm looking to take lessons in the near future. I definitely see myself as a rhythm guitarist,but I'm trying to learn lead guitar and play solo's (especially improvisation) . I just have a few questions.

I'm learning the pentatonic scale, so far I got the first two shapes of it down. Will the pentatonic scale be suitable for most solos? Or do I need to learn many more scales?

How do you know a key of a chord progression? Let's say a song plays the chords Am F C G, how do I determine the key of this song?

And from my understanding, once I determine the key of the song, I start my scale on the root note of that and I can only play the certain notes in that scale on my solo? Thanks

Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5342

The pentatonic will work for a great percentage of solos, especially in blues, rock, pop and C&W, but do bear in mind that if you use the minor version you'll always sound a bit bluesy; sometimes you'll want to shift it three frets towards the headstock to make it (say) A Major instead of A minor. Eventually you'll get bored with the pentatonic and branch out into other scales.

The primary chords in a key are I, IV and V - with vi (which is a minor chord) being frequently used as it's only one note different from the tonic. C, Am F and G line up as I-vi-IV-V so the key in your example is C - if you don't get this, get a beginners book on music theory or check out the lessons on this site.

No, you don't have to stick to the notes of that scale; carefully worked dissonances (notes from outside the scale) will work - just don't expect them all to work every time.

Work at your improvisations; get a handle on what does and doesn't work. If your a subscriber to UK magazine "Total Guitar" you get some backing tracks every issue with suggestions about what scale to use.

"Be good at what you can do" - Fingerbanger"
I have always felt that it is better to do what is beautiful than what is 'right'" - Eliot Fisk
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 4472

You can also check out our own series here at Guitar Noise. It's called "Turning Scales into Solos" and the first part is right here:

Hope this helps.