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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 -----------------|----------------|----------------| --------5--8--5--|-------5--8--5--|--8--10---------| --7--9-----------|-7--9-----------|----------------| -----------------|----------------|----------------| -----------------|----------------|----------------| -----------------|----------------|----------------|


ho ~ po ho ~~~~~ (~ = vibrato) ----------------------------------| ----------------------------------| --------7-----5-----------5-------| --5--7-----7-----7--5--7----------| ----------------------------------| ----------------------------------|

LICK #3 bend ~ ---------------------------------------------------| ---------------------------------------------------| --------------------------------5-----5--7--7--9---| --------------------5-----5--7-----7---------------| --------5-----5--7-----7---------------------------| --5--8-----8---------------------------------------|

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 debut 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!

Listen, if you need help with ideas for approaches to technique, Michael Fath's "Rock Guitar Study Series" software is an invaluable resource. Take it from me, it's loaded with technical approaches that elevate your playing to a much higher level. You can check it out at Rock Guitar School.com.

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:


-----8-----5---------------------------------------| -----------------8-----5---------------------------| --5-----5-----5-----5-----5--7--5-----------5------| -----------------------------------7--5--7-----7---| ---------------------------------------------------| ---------------------------------------------------|

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 your scale patterns!

Check out Will's new CD, Will Landrum, produced by Will and Michael Fath, at WillLandrum.com.

Will Landrum is helping thousands of on-line guitarists with his all original content web site, free guitar teaching ezine and growing line of instructional software and products.