Starting to play rock solos doesn’t need to be a black art. If you know the basic ‘blues box’ A minor pentatonic scale, you can start to turn it into a solo very easily. In this post I’ll talk about how to break out of the “Playing The Scale As A Solo” Rut.
The Minor Pentatonic Trap
It’s very common, when you start learning guitar, to learn a pentatonic scale.
Often, A minor pentatonic is the one you start with.
So, you diligently practice your scale until you know it forwards and backwards, and inevitably you hit the point where you scratch your head and say “Now what?”.
How do you use that scale to make real music?
And more specifically, how do you go from playing the scale notes one at a time, in order, to playing a guitar solo?
Well, we’re not going to cover the whole of that topic here, because that’s the subject of an entire course – one that I’ll maybe get time to produce one day.
If you want to learn how to break out of the “Playing The Scale As A Solo” Rut, I will try and get you started.
Focus On Two Strings
So, how do you get yourself out of the rut of playing solos that still sound like the scale? My recommendation to begin doing that is to concentrate on playing a solo on just two strings
In the video accompanying this article, I’m concentrating on using only the 3rd and 4th strings at the 5th and 7th fret.
2 strings – four notes in total.
Which Pattern and Which Two Strings?
So that we’re on the same page, this is the pentatonic pattern I’m referring to here:
The notes on the 4th and 3rd strings are the ones we’re going to focus on, and we’ll see how it’s possible to solo on just two strings and break out of the ‘just playing the scale’ habit when you’re soloing.
How To Make It Sound Interesting
If we’re going to make a 4-note guitar solo sound interesting, we need to employ some lead guitar techniques.
The four important lead guitar techniques I use in the video are:
On either of the strings I can slide from the 5th to the 7th fret.
You can hammer on either of the strings from the 5th to the 7th fret.
I don’t know if I used too many of these in the video, but you can pull off from the 7th to the 5th of the third string and then land on the 7th fret of the 4th string to finish the phrase.
You can also pull off the fourth string 7th to 5th fret.
In the video example, I focused my bends on the third string 7th fret,bending up, sometimes stopping the bend at the top and releasing it silently, and sometimes audibly releasing the bend.
Try and vary the different types of bend so sometimes you stop the bend at the top and sometimes you release it.
This Gives You Variety In Your Solo
All these ideas are adding variety to your solo, so that even though you know you’re only playing four notes, it sounds to a listener like a lot is going on.
The Illusion Of Speed
Remember that hammer-ons and pull-offs are good for giving the illusion of speed. You can pick once and then very quickly hammer or pull to another note faster than you could pick those notes twice.
Talking of the illusion of speed, something I do in the middle of the example solo on the video, is to play a repeating lick where I:
– hammer on the 4th string 5th to 7th fret and then immediately
– lie down the index finger at the 5th fret of the 4th and 3rd strings so I can
– play the 3rd string at 5, and then repeat that 3-note phrase – hammer 4, play 3 at the 5th fret.
That kind of repetition can sound effective and certainly can give the illusion of speed.
And Just Like That You’ve Moved From Playing The Scale To Soloing
It’s astonishing how much variety you can get out of just two notes on two strings.
And it achieves our objective of forcing not just to play the scale, but to begin finding your voice with a simple solo..
So stick on a jam track of a blues in A or any jam track in A minor, and see if you can try some of those ideas out.
Oh, and here’s the video where I explain How To Break Out Of the ‘Playing The Scale As A Solo’ Rut:
What do you think? Let me know below.