Major Scale: Improvising & Jamming

Wanna get jamming with your friends and using the major scale to make music?

View the full lesson at Major Scale: Improvising & Jamming | JustinGuitar

I’ve started improvising over Justin’s Major Scale backing tracks. I’ve watched a couple of Justin’s lessons on major scale improv. I’m incorporating repetition, leaving space, play/rest, using the thinnest strings, etc.

It’s early days, but I’m noticing some notes sound terrible when I bend them. I vaguely recall one of Jusitn’s lessons where advises avoiding bending certain notes, but I can’t remember which lesson.

In Justin’s Major Scale Basic Improvisation lesson in grade 4 he plays improv over a G major backing track and doesn’t use any string bending. Lots of vibrato, but no bends. Is this because it’s the major scale, or because he hasn’t introduced bending at that stage?

I know the answer is probably “use your ears”, but are there any golden rules for notes that work better/worse for bending in the major scale? Ditto vibrato? Should I be even using bends over the major scale?


Major scale bending is covered in grade 5 in the Major Scale Maestro series the Major Scale Maestro starts in grade 4. A general rule of thumb is the strings you bend using the Major pent work in the major. There is a lot more to that but a good place to start.

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Thanks for the reply. I’ve already watched the first lesson in this module (Pattern 1). I’ll check out the rest.

My knowledge is mostly theoretical (I haven’t done much improvising with the major scale), but here goes: you may already know this, but when you bend a note, you have to bend to a specific note, it’s not just a random bending of the string. Most bends are either a semitone or a full tone (i.e. 1 or 2 frets). That’s the first thing to keep in mind.

The next thing to ask yourself, is the note you’re bending to also in the major scale that you are playing? If it is not, then it probably won’t sound good, if it is, then it will probably sound good (although, you can get a sour note within the scale, depending on the underlying chord being played).

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Thanks. Yes I knew that.

That’s a good point. I’ll mull that over next time I practice.

Hey Chris,

Yep, as others have, Justin has upcoming lessons on major scale bending. Remember too that the good/ bad sound is linked to the underlying chord/ chord tones in the progression. Some will sound better than others over different chords.

Cheers, Shane

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Thanks Shane. I recall a lesson where Justin said the major scale is chord-specific and you need to “play the changes”, which is way beyond my current ability. Otherwise, he said to use the minor pentatonic scale. Which sounds like a very good advertisement for the minor pentatonic scale!


Jack, are you using just pattern 1 the E-shape?
Can I recommend you check out this topic Guitar Challenge (Improv) - Acoustic Pop in G Major (Justin Sandercoe backing track) where you will see and hear others making their first steps at major scale improvisation over Justin’s G major backing track.

See if this helps.
Just looking at pattern 1 of the G major scale. Here is a scale diagram with notes shown and the addition of three other scale notes in blue on the G, B and E strings (the strings you are most likely to bend).

Hope fully you can see that each highest note of pattern 1 provides an option to bend one whole step to another scale note.
On the 1st string you can bend from note A to note B. This would work especially well when you have a diatonic chord containing B (G major, B minor, E minor).

On the 2nd string you can bend from note E to note F#. This would work especially well when you have a diatonic chord containing F# (B minor, D major).

On the 3rd string you can bend from note C to note D. This would work especially well when you have a diatonic chord containing D (G major, B minor, D major).

DO not worry and get anxious about playing the changes. Just try those bends through a chord progression. When your ears make you smile at what they hear being good, the chances are you have played the changes well. If your ears complain and your smile fades, the chances are you have bend to a sour note. Knowledge is great. Listening is greater for the moment.

I hope that helps.
Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide, Approved Teacher & Moderator

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Yes, pattern 1 Richard.

Thanks a lot for the scale diagram. That’s exactly the sort of information I was hoping for! I’ll practice bending to those notes shown in blue tomorrow.

I’ll also have a look at the Guitar Challenge videos tomorrow for some inspiration.

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I feel a bit like I’m going nowhere with solo techniques at the moment. Going through the practical theory bit about scales, minor keys, modes etc… , and I got the jam major pack, try to improvise using the scale corresponding to the key of the tracks but it just doesn’t sound very convincing. Kind of repetitive/robitic/scaly and not very inspired :-(. I’ve not tried to learn any of the other patterns yet as I’m not satisfied with what I can do with pattern 1 in the first place. Also, there seems to be different “major scale” modules on the JG site and I’m not sure which one to use…

This lesson was the first time I improvised

Keep it simple I only used a couple of notes.
Practice hammer- ons and flick off. 1 min a day. It helped me for improvising

Hope this helps

Mine’s the same, but hopefully that’s just part of the journey. Right now I’m just focussing on hitting the right notes from postions 1 & 2 of the G major scale. I occasionally get lost when moving between the two. Until I can nail that, I’m not worrying about embellishments, although I occasionally add a slide or a bend.

Thanks for the feedback folks. I guess I’ll have to persevere. Funny thing is, it’s not so bad when using the track at the end of the “master the major scale” module (MMS lesson 10), I’m reasonably happy to improvise on that track. But I really struggle to play something nice on the “D major fast rock” track of the “jam major” bundle. I don’t seem to be able to come up with anything that sounds nice on that track. Again, not so bad with the “E major Aussie Rock” track. Ac/dc influenced track? I’m not gonna bother trying the reggae or country tracks, mainly because it’s not my type of music and focusing on rock/metal is challenging enough :grin:

I wonder if you might be better off sticking to one key for a while? I’m currently only improvising in the key of G. There are three backing tracks in G on Justin’s Jam Major album. Plus the slow tempo backing track in G that was provided with one of Justin’s lessons.

I don’t know what your standard is, but there’s no way I could improvise over that D Major Fast Rock backing track. The tempo is way too high for me to do anything useful with.