Soloing and scales

Hi everyone,

I’ve had a burning question for about a year now. I understand why we learn scales and that we have to perfect them, but can’t seem to grasp how being good with scales translates to smooth soloing in a live song. I took private lessons for a while last year and focused only on scales and still came out confused. He said just play what you feel while I play the rhythm. I did a little bit but to this day I can in no way add a solo to a song and stay in time with the melody.I reviewed Justin’s grade 2 lessons again as well.

This week I started with C since there are no sharps or flats , starting on the 8th fret. Very easy there( 8-10-12, 8-10-12 on fifth and 9 -10 on fourth) I know you can play a c all over the place and Justin taught it further up starting on second fret. Does anyone have any tips? I’m trying this again after several failures . …,hoping for different results lol. Thank you

Jeff. I have lots of tips and thinfs I could add and links to other topics too.
But it’s late so I shall have to come ba k another day.

Yesterday, I attended the Blues Club meeting. One thing Justin said really made my head start to whir with possibilities.

The idea behind blues solo seems to be applying licks together. I started to think about that and it matched what my head usually comes up with (but I cannot play) when I am just listening to something. The reason I cannot play it is because I don’t know many licks. My play so far has been, to copy as exactly as possible, simple rhythms. I can see that once I start to get licks into my repertoire, I will have a lot of material to use.

Maybe this matches your experience? Does your head have “cool” solos in it , but you don’t know how to turn that into sound?

I plan to learn a handful of licks and see how using them can enhance solo playing. I suspect this was what I wasn’t understanding about the “language” of blues.

Hi Richard,

Thank you and I know it is past midnight out in South Africa. I do plan to try and catch your December classes coming up if I can.

Yes I can completely relate. I have the solos in my head that don’t come out right when the opportunity comes up in a song. I would have loved to attend his new class , but in my time zone it was the middle of my workday (California). Maybe that is a good start. The iron man lick seems very playable for example if I work on it.

Justin has a heap of blues licks to practice.

Best I think is find a blues backing track that fits and practice playing some of these or scales in the right key

Watch this video from about 7:00.

Learning scales is like learning the alphabet. But you really want to be using the alphabet to make words. Then you can say something meaningful.

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Hey Jeff,

Great to see you hooking into some soloing/ improv etc.
As someone who has come a little way in this journey, I’ve come to/ been led to, see scales as a particular palette of notes, with a particular flavour - major, minor, major/ minor pentatonic etc. And remember, chords are made from scales. So its all connected.

In the end its all about intervals, and how you join them together with different phrasing.

So, the key to starting is to start SIMPLE. One very good exercise is to put on a backing track with just the C chord. Plenty on Youtube with some good grooves. Yep, just one chord. Play your C scale over that one C chord. See what notes in the scale sound ‘smoother’. You’ll find its the 1-3-5 of the scale because those notes make up the C chord. Now experiment with different phrasing, keeping a slow tempo so you’re not rushing yourself. Eventually you’ll start to hear how that scale accentuates/ highlights/ accompanies that C chord. Thats the basis of getting started with it.

All the bedt
Cheers, Shane


That’s the lessons, @RobDickinson. I have been working on the full bends from the pattern 1 licks lesson for about an hour and my finger tips are tender. Started with guitar using size 10 strings and now the one with 8 strings is too much. Those 10s are due to get changed and won’t be 10s next time :wink:

@SDKissFan - when the club video comes out it is worth watching. The beginning of the lessons Rob linked has the same message, just not as well delivered.

Fingertips stage 3…

You think your doing OK with chords then this comes along…

I did ok with chords. Slides were a bit much for a few days. Now the full bends on the little e string - wow…

Have you looked at the lessons in Grade 2 on scales, Jeff. I’ve not watched the videos so not sure if they just focus on learning the scale or also offer some pointers on making music with the scale.

And you could look at this: which does have some exercises to start down the music-making path.

These make it a LOT easier:

I have the cobalt 8-38 now on my Ibanez. I tried the Rev. Willy’s 7-36 last time but I am too heavy handed to play those. I still prefer 9-46, but need to get fingers in shape now. Again! :face_with_spiral_eyes:

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If you are struggling to make music with any scale whatever I would de-pluralise that and narrow your options down to one and one only.

… can’t seem to grasp how being good with scales translates to smooth soloing

Again, narrowing your options down will remove some of the overwhelming choice and challenging of knowing what to play, when to play it, how to play it etc.

… I took private lessons for a while last year and focused only on scales and still came out confused.

Oh dear.

He said just play what you feel while I play the rhythm.

I try to refrain from being critical of others. It does sound like you needed more in the way of demonstration and guidance and coaching.

I did a little bit but to this day I can in no way add a solo to a song

A song is a long time to solo. Again, narrowing things down, restricting the limits, will help. Solo over one chord only. Solo over two chords for only four bars say. Not a song of many chords lasting several minutes.

This week I started with C since there are no sharps or flats , starting on the 8th fret.

You mean the C major scale, pattern 1, the E-shape? Do you want to learn to solo in major keys and using the major scale? If so then fine. You will be creating melodic lead guitar lines more than tearing up some killer licks. A more user-friendly and accessibly scale might be the minor pentatonic scale and something a little more lick based and blues infused.

Very easy there ( 8-10-12, 8-10-12 on fifth and 9 -10 on fourth)

It seems your guitar teacher taught you the 3-notes-per-string system. Justin and many, many others prefer to teach the CAGED system as a first choice. 3 NPS can come later once you are accomplished and maybe want to specialise on the sort of lead guitar playing that uses a lot of fast legato up and down the fretbaord.

I’m trying this again after several failures … hoping for different results lol. Thank you

Use this topic

In conjunction with the first six lessons here



I am doing a different online course and we do improv every Wednesday. The first step as someone mentioned above is to just play the scale over the rhythm and try to find notes that sound good. Then pick just a couple of notes and play them with different rhythm and timing. In fact you can just pick a single note and just play it with different timings and rhythm and make a good sounding solo. You don’t need to use the whole scale.

Maybe play the single note as 1/8th notes or 1/16th notes. Add a pause, only play on the 1st and 4th beats, etc. The rule is, if it sounds good it is good.

Once you get the feel for a single note, add a couple more and change the order of them, cresting little phrases that sound musical to you,

Don’t think to hard about it, just have fun with it and if something sounds good, explore that for a while and other ideas will come.

Yep, totally agree with this. I have been working on improv for the best part of a year and almost exclusively limiting myself to minor pentatonic. Getting comfortable with that will get you a long way.

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I have similar questions, although I still consider myself to be at a stage where I’m learning the scale positions whilst adding some improvisations like playing diagonally starting from day 8th fret on 6th string all the way down to 19th fret on high E. But eventually I will have exact same questions too. Some really good suggestions here too for when I get to your stage :blush:


This will be the best video you’ve ever watched if your learning scales.


Hi everyone,

I greatly appreciate the tips and advice. I definitely have a lot to read and think about. I’ll review and reply more thoroughly when I get a chance. For a year now I felt scales would be my demise to end my progress in improving. I feel like there are a lot more options now.

To tell the full story, about a year ago I signed up for ten weeks of private one on one sessions with an experienced professional. This individual teaches at a local music school and I had simultaneously enrolled my daughter for some basic lessons. The basic lessons were too simple for me so he offered one on one with scales and improv. The goal was to perform at a local show to demonstrate my skills. After each lesson I found myself searching Justin’s lessons right after to try and make sense of what I learned each week. I wasn’t awful , just didn’t understand everything in 30 minutes per session . At the end of the ten weeks I was not able to play anything on stage as far as solos so I was disappointed and frustrated. The day of the show my friend who was in the beginner class got stage fr so I agreed to fill in to play rhythm with the group. On a positive note that gave my a chance to play on stage with my daughter. We played stand by me and I used my shiny new 12 string Takimine to give a unique sound.

Fast forward a year later and for the past few weeks I have been playing jointly with the same daughter, now 11 and in just a matter of weeks she can sing and play at the same time, obviously needs work and practice but amazing progress. We have been doing a song I know well, good riddance by Green Day. She can sing and play the whole thing from memory- no chord book for the most part. I’m hoping I can learn to solo some and add a solo in there once we perform together. As of now I will start with these fundamentals and work towards a 5 minute solo at the chorus or something. Hopefully… I know @tRONd has his daughter are both playing as well and she’s just a bit older, which is awesome. …end of rant and back to my boring work reports.