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Running Laps Around Your Fretboard
Let's face it, playing a professional, well polished
solo is extremely difficult. More often than not, we
find ourselves confined to a certain area of the
fretboard. Perhaps you are playing a solo based on a
certain scale that you like, such as a pentatonic or
mixolydian. Whatever the case, you end up getting the
same sounds over and over.
We have all faced that frustrating situation at one time
or another. There's nothing worse than being stuck with
the same tones and not knowing what to do with the
hundreds of options available to you. The good news is
that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The guitar is not designed to be frustrating. In fact,
the fretboard is configured to make your life as easy as
possible. How does it make your life easier? By
connecting scale patterns. As you may remember from
previous lessons, each scale has five individual
patterns. These patterns cover the entire neck of the
What you may not know is that each of those five
patterns overlap each other at some point on the
fretboard. This is the key to stepping out of that one
scale pattern and sprinting across the fretboard. You
can now take advantage of every note within that
While it is impossible for us to cover every scale in
detail, as there are over 80 patterns to remember, we
can investigate the most useful.
Pentatonic scale pattern.
By now, the majority of you have heard of the pentatonic
scale. It is theoretically one of the easiest scales we
have available to us and is the most practical for
soloing. The beauty of this scale is that you can use it
to play any key and still sound great.
The scale pattern that made the minor pentatonic scale
famous is the following:
... While that scale
pattern may be the most famous, there are four other
extremely useful patterns that you should know. They are
..Get extremely comfortable
with all five of the above scales. With practice, you
can easily master them within a short period of time.
Take care not to confuse them and mix them up, because
they will be the foundation that the rest of your solos
will be based on.
To answer the question of how they fit together, we must
first look at what key we are playing in. Once you
decide which key you are playing in. Let's use the key
of Am as our first example, which is the same as C(more
on that in a minute). Take your #1 scale pattern, and
place the first note on the 8th fret of your low E
string, which is a C.
Keep in mind that these scale patterns can also be
played in the key of C. This is due to the 6th note of
any scale being the relative minor. Since we are using
the pentatonic minor scale pattern, the minor key makes
more sense. Both have the same key signatures, just
What you are really doing is
using C as the "root" of your scale. A root is the first
note of any scale and often dictates the key you are
playing in. If you don't know your notes, I suggest
learning the low E string as it will save you plenty of
After you have located where your #1 scale pattern is
going to be placed, which is on C in our case, we put
the #2 scale pattern on D, which is two frets up from C.
We then proceed to put the #3 scale pattern on E (12th
fret), which is another two frets up from D. Our #4
scale pattern is three frets up on G (15th fret).
Finally, our #5 scale pattern is another two frets up
from G, which is the 17th fret.
Any above pattern with an "or" with an alternate scale
just means that the full scale can be played higher on
the fretboard or lower. In other words, there are two
octaves to the scale. Depending on the key you are
playing in, you will alternate between the high versions
and the low versions. For the key of C, you use the
As you play through the scales in the key of Am (or C),
you will find that they overlap each other and share
notes. This will hold true with every key. Basically,
this is what opens up the doors to wicked solos where
you never hit a wrong note. To play in another key, move
your #1 scale to a new root note.
Using solo techniques to write
Now that you know how to totally utilize the area on
your fretboard, it's time to put things into action.
When creating new riffs and solos, there are a few
things to keep in mind that will spice up your playing.
Hammer On's/Pull Off's
Bending & Double Bends
Sliding between the connecting notes
I also suggest you try using finger length to your
advantage if you have larger hands. Since you know where
you're going and what notes you should be playing on
your fretboard, you can easily do huge jumps around the
The possibilities are endless when you think of all the
things you can do with five scales and some technique
Written by Guitar Tips: If
you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but never had
the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days and I'll show
you how to play virtually any song you want!
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