Now we have covered how to play the major scale in many different ways, the time has come to try and use these notes to create melodies and solos over backing tracks or even your favourite songs!
EVERYONE finds this scary at first. However, even if you only want to learn solos from your favourite songs, learning basic improvisation is a crucial step – do not skip this step!
The biggest concept here is that we are making the major scale sound like a melody. This is in contrast to the more 'licks based' approach that can be used for blues or rock type solos. Below, you will find a five step method for how to create melodic solos using the major scale - I hope it helps you!
Here’s my five step method to creating a solo over ANY backing track or song. This method will work for any scale or genre, but is particularly effective when using the major scale over a major key backing track!
Step 1 – Play the major scale that is the same as the key of the backing track in scale order
e.g. for backing track in the key of C major, we would improvise using the C major scale for example. This is where you have to bite the bullet and just start, hopefully you will be surprised how fine this sounds!
Step 2 – Do the same as above, but stop after every 2 to 5 notes.
You can either change direction or continue in the same direction. You can either let the last note ring or let it stop.
There is no right or wrong, only a matter of subjective taste. The only thing I recommend at this step is to not miss any notes out or you may play notes that are not in the scale.
Step 3 – Do the same as above, but now start from a different note after some of the pauses.
No need to do this after every pause, but choose any other note to start from so long as it is from the scale. You can try using the patterns from lesson3 of this course, or even the arpeggios from
Step 4 – Change up the rhythm.
Once you have had a few attempts at improvising and are reasonably satisfied with what you are playing, try using a different rhythm for your lead line. We could even just improvise using 1 note and keep it interesting using a syncopated rhythm i.e. a rhythm that uses a more complex rhythmic pattern and is more 'off beat'.
Step 5 – Above all, just keep playing!
So long as you only play notes from the same major scale as the key of the song i.e. C major scale over a song in the key of C major, it will sound at least acceptable. It can be a tough thing for many people to get used to, especially non singers or those from completely non-musical backgrounds. However, if you truly want to learn intermediate or higher level lead guitar in any genre, you must learn basic improvisation and have a practical grasp of the concept of musicals keys.
These skills can take time to bed, but learning to improvise is the equivalent to learning how to make the guitar talk, so don’t expect that to happen overnight, but I believe if you follow the steps above, learning how to make the guitar talk will be inevitable!
The time has come! The below video shows me playing a simple chord sequence in the key of C major for around 2 minutes. You now need to use the steps above and have a go at improvising over it using the C major scale! You can also use any other backing track you wish.