Soloing Basics II. Part 1 - The Basics

author: plikk date: 07/19/2004 category: soloing
rating: 6.5 / votes: 29 
We've all been there: you're jammin' with some dudes and in the middle of the tune the bass player gives you the nod to take your solo. What do you do? Every moment you wait makes you look like more of an amateur. Quick, what key am I in? What are the chord changes? What scale? What mode? What's my name? What's the capital of South Dakota? Well, let's make sure this never happens by preparing ourselves with today's lesson: soloing basics. A few notes before we start. If you have not mastered the art of note bending, slides, pull-offs and hammer-ons, you will probably have a difficult time with some of the topics discussed here. But read on anyway. I happen to have a personal disdain for the pentatonic scale. So while I will not dissuade anyone from using it nor dispute its usefulness, I will not be discussing it here. Let's say that your makeshift band is jammin' on a simple three chord warm up progression, Dm-C-Bb-C. It's your turn to solo and what are you going to do? Based on the chord progression, we'll pick D minor as our soloing key of choice. I have always had luck memorizing a particular pattern and moving it around depending on the key. Here is the one that I use most and can use in any key major or minor. Here it is in our Dm position:
Pattern 1:
E---l---l---l---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l
B---l---l---l---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l
G---l---l---l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l---l---l
D---l---l---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l
A---l---l---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l
E---l---l---l---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10
The RR'sS represent the root of the major key (F) and the Rr'sS represent the root in the minor key (D). Technically I suppose you could call this an F major scale in phrygian mode (beginning on the third, A). But I really don't. It's just a particular set of finger placements that are comfortable and reliable for soloing. Since when I solo I will be stressing the notes of the major and minor, the A phrygian is just a coincidence. Ok. Now we've got a scale to use. Notice that this scale contains all the notes of the chords being played. Like so:
D minor scaleD-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
Dm chordD-F-A
C chordC-E-G
Bb chordBb-D-F
Now when we solo (which you will remember is supposed to be a story within a story, not just a bunch of licks) we can really play any note in the scale and it will fit. It won't always sound good, but it will fit in some way. Here are two more positions of the same scale.
Pattern 2(F major scale)
E---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l---l
B---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l---l
G---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
D---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
A-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l---l---l---l---l
E-R-l---l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Pattern 3(D minor scale)
E---l---l---l(x)l---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l
B---l---l---l(x)l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l
G---l---l---l-R-l---l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l
D---l---l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l-x-l---l---l
A---l---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l
E---l---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l
  7   8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15   16
(x) alternative fingerings to use if you want to stay in one position. Notice that this is the D minor scale and that the D minor pentatonic scale is contained within this scale. Where did you think the pentatonic it came from? If you link patterns 1, 2 and 3 together starting with the F on the E string 1st fret (pattern 2) you can move up and down the fretboard all the way to the 24th fret (if you have one) without leaving the patterns. Like this:
E------------------------------------8-10-12--l
B---------------------------5-6-8/10----------l
G-------------------2/3-5-7-------------------l
D-------------2-3-5---------------------------l
A-------1-3-5---------------------------------l
E-1-3-5---------------------------------------l

E-13-12-10----------------------------13-15-17/18-l
B----------13-11-10----------13-15-17-------------l
G-------------------10-12-14----------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l

E--20-18-17----------------------------18-20-22/24l
B-----------20-18-17----------18-20-22------------l
G--------------------19-17-19---------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l
Try playing this slowly and smoothly hammering-on each ascending note, pulling-off each descending note, and sliding where notated. Stop at 20 if you don't have the upper frets, or if you get tired. Now, the nice thing about remembering patterns is that the pattern works for any key; just change the position. Pattern 1 above starts on the third of the major scale. (remember it's only a pattern, not a phrygian scale). So the starting points on the low E string that I remember are:
C major/A minoropen
D major/B minor2nd fret
E major/C# minor4th fret
F major/D minor5th fret (as above)
G major/E minor7th fret
A major/F# minor9th fret
We can find a few licks within each pattern that we can use to augment our solos. Like these:
Dm
E-----5-6-8-6-5---5-------l-8-----5--8-----5-8-10-l
B----6---------8-6--8-6-5-l--6---6----6---6-------l
G---7---------------------l---5-7------5-7--------l
D-------------------------l-----------------------l
A-------------------------l-----------------------l
E-------------------------l-----------------------l


E---------------------------5---5-6-5-6-8-6-8/10--l
B----------5--5-6-5-6-8-6-8---8-------------------l
G----7-5-7--7-------------------------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l
Also notice as we put the patterns together and complete the major scale up the neck that the chords for the tune we're playing become available for licks. Like this:
Dm
E-5--------13-10-----l
B--6-------------10--l
G---7----------------l
D----7---------------l
A-----5--------------l
E--------------------l

C
E-8--------15-12-----l
B--8-------------13--l
G---9----------------l
D----10--------------l
A-----10-------------l
E-------8------------l

Bb
E-10-------13-10-----l
B--11------------11--l
G---10---------------l
D-----8--------------l
A--------------------l
E--------------------l
We can use these triads in our solos to really accentuate the chords and pull-off the triads in kind of a "Hotel California" "Sultans of Swing" solo kind of thing. Find a pattern that you like and that feels comfortable for your fingers and playing style. Then play it a thousand times. Have a friend play the chords over and over and try it out. Or play along with a tune in each key. Well, this should get you started.
More plikk lessons:
+ Warm Ups lll Correct Practice 09/23/2004
+ Soloing Basics II. Part 4 - Arpeggio Soloing 07/19/2004
+ Soloing Basics II. Part 3 - Harmonizing Soloing 07/19/2004
+ Soloing Basics II. Part 2 - Resolutions Soloing 07/19/2004
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