I've been playing guitar for two years now and i would say im at the early intermediate stage of playing. I enjoy learning songs but lately i've been really into leads. I was wondering how you guys here on UG learned to solo/ improvise. I've been stuck in the pentatonic box and have been having trouble making my solo's sound different from one another. I'm not to keen on studying hours of theory and stuff and i know knowing the fretboard is key but everyone must have certain tricks they like to do etc. Or where/how they learned to solo. I play all sorts of music but i'm more into hard rock and metal. Rock in general i guess would be a better statement. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
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Mostly trial and error with me, i dont know too much theory, enough to get by but not allllot.
Also learning different styles of music really helped me write different sorts of solo's from slow bluesy solo's to quicker thrashy ones, whatever the song requires.
I dont take soloing too seriously, aslong as i feel it when i'm playing it and dont screw up too badly its all good with me.
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I learned a lot by videos from guitar players like Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai, etc. However learning songs with solos has helped me a lot as well. After I learn the solo, I figure out how it works out, and take ideas from it. Stuff like that has helped me out
So mostly you just "learn from learning" i guess you could say. Makes sense. I'm just not familiar enough with scales etc when i learn a solo from a song and pick out notes their playing i can never tell what scale or key is being used which poses a problem
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honestly i did a combination of things. what helped me the most though was going to concerts and watching the guitarists i enjoy and seeing what they did. aside from that i read a lot of tab for leads (ive not learned much of any though, just looked at the ideas over the chord progressions) watched some videos and learned some theory all that put together helped me to figure out how to play the kinda leads i wanna play.
First I learned theory, because I started off taking lessons. Once I stopped taking lessons I had a good footing in theory so I didn't have to fumble around the neck looking for the sounds I wanted. From there I just kept playing and playing and playing until I learned what sounds I wanted and got my wings.
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I probably learned it by listening to music almost 24 hours a day, watching live videos, and just straight up jamming to albums.
All I remember is when it clicked, I was like "This is so ****ing easy."
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I've been playing for 20+ years and I'm still learning. I guess the easiest answer would be lotsa studying, time, effort, practice, discipline, etc.. But a lazy player like me relies on a little bit of emotion and a whole lotta luck!
I started out by just playing whatever came to my mind.

It worked for the most part, but once I learned scales I began to base solos and leads off scales, but I never stick to just one.

Basically, I learned through just experimenting and eventually using music theory.

I am still practicing and learning though. I found that using a drum machine or computerizing drum loops and just jamming to them helps a lot with soloing techniques and can be a big help with writing solos.
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Last edited by tmfiore at Feb 17, 2009,
practice + muscle memory + Warped W + fretboard warrior

helped me at learning the notes locations and memorize available patterns.

if you havent, buy Fretboard Knowledge for the contemporary guitarist
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The only way to get better at improvising solos is to do it. Get someone to jam with, or jam over a recording and try to come up with things that work musically with the rhythm. You'll figure out what kinds of things work and what doesn't.
Pick out your favorite songs. Put them on really loud then just start messing around over them. Either you can try and play that song itself just by ear, or make up your own over it until it sounds good. That requires no theory, while I highly recommend theory, it has helped me immensely, I guess it is not 100% necessary.

If you hear a solo or lead that you just love, look it up learn it a little, then see if you can change it at all yet still having it sound good. Get a buddy to jam with, switching back and forth between lead and rhythm. Even if they are way more or way less experienced just play with them. Eventually you will just remember parts, little licks that go well, notes that really sound good one after the other, and ones that don't. It will just become second nature almost to know what notes sound good next to each other.

Good luck man.

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i just learnt to improvise about a month ago all i did was go to this website http://www.all-guitar-chords.com/guitar_scales.php select FULL E MINOR PENTATONIC SCALE printed it out then i went to hmv and bought metallicas death magnet album learnt and memorized all the positions of the e minor pentatonic scale and played them through out the song , then i started hittinh random notes in the scale starting on the root note then started incorparating technieques such as bends, slides , vibrato , tapping , hammer on , pull off ect and thats the story of how i learned to improvise
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For me it was/is just a case of putting either a song on in the background or a set backing track and just playing. I play what I know (scales like major and minor) and also try some other things out (not thinking scale wise but individual notes, yes the notes will be from a scale but I won't be thinking from the scale point of view first i'll end up there). I also look at what the backing track is (what kind of progression) so that any ideas I stumble upon I can then replicate them again in any key. I write most of it down and i've noticed that my improvising has really improved because of it.

However the most important thing is use your ear, a lot of people tend to run up and down scales when improvising because they just can't think of what they want to do fast enough but it all improves the more you do it.
wow i just relized how people improvise in the diffrent ways at diffrent times its like a second puberty for guitar players
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Well this is how i learned. i explained this method in a threat afew seconds a go
improvising xD.

well get someone to play a chord progression and then solo over the top of it using just 3 notes then gradualy start to use more notes. =] i recommend everyone try it.
it not only works well its good fun.
Few months into playing guitar I found the minor pentatonic, it sounded great, so I sat and noodled around with the notes just making up phrases. Still do to this day.
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Maybe 5 or 6 months after I started playing I bought a copy of Total Guitar that had a gigbag sized scale book with it.
Got down to learning major/minor/pentatonics and then put them to use with the few mates I used to jam with.
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My Jazz Band first started out with playing the 12-Bar Blues, and our teachers forced us to solo. I just improvise with the Pentatonic/Blues scale, and rarely add some chromatics and notes from the major scale to try to make it sound good. Crap, but good.
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I know about keys and stuff but how do u tell for sure what key a song is in? Is it always the first note or chord?
Current GEAR:
2014 LTD EC401
1991 Gibson Explorer
Digitech Whammy V
OCD/Timmy Clone
Wampler Triple Wreck Clone
Fuzzhugger AB-synth
Orange Crush 20RT
TC Alter Ego x4