Hello, everyone. I've been playing the guitar for about a year and have spent the majority of that time memorizing scales, modes, and arpeggios. I've also spent some time on theory, understanding what makes chords and scales sound the way they do. I've recently had a problem when I start improvising or trying to play anything original. I can't seem to get out of the boxes. I can create patterns within the boxes, and switch between modes of scales but I just can't get the 'flow' some people have when going up and down the neck. I've tried using three octave scales but I have the same problem, I play on the scale for a while, then go back to a box. I know some of what I said may not be relevant to my situation but I thought if you knew what level of experience I have, you could suggest what I should try. Do I just need to keep practicing what I've been doing or is there something I'm missing?

Thanks for your help!
Maybe your musical influences are too narrow. That was the case for me when I was stuck. So I expanded my influences, I looked up different bands and guitarists that inspired me to take a new approach at guitar.

BTW try playing less long boring solos and more short, quick and to the point licks. Mix arpeggios and scales until you play what's in your head. If your uninspired, don't play for a while.
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It might help if you try stringing the shapes together e.g. ascending one shape and descending the next in the scale. This will allow you to see the patterns over the whole neck and move more freely between them.

Eventually you'll just see where the notes are and note a "shape" or "box".
I think the best way to get out of the "box" is learning how to incorporate chromatics into solos. A really simple run that can easily be morphed and taken elsewhere is:


That and I guess sliding from the note above or below to the desired note. There's just all kinds of things you can do with it.
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Willies. Fuck the lick and fuck you too.
Hmm... I've never dealt with this one before, but what I would recommend is putting limitations on yourself.

What I would do is make a simple 4 chord progression that changes chord every 2 bars, or maybe even every bar. Then allow yourself to only play 3 or 4 different notes during each chord from one of the boxes. When the chord changes play only 3 or 4 notes from a different box.

As you speed up the progression, and maybe make the changes quicker (maybe make one with 2 chords per bar), you'll have less time to 'hang out' in one of these boxes and you'll be moving around a lot more.
A box isn't some distinct entity, it's just one place where the notes of the scale appear. Reading your post that seems to be part of the problem, you're almost treating "boxes" as something separate from scales. They aren't, they're just one aspect of scales.

My advice is to stop thinking about the boxes completely - to be honest you're probably familiar enough with them enough for the knowlege you've absorbed to simply filter through into your playing. Forget the boxes, and instead concentrate on the sound you want to create and following the chords you're playing over (wherever you can play them), they'll naturally guide you around the fretboard and suggest things to play - work out for yourself where your fingers should be. Most of the time you'll be using a familiar scale anyways, that's just what we're conditioned to expect from music.
Actually called Mark!

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Last edited by steven seagull at Dec 5, 2009,
Yeah, that's good point. And it makes me want to mention another thought I had, and that is:

Who really cares if you're playing in a box? If you can compose/improvise an awesome solo with your box, then why does it really matter? Your ear will tell you when those same notes are getting stale, and when that happens, just move to another box. You should eventually just grow out of them naturally by letting your ear play for you.
Last edited by chrisweyers at Dec 5, 2009,
Tru dat

Ultimately all that matters is if you're making the sounds you want, if you're not then you may need to look elsewhere on the fretboad, or you may simply need to do different things in the same place.
Actually called Mark!

Quote by TNfootballfan62
People with a duck for their avatar always give good advice.

...it's a seagull

Quote by Dave_Mc
i wanna see a clip of a recto buying some groceries.

One thing that really helped me for getting out of boxes is to take a major scale and ascend through it on just E and A strings. Then descend on D and G strings and then go up again on the B and e strings.
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Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
Thanks for the help everyone. I'm going to try playing them ascending, slide up to the next note then descend in the next mode, I think that will help me see it better. I understand that boxes are just scales but I have trouble connecting the boxes. Also, I agree with the boxes not being bad idea, I just feel there is a lot more for me to play if I could stop looking at them this way.

Part of it is the way I learned the scales. I drew diagrams of each mode of each scale that I was practicing and just played that pattern over and over. I still think that is a good way of learning them, but I'm trying to move on.