I have been playing guitar on and off for about 2 years now. I am trying to take my guitar playing to the next level, by learning to improvise over a repeating rhythm.

I have learnt several scales (mostly pentatonic), but I cannot find information as to how i should impose these over the chords in a particular key.

Basically my question is this:-

If i have a chord progression in the key of Am which goes (Am C G D) for example; Do i play the Am pentatonic scale over Am only or can I play it over all the chords (if so are there any changes i need to make) or do i play Am pentatonic over Am and G major pentatonic over G etc..

Any help with this would be most appreciative
If it uses Am C G D, its in the key of Am which means that you will just use the Am pentatonic scale :] The key is NORMALLY the first chord, but its not always.
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i sometimes improvise with a friend of mine.. If he plays Am C G D i stay with the Am scale but you can try to add some odd notes from different scales. Just try and see what sounds best
well the best way for you to learn is to play over them and see how they sound, that's what improvising's all about.

If all the chords stick inside the key of Am you can just stay in Am (which is what usually happens in rock and pop songs. But some kinds of music (like jazz) play chords in a more... illogical sense and then you really have to pay attention to the chords and relative keys and what not.

So firstly, familiarise yourself with your scales.
Record your chords and have them on a loop
Play over them and see how they sound
If you wanna go an extra step you can record your improv and hear how it sounds and where clashes occur

Hope this helps you become a nice improvisor
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I found it best to ignore all the theory etc and just play what felt right.

And that worked perfectly for me, you could be one of these people too, instead over-thinking it, just play, works for me

I just studied a particular band, say Muse, learnt his general tricks his etc, combined them with my own and from that i've developed my own style and improvisational skill
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since the Am pentatonic features all of those notes in your rhythm (as well as C and G scales). So playing anything in either of those (or all of those) 3 scales should be fine.

look into learning some cool different scales:


I find that you can really change the tone of your improv by choosing the right scale for the right emotion you're trying to get from the song
Quote by sk8nalmost1394
D isn't in Am because of the F#, Em would fit better.

Dude in Am its an F not F#.
Thanks for all the responses.

So if i get this right, when playing in key of Am I can improv from notes from Am pentatonic shapes, but can also overlay Gmaj pentatonic or Dmaj pentatonic etc over their appropriate chords if required. I can also add notes from these scales.

I am getting a feeling that a lot of it is just to try and see what sounds good!!

Thanks again, at least I have it straight in my mind now about what is possible!!

PS thanks for link, been looking for a decent chord/scale site for some time!!
Improv is a huge category of skill. You need to study chord progressions and how they are derived from scales, and what scales sound good over those chords and progressions. But this is a start