#1
Lately I've been getting bored with my own improv. I usually use the pentatonic scale, and I'm having problems breaking out of the box. For example, on the E pentatonic blues scale, starting on the 12th fret, I really don't break past the 17th fret. I'm trying to learn the scale all over the neck, but I don't really know any reliable "tricks" to fall back on outside of the box. I'd really appreciate if any of you could give me some licks outside of the box I can work with to become more confident outside the box, and that way I find my own style outside of the box. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Use the E pentatonic blues scale just for convenience, I can transfer keys.

Don't worry about complexity, I'll spend the time practicing it if it's tricky.
#2
One thing that helped me was learning scales in different positions on the neck. When I find myself locking into a box, I try to transpose the ideas I was playing to a different position on the neck and try to make up variations on that idea in that position.

Another thing that I do is stop playing entirely and listen to the chords, then hum a melodic idea. Then I try to play that melody on the guitar and see how I can use that to form the basis of a solo idea.

When you're stuck in a box, learning licks is one of the worst things you can do. Lick-based solos are very limited if you don't do anything but just play them exactly as written. I personally shy away from teaching licks to my students because they don't really help break out of boxes; if anything, they stick you there in the box more firmly. The two ideas above are the ones I usually teach to my students when they ask about improvisation.
#3
If you are trying to "break out of the box", use notes outside your scale. Hit chord tones. Scales shouldn't be the only notes you focus on! That is the basics of it. Just takes time, an ear, and some theory can speed the procress.

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#4
I've been learning some theory, and it has helped a lot. To Geldin, I'm not saying my improv is entirely lick-based. I guess I just kind of use them to fall back on to have a really short break while I can think of something I want to try. And, at least for me, it helps me to know a few licks in that box so I can become comfortable with that position, and learn all the scale positions until my box is 22 frets big. However, I'll definitely try that idea of transposing (for lack of a better term) to another position.

I'm a bit confused by what your saying about humming the melody though. What I'm more applying this to is improving in my jazz band, in a live setting. How can I just stop playing all together in the middle of a solo? Not arguing, I just don't really understand.
#5
With the humming thing, I was thinking in your practice time more than in a live situation. Hearing melodies in your head and putting them into action is a vital skill for improvisation and it's one that you can practice really easily. What I do to practice my improvisation is take a backing track and loop it, then just hum along to it. Then I'll try to take that idea and learn to play the melody on guitar. Then I'll use that as the basis for my solo.

With songs I plan on playing live, I don't like to go into my solos without some kind of structure planned. I like to practice with the other band members and do the same kind of thing - hum a melody and try to bring it to the guitar, and then use it as the basis for a solo. That way, I have a melodic line planned out, but the whole solo isn't planned out or rehearsed. I've found myself becoming more and more able to make up melodies on the fly having practiced my improv a lot, which in turn has helped me to need less and less preparation for my solos.

As for licks, I'm not saying they're bad or that you're exclusively a lick player, just that licks are limiting in a lot of ways, especially in a jazz band. Licks really work for blues and blues rock because the chord progressions tend to be pretty simple and repetitive whereas in jazz, the chords tend to be more complex, so it's harder to apply chords in the same kind of off-hand way that you'd apply to a blues progression.
#6
So I see what your saying: Practice making up melodies at home so you can do it easier and faster in a live situation? Or apply it before I play live and have a basic sketch. Now I understand, thanks a lot, I'll definitely try that.

I think the problem with my improvisation is that I tend to really on licks because I'm worried breaking out of them I'll hit a wrong note. So I feel like if I play a lick, I won't mess up.
#7
That's the attraction of licks. They're helpful sometimes and learning them isn't going to hurt your playing as long as you don't rely on them for the majority of your solos or improv. Sometimes, it's neat to mix in well-known licks and little motifs into your playing that you've already memorized, but I personally avoid them for the most part.

Here's a pair of videos that really helped me gain confidence in my improvising:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvKEpAYZjlE
and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_jFAhN6V9s

They overlap ever so slightly. The idea that you're never more than a half-step away from a "right" note made me a lot less afraid of hitting any note I wanted when soloing, especially since those "wrong" notes would add to the tension and make the final resolutions a lot sweeter sounding. I really like that philosophy and getting used to the sound of "wrong" notes makes it a lot easier for me to break out of whatever key a song is in and explore some ideas that aren't necessarily in that scale.
#8
Simplest way you "break out of the box" is to stop thinking about boxes.

Start thinking about sounds, forget your fingers for the moment and figure out what it is you want to hear coming out of your guitar. You can worry about the mechanics of it later, where you'll want to play those notes boils down to comfort, convenience, the timbre of the note you want. All those things are what contribute to your decision as to where to play something. Boxes are merely incidental, they just happen to be there because that's how the notes appear on the guitar, but ultimately they don't really "mean" anything and don't really have any role to play in what you choose to play, they only exist to help you find it.
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#9
Stop thinking, start listening
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#10
I found this series helped me a lot:

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BL-000-Blues.php

It shows you the scales all over, and some ideas in each position, and then some ideas that move between positions.

Once thats down work on phrasing. Think words, sentences or sing in your head and play whats in your mind. That helped me a lot.

Learn some solo's to, and see what the pro's do.
#11
Two things i can share that helped me break out of the box system.

1) Start thinking notes instead of frets. I started doing this when i started learning to read sheet music, you basically learn the formula for the scale (Pentatonic would be: tonic, minor 3rd, perfect 4th, perfect 5th, minor 7th) and then apply it to the key you are playing in. By thinking notes you then know what notes you can play much easier than to learn a bunch of shapes.

2) Use your ear. You don't have to follow scales all the time. The best thing to do (wich takes years to master, hell i aint even that good at it yet) is to imagine in your head what sounds good and then play it. Best way to practice it would probably be as i'm doing now. Play over a backing track (without having your guitar) then come up with a phrase/melody. Then pick the guitar up and learn it. The more you do it, the better you'll get at it.
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#12
Instead of positions, play one string at a time. Start on pedal E and just play on that string, it often gives you some really nice ideas after doing it for a while and you stop thinking in shapes and start thinking in notes. Go through all the major scales on all strings. It's fun, easy and effective. At least in my opinion.

Also try things like playing C major but keeping a different note as the root and keep coming back to it.. Again, at least to me this one gives some really nice ideas.

Don't worry about speed, rhythm or anything like that. Just play what you think sounds good. And after that play with only: E+A, A+D, D+G. etc.
#14
Start a routine of playing small phrases and link them using small and then wide arpeggios. Then play the same small phrases using slides and bends to start them. This should have you kicking out the box in no time.

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