I have been playing for roughly a year now and I practice with a drummer & bassist on occasion, I play mostly metal, stuff like iron maiden, metallica, megadeth, etc. and I am starting to want to learn how to write my own stuff and learn how to improvise better. What should i be practicing to most effectively learn how to improvise and solo on the spot, I practice scales sometimes but should i just noodle through scales to a backtrack? what are some suggestions of scales, techniques, etc. to practice to better my improvisational skills and are there any solos that would help progress my playing in particular? some songs ive been working on are Tornado of Souls, Crystal Mountain, & Holy Wars
Guitarist from Canada
Learn solos that you personally like, and do it by ear. That's the important bit: use your ears. The secret to great improvisation is being a great listener. So learn songs by ear, both the rhythm and the lead, and try to figure out the connection between the two. And honestly, the best way to learn how to write metal songs is to learn a lot of metal songs.

But if you're looking at some tips with writing and improvising solos, the important thing there is the context. The rhythm tells you what to play, when the backing chord changes, so should the notes you're playing. "Making the changes" i.e. following the chord progression is an important part of writing an interesting lead. This way you can also learn to deliberately not follow the chords for interesting results. But you need to know the rules before breaking them, otherwise you're just relying on luck.
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Theory: Not rules, just tools.

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1) everything said above. Learn solos and songs by ear- this is absolutely crucial even though it takes a lot of time and patience. By doing this you will develop the ability to instantly play what you hear in your head, eventually. You need to pick things that are slow and easy to decipher. I would suggest the Black Sabbath Paranoid album and any old blues, such as Albert King ( 60's recordings), to start and then work your way up to harder material. You could take on slower Maiden solos like the first solo from Powerslave or the slower solos on Metallica's master of Puppets album - Orion, Master of Puppets. When taking on very fast solos, use software to slow down the passages. If you can't sing it in your head, you can't play it - so practice singing solos note for note in your head when not playing.

2) learn functional theory - major scale and it's intervals, how chords are named in relation to that scale, minor scales, modes etc. You need to learn how to identify chord progressions by number - II, V, I etc. In metal you are almost always dealing with Minor Pentatonic, Blues Scale, Minor scale, Harmonic Minor, some Dorian mode and some Phrygian mode and some diminished scales. Megadeth is much more advanced than the older metal from a theory standpoint so start by analyzing simpler tunes, like Maiden, where they almost always play in minor.

3) rhythm - practice scales with a metronome - pick a slow beat like 90bpm and then play the same scale pattern on a loop using whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, triplets etc. This is something they make you do in classical guitar and for me it really opened up my lead playing because you get instinctively interiorise the different feels that each of those can generate.

4) Learn some SRV solos - I don't know why, but this just makes you better generally. He has a lot of phrases that are easy to incorporate in improv and he's a good player to study to learn imrpovisation. I also suggest learning some Mark Knopfler solos - he has amazing phrasing - Sultans of Swing, Brothers in Arms etc.
Last edited by reverb66 at Sep 3, 2015,
Maybe do some of the above things if you feel you want to..? Mostly just play - backing tracks are cool but don't just noodle scales, find a melody or a cool line and embellish it as you go on let it morph..
Make some crazy atonal noise, find a thousand ways of playing one note to whatever chord changes or no chord changes, you can hear what works and what doesn't, try a bunch of different shit..
Shut up and play your guitar!