#1
Hey,

I've been playing lead guitar on my church's worship team for the past couple months, and I'm looking for scales and techniques to add to my playing as I basically do the same thing the entire time. All I really do is improvise on the major pentatonic scale of whatever key the song is. So if the song is in the key of D, I just play around on the D major pentatonic. I'm looking to add some different scales and techniques that I can practice to add in, but I really don't know much, so any help with be appeciated. Mahalo!

Jake
#2
I don't think scales are really going to help much. You could of course start using the whole major scale. But the most important thing is using your ears. If you want your improvisation to sound interesting, you need to have some musical ideas in your head and you also need to be able to achieve the sounds that you are after. So train your ears.

Another thing is rhythm. A lot of beginners play way too many notes and just use the same rhythm all the time and that makes their playing sound really boring. Remember to use long notes and rests too.

I think the main point is, you want your playing to have some direction. You don't just want to move your fingers in a scale shape. The solution to your problem most likely isn't learning new scales - that may actually just confuse you more. (And BTW, when it comes to scales, besides the major and minor scales there really isn't much to learn, unless you are going to play jazz. Learn to use the major and minor scales and learn to use accidentals and that's pretty much all you need to know about note choice. Also, remember to target chord tones. But it's not all about note choice, and this is why I don't think you should learn new scales.)

One thing is of course just learning to play a lot of solos from other musicians.
Quote by AlanHB
Just remember that there are no boring scales, just boring players.

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#3
I agree with MM. I'd suggest some small steps out of where you are now:

Stay with the major pent of the key, but add chord tones too. For this, you will obviously need to know how the chords and scale relate - ideally, you'll know chord shapes in the same positions that you're playing your major pent patterns.
Eg, in key of D, for D and Bm chords, D major pent already contains all the chord tones.
For G and Em chords, you need to add a G to your D major pent;
For A and F#m chords, you need to add a C# to your D major pent.
Do you know how to do that?
Adding G and C# actually completes the D major scale, but doing it just where you need to (on those chords) helps keep your playing connected to the sequence.

The other thing (again without necessarily expanding your note choices) is to think more about rhythm and phrasing. Copy phrases from the melody. If you don't know the vocal melody of the songs you're improvising on - learn them! If you don't have the time or the chance to do that, just copying the rhythms of the vocal will do (provided your notes still relate to the key and chords of course).

A third idea (maybe not always appropriate) is to "blues" it up a bit. When playing your D major pent, bend, slide up or hammer-on to the F# and the A from the fret below. Chromatic approaches - from the fret below any chord tone - will introduce instant "jazziness" without you needing to learn any fancy scales. And it will probably sound better than trying to apply some fancy scale anyway.

IOW, the trick is to use the material you already have in more creative ways. Not to just add more material! (Each song gives you plenty of stuff to work with, if you learn it in more detail.)
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 10, 2016,
#4
Agreed with the other guys.

You could try using the correct chord tones to match the chord of the moment (to use asnotes that can be emphasised) and use the major pentatonic to link them where possible. It's the chord tones that will lend more structure note-wise.

But rhythm really is where you can make a big difference without having to learn new scales. Way too many players have a very limited rhythmic vocabulary, and hence miss out where the real action and fun can be had.
Last edited by jerrykramskoy at Sep 12, 2016,
#5
Major pentatonic is fine for most basic music. But playing to a scale/key doesn't get you very far, because it glosses over the chord changes. If you're playing over chords C F G, you don't want the melody to sound the same over all the different harmonies. You want to use the chord tones to capture the changing harmonies.
#6
All the advice above is great. I would like to add some more points:

1) If you know the major and minor scale and their pentatonics, you can improvise with practically everything. If you want more notes to choose from you can try learning those scales in different positions (if you're not doing that already)
2) Most of the time the problem is not lack of notes to choose from but how you use those notes. Use embellishments and articulations such as bends, slides, thrills and vibrato to make the music more interesting.
3) Learn also the arpeggios related to those scales. At times, use long notes (on which you may use vibrato). If you pause on a note that's in the arpeggio, it's going to sound good.
4) Use rests in your music. For instance a short rest before a note you want to accent, will make the emphasis stronger.
5) Improvise on just 2-3 notes from the scale. This may sound boring but it will help you concentrate on the rhythm and force you to come out with new rhythmic ideas to compensate for the lack of choice of notes - Good improvisation is NOT about how many notes you can play.
6) Listen to different genres of music. Play your favorite style but add flavor from other genres.
#7
Quote by cdgraves
Major pentatonic is fine for most basic music. But playing to a scale/key doesn't get you very far, because it glosses over the chord changes. If you're playing over chords C F G, you don't want the melody to sound the same over all the different harmonies. You want to use the chord tones to capture the changing harmonies.
Right - and major pent of each chord is a good way into that: the triad tones, plus 2nd and 6th of each. But then it's best if you can keep the patterns in the same position. Not a great idea to shift the same pattern up 5 or 7 frets...
You soon see that there's only one note different between C and F major pents, and one note different between C and G major pents - but it's enough to communicate the changes.
Last edited by jongtr at Sep 17, 2016,