Writing Solos and Riffs With Scales

Solos and riffs are an integral part of many genres of music but writing them can stump anyone new to writing music, here are some tips to write them.

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Ultimate Guitar
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Scales can be used the write both riffs or solos or can be used to improvise.

Solos

If we take the chord progression D Em G A which is in the key of D, so if your these chords are being played, the D scale could be used to write a solo for this song. Lets look at part of the scale:
e|-----------------------------0-2-3-|
B|-----------------------0-2-3-------|
G|-------------------0-2-------------|
D|-------------0-2-4-----------------|
A|-------0-2-4-----------------------|
E|-0-2-3-----------------------------|
Now we need to use this to write an actual solo, the do this we need to add parts of the scale and split it up using slides, hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends and vibrato:
e|-------------------------------------------0-3h-3b-3b-3b-3b-3br-2-0-|
B|-----------------------------------------0--------------------------|
G|------------------------------------0-2h----------------------------|
D|----------------------------------0---------------------------------|
A|-------------0-4p-2h/4\2-4h-4-2-0-----------------------------------|
E|-0-3h-3p-2/3--------------------------------------------------------|
Simple but you get the idea.

We can also change what scale we are using based of the chord currently in use. Take G D C G, in the key of G. So we need the get the 3 scales:

G:
e|-------------------------------------0--2--3-|
B|----------------------------0--1--3----------|
G|----------------------0--2-------------------|
D|-------------0--2--4-------------------------|
A|----0--2--3----------------------------------|
E|-3-------------------------------------------|
D:
e|-------------------------0--2--3—5--7--9--10-|
B|----------------0--2--3----------------------|
G|----------0--2-------------------------------|
D|-0--2--4-------------------------------------|
A|---------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------|
C:
e|----------------------------0--1--3--5--7--8-|
B|-------------------0--1--3-------------------|
G|-------------0--2----------------------------|
D|----0--2--3----------------------------------|
A|-3-------------------------------------------|
E|---------------------------------------------|
So lets write using these four scales:

G D C G
e|------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------------------0-3h-1/3\1-3------------------------|
G|----------------------------2h-----0-2-2p--------------2p-0-2h----------------|
D|------------------0-2h-4h\2----2-4-----------------------------4h-2-0-2h/4-4b-|
A|-0-3\2-3h-2h/3-3b-------------------------------------------------------------|
E|------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

Riffs

Writing riffs using scales can be a great way to help your band differ from power chord riffing by expanding your pallet of sounds.

Your songs in the key of A shall we say. The A scale:
e|-----------------------------------------|
B|------------------------------0--2--4--5-|
G|----------------------0--2--3------------|
D|-----------------1--2--------------------|
A|---------0--2--4-------------------------|
E|-0--2--4---------------------------------|
Even just using the notes on the low E one could write:
e|-----------------------------|
B|-----------------------------|
G|-----------------------------|
D|-----------------------------|
A|-----------6-6b-------4-4-4b-|
E|-0-4h-4-4b-4-4b-4\2-2-2-2-2b-|
Good luck!

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    sol_afro_within
    id add its pretty helpful to first internalise how every note in a scale sounds in relation to the other notes in the scale both melodicaly and harmonicaly before using them as a writing tool.