Spice Up Your Guitar Solos Using Melodic Intervals

Nearly every lead guitar player has found themselves in a soloing rut every once in a while, and that might have more to do with the way scales are taught than the players themselves.

Ultimate Guitar
Do you feel like you play the same solos over and over again? Have you been trying to find a way to break out of sounding like you're using the same scale patterns again and again? Do you find that your hands choose where you play rather than your ears?

This has happened to almost every player at one point or another. From the perspective of a guitar teacher, I believe the issue stems from the way players are taught different scales over the last thirty years. Scales are important to learn, but most "instructors" have put them emphasis on learning them by heart and simply playing them up and down.

What this has created is a large number of guitar students who get stuck playing scale patterns that aren't as universally useful as they are taught - and you may have been taught this way, too. If you have been following my articles you may have heard me discussing the CAGED system in these terms. But that's a debate for another article.

There are hundreds of ways to get out of this mode of thinking. One of the best, however, is to master the scales instead of just learning, and being trapped by them. In the end, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way scales are taught.

To get started, we're going to go in the diametrically opposed direction, leave behind the scale patterns, and move across the fretboard in a different way. We are going to traverse the fretboard using intervals and paying close attention to the different sounds this makes possible. I'll show this specifically in one, simple example: playing diatonic intervals of sixth. Melodies created with intervals of sixth are soothing, and can be blended into any genre with ease, and if this doesn't strike your fancy, you can always use different intervals, like an open fifth or a tense seventh to spice things up.

I created a short video below to show you what I mean, as tablature and text can't always go deep enough. Take a look through it now:

YouTube preview picture

Remark: the patterns that I've shown aren't the most important part of the lesson. The important part is how interval patterns (the 6th, in this case) can help guide how we move around the fretboard. Of course, this will not sound like the typical "linear" scale everybody is playing.

To really leverage the possibilities, try using these ideas with other intervals, or maybe also with an arpeggio (3 notes rather than just 2) to liven up your lead guitar in new ways. In the end, that's what we're all after.

About the Author:
Tommaso Zillio is a prog rock guitarist and teacher with a passion for Music Theory applied to Guitar.

29 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Simon Candy
    Great video Tommaso! Love the sound of 6th and this has inspired me to use them in more creative ways. Thanks!
    "It's easy to play!" >keeps flubbing notes Just fuckin with you. This video is a goldmine of information and I think it's gonna be very beneficial to my playing. I'm a scale robot.
    That is a nifty sound. I especially like the licks around 9:45 and 11:18.
    Being a saxophonist first and a guitarist second I noticed a huge difference in the way scales are taught on the guitar as opposed to almost every other instrument. On sax I have 100s of different patterns of playing a C major scale much like you are demonstrating here; with intervals, arpeggios, playing C major up and C# major down and then D major up and Eb major down, the possibilities are endless.
    That's the way scales should be taught on guitar too... You may have noticed if you read my other articles that I have different ideas than most guitar teachers on how to go about scales...
    This is great Tommaso! I absolutely love those ideas! Exactly my type
    Jace Bastian
    Great video, Tommaso!! I don't use 6ths nearly enough, gonna try those out on my guitar right now!!
    Very good!!! The guitar world needs more instruction along these lines!
    Page used this a lot of times, like in 2:43
    Yes, using 6th in a chromatic down motion (i.e. going down one fret at a time rather than following the scale) is a common Blues trick. Thanks for pointing this out!
    I love it, Tommaso! Not only new ideas for my own playing, but new ideas for student lessons as well!
    I watched the Jim Bruce video, and also used my earphone, to listen, sometimes, he had tablatures in his video about ragtime blues. My missing mother is 96 years, maybe he is a few years younger, I wished she could have listened to it. For instance instead of listening to me performing from sheet music, but not on the same guitar that she brought from cousin John, so I might have turned-out to not having been a worthy son. But as far as I can say, if it might save her live, or at least be of help to save it, it would be worthwhile, but would Jim Bruce be able to find her or reach her with his music, or my cousin John?
    I can't watch such video's right now. I'm having a lot of fysical problems, as well as spiritual ones. This really is hell. I miss my mother. Í've not been considered worthy of her, I had to spend time in other places. I am deeply depressed by my physical as well as spiritual shortcomings and the problem nevertheless is boosted by the enemy. I am a sick guy, and should have a place to rest. My sufferings, for they are never different from that should be able to buy me a ticket to where I came from, also in order not to evoque others to enjoy my/our misery. I am a chemical warfare-victim and society knows no shame, neither remedy or refuge.
    We can thank the "shredders" for scale running and lack of phrasing. By definition if you are playing notes as fast as you can there is no room for "personality". To me Iommi says more on two notes with bends phrasing and vibrato then say Malmsteen does on a 100 note fast run down the fret board. I guess it is good for showing off but musically it does nothing for me. Nor does tapping..... which has more to do with modern electronics then it does musical "virtuosity"....IMO