3 Steps to Solid Improvisation

By using these three simple steps, you will learn how to follow chord progressions while improvising. The method can be applied to major chord progressions, minor chord progressions, or major & minor chord progressions.

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By using these three simple steps, you will learn how to follow chord progressions while improvising. The method can be applied to major chord progressions, minor chord progressions, or major & minor chord progressions. Here's the chord progression: 80bpm
|Bm  |   |   |   |Em  |   |   |   |F#m |   |   |   |Em  |   |   |   |
The scale to be used is the Minor Pentatonic Scale Shape E1, also called Min Pent E1 ("E" because the lowest root is on the E-string and "1" because it is played with the 1st finger). The roots of the scale are labeled as "R":
e |-R-|---|---|-O-|
B |-O-|---|---|-O-|
G |-O-|---|-O-|---|
D |-O-|---|-R-|---|
A |-O-|---|-O-|---|
E |-R-|---|---|-O-|

Step 1: Play The Roots

Using half notes, play the low roots of the minor pentatonic scales (on the low E-string) through the chord progression. Repeat using the high roots (on the high E-string).
 Bm                                          Em                              
|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|---------|
|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|---------|
|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|---------|
|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|---------|
|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|---------|
|--7--7----|--7--7----|--7--7----|--7-------|--0--0----|--0--0----|--0--0---|

           F#m                                         Em                    
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
--0-------|--2--2----|--2--2----|--2--2----|--2-------|--12-12---|--12-12---|

                      Bm                                          Em         
----------|----------|--7--7----|--7--7----|--7--7----|--7-------|--0--0----|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
--12-12---|--12------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|

                                 F#m                                         
--0--0----|--0--0----|--0-------|--2--2----|--2--2----|--2--2----|--2-------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|
----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|----------|

Em                                           
--12-12---|--12-12---|--12-12---|--12------||
----------|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|----------||
----------|----------|----------|----------||

Step 2: Play The Scales

Using eighth notes (and alternate picking), play the minor pentatonic scales through the chord progression starting from the low roots. Repeat starting from the high roots. From the low roots:
   Bm                                                        
E |----------------------------|--------7--10-7-------------|
B |----------------------------|--7--10----------10-7-------|
G |--------------------7--9----|-----------------------9----|
D |--------------7--9----------|----------------------------|
A |--------7--9----------------|----------------------------|
E |--7--10---------------------|----------------------------|

                                        Em                           
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|
--7-------------------------|----------|--------------------0--2----|
-----9--7-------------------|----------|--------------0--2----------|
-----------9--7-------------|----------|--------0--2----------------|
-----------------10-7--10---|--7-------|--0--3----------------------|

--------0--3--0-------------|----------------------------|----------|
--0--3-----------3--0-------|----------------------------|----------|
-----------------------2----|--0-------------------------|----------|
----------------------------|-----2--0-------------------|----------|
----------------------------|-----------2--0-------------|----------|
----------------------------|-----------------3--0--3----|--0-------|

F#m                                                       
----------------------------|--------2--5--2-------------|
----------------------------|--2--5-----------5--2-------|
--------------------2--4----|-----------------------4----|
--------------2--4----------|----------------------------|
--------2--4----------------|----------------------------|
--2--5----------------------|----------------------------|

                                        Em                           
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|
--2-------------------------|----------|--------------------12-14---|
-----4--2-------------------|----------|--------------12-14---------|
-----------4--2-------------|----------|--------12-14---------------|
-----------------5--2--5----|--2-------|--12-15---------------------|

--------12-15-12------------|----------------------------|----------||
--12-15----------15-12------|----------------------------|----------||
-----------------------14---|--12------------------------|----------||
----------------------------|-----14-12------------------|----------||
----------------------------|-----------14-12------------|----------||
----------------------------|-----------------15-12-15---|--12------||
From the high roots:
   Bm                                                        
E |--7-------------------------|----------------------------|
B |-----10-7-------------------|----------------------------|
G |-----------9--7-------------|----------------------------|
D |-----------------9--7-------|--------------------7--9----|
A |-----------------------9----|--7-----------7--9----------|
E |----------------------------|-----10-7--10---------------|

                                        Em                           
--------------7--10-7-------|--7-------|--0-------------------------|
--------7--10----------10---|----------|-----3--0-------------------|
--7--9----------------------|----------|-----------2--0-------------|
----------------------------|----------|-----------------2--0-------|
----------------------------|----------|-----------------------2----|
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|

----------------------------|--------------0--3--0-------|--0-------|
----------------------------|--------0--3-----------3----|----------|
----------------------------|--0--2----------------------|----------|
--------------------0--2----|----------------------------|----------|
--0-----------0--2----------|----------------------------|----------|
-----3--0--3----------------|----------------------------|----------|

F#m                                                       
--2-------------------------|----------------------------|
-----5--2-------------------|----------------------------|
-----------4--2-------------|----------------------------|
-----------------4--2-------|--------------------2--4----|
-----------------------4----|--2-----------2--4----------|
----------------------------|-----5--2--5----------------|

                                        F#m                          
--------------2--5--2-------|--2-------|--12------------------------|
--------2--5-----------5----|----------|-----15-12------------------|
--2--4----------------------|----------|-----------14-12------------|
----------------------------|----------|-----------------14-12------|
----------------------------|----------|-----------------------14---|
----------------------------|----------|----------------------------|

----------------------------|--------------12-15-12------|--12------||
----------------------------|--------12-15----------15---|----------||
----------------------------|--12-14---------------------|----------||
--------------------12-14---|----------------------------|----------||
--12----------12-14---------|----------------------------|----------||
-----15-12-15---------------|----------------------------|----------||

Step 3: Improvise Over The Chord Progression

A sample solo is available at www.improvisingwithknowledge.com, along with a video that includes scrolling tab.

6 comments sorted by best / new / date

    vichorio
    The key is knowing your scales and your chord progression. Listen to what you are playing, and practice A LOT!!
    JacobReedShred
    Your lesson was good up until Step 3. The lesson was about improvising over chord progressions so I don't think that should actually be a step. You basically gave us two things we could do over the chord progressions. It wasn't a bad lesson, but more of an introduction to improvising. It'd be great if you could post more though.
    obeliskknight
    I also think rhythm is very important in improvising. A lot of players just play over the bass/drums. It's another thing to be locked in, tapping your foot and being aware where the beat is and where the notes your playing lie in relation to that.
    ruggedstyleman
    This is a nice system for preparing to solo over a chord progressions and definitely shows where the hands need to be for each chord. The other videos on your website made things even clearer. thanks!