Mixing Guitar Scales - Part 1

This lesson introduces the concept of using multiple guitar scales over a single chord progression.

Ultimate Guitar
One of the major challenges that aspiring improvisers face is developing the ability to change from one scale to the next in a fluid manner. It can be quite frustrating to be able to blaze with confidence on a single scale only to "crash-and-burn" if you have to solo over a progression that requires multiple scales to be used! So I designed this series of lessons to help you get more comfortable with mixing different scales when soloing. In this guitar lesson we are going to lay the foundation for the next couple of lessons. We'll do that by looking at a nice sounding chord progression, and then looking at the scales we'll use to solo over that progression.

The Battle Field

Please check out the chord progression below:
The good news is that this progression uses just two chords:
  • A sus2 (add7)- 1 2 5 7
  • C min (add9)- 1 b3 5 9 The bad news is that the chord voicings that I've chosen are fairly challenging. (They use quite big stretches, so be sure to warm-up fully before playing them). But don't worry. If you're not yet at a level where stretches like these are comfortable, then check out the TAB below. I've created a simplified version that uses just power chords. (This means that you can still work on this lesson with risking pain or injury to your fretting-hand!). Check it out below.

    The Scales That We'll Use

    OK. Now the fun stuff. Let's now look at a couple of guitar scales that we can use to solo over the progression. Although there are numerous guitar scales that we could use for each chord, for this lesson we'll use the following:
  • Over the A sus2(add7)use the A Lydian mode. (This scale uses the following scale degrees:1 2 3 #4 5 6 and7).
  • Over the C min (add9)use the C Dorian mode. (This scale uses the following scale degrees: 1 2 b3 4 5 6andb7). Although over the long-term it would be awesome to learn both these scales over the entire fretboard, for this lesson we'll use the following two scale fingerings: A Lydian Mode:
    C Dorian Mode:
    Notice with the C Dorian mode fingering that I haven't started the scale from the root note. Instead I have started the scale from the 6. Yes, you can do this. And the reason why I have done this will become very clear in the next lesson. You'll just have to wait until then. :-)

    Some Suggested Homework

    I recommend doing the following before the next lesson:
  • Learn one of the chord progressionsand practice it until you can play it at a minimum of 100 bpm.
  • Record the chord progression that you practiced onto your computer. (Record at least a couple of minutes of you playing the progression). Don't worry about the sound quality too much. The goal is to record the progression so that you can solo over it later.
  • Memorize the two scale fingerings. For maximum benefit you should memorize the notes and scales degrees of each fingering, rather than just learning the shape. About The Author: Craig Bassett is a professional electric guitar tutor currently living in Melbourne, Australia. To get more free articles and lessons designed to help your playing, then be sure to subscribe to his electric guitar newsletter.
  • 15 comments sorted by best / new / date

      A much easier way to play the chords is to use different positions; from low to high, x024x4 for the first one and 8-10-12-8-x-x for the second one. Bit of a jump between frets there but i find it easier, hope it helps!
      Nah, the author thinks if you can't make those stretches you should probably just be playing power chords.
      I'm looking forward to what the rest of this series is going to be like. This is exactly the kind of lesson I need to develop my improvising. As an introduction less to a series I'd say this is ok. Outlining things to follow and giving an example and something to try, but not really going into too much detail about it.
      New Medicine
      This is exactly what I was looking for. Cannot wait for the next lesson. Make it a lot longer please!
      Asus2add7 I've never heard of an "add7" chord before. The notes are A E B G# That's an E major triad (E G# B) played over an A bass note. So the simpler name for that chord would be... E/A (meaning and E major triad over an A bass note) But I guess that would mean we would then call the scale E major instead of A Lydian.
      so when is part II coming out? I've go this down after almost 2 years of waiting...
      great lesson but I'm kinda confused why you chose to use an A Locrian pattern for the C Dorian mode. I know that they are the same scale just curious why you didn't use the Dorian Pattern