Soloing Basics II. Part 1 - The Basics

Let's make sure you will never stuck in the middle of the tune, trying to figure what kind of solo you should play.

Ultimate Guitar
We've all been there: you're jammin' with some dudes and in the middle of the tune the bass player gives you the nod to take your solo. What do you do? Every moment you wait makes you look like more of an amateur. Quick, what key am I in? What are the chord changes? What scale? What mode? What's my name? What's the capital of South Dakota? Well, let's make sure this never happens by preparing ourselves with today's lesson: soloing basics. A few notes before we start. If you have not mastered the art of note bending, slides, pull-offs and hammer-ons, you will probably have a difficult time with some of the topics discussed here. But read on anyway. I happen to have a personal disdain for the pentatonic scale. So while I will not dissuade anyone from using it nor dispute its usefulness, I will not be discussing it here. Let's say that your makeshift band is jammin' on a simple three chord warm up progression, Dm-C-Bb-C. It's your turn to solo and what are you going to do? Based on the chord progression, we'll pick D minor as our soloing key of choice. I have always had luck memorizing a particular pattern and moving it around depending on the key. Here is the one that I use most and can use in any key major or minor. Here it is in our Dm position:
Pattern 1:
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10
The RR'sS represent the root of the major key (F) and the Rr'sS represent the root in the minor key (D). Technically I suppose you could call this an F major scale in phrygian mode (beginning on the third, A). But I really don't. It's just a particular set of finger placements that are comfortable and reliable for soloing. Since when I solo I will be stressing the notes of the major and minor, the A phrygian is just a coincidence. Ok. Now we've got a scale to use. Notice that this scale contains all the notes of the chords being played. Like so:
D minor scaleD-E-F-G-A-Bb-C
Dm chordD-F-A
C chordC-E-G
Bb chordBb-D-F
Now when we solo (which you will remember is supposed to be a story within a story, not just a bunch of licks) we can really play any note in the scale and it will fit. It won't always sound good, but it will fit in some way. Here are two more positions of the same scale.
Pattern 2(F major scale)
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Pattern 3(D minor scale)
  7   8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15   16
(x) alternative fingerings to use if you want to stay in one position. Notice that this is the D minor scale and that the D minor pentatonic scale is contained within this scale. Where did you think the pentatonic it came from? If you link patterns 1, 2 and 3 together starting with the F on the E string 1st fret (pattern 2) you can move up and down the fretboard all the way to the 24th fret (if you have one) without leaving the patterns. Like this:


Try playing this slowly and smoothly hammering-on each ascending note, pulling-off each descending note, and sliding where notated. Stop at 20 if you don't have the upper frets, or if you get tired. Now, the nice thing about remembering patterns is that the pattern works for any key; just change the position. Pattern 1 above starts on the third of the major scale. (remember it's only a pattern, not a phrygian scale). So the starting points on the low E string that I remember are:
C major/A minoropen
D major/B minor2nd fret
E major/C# minor4th fret
F major/D minor5th fret (as above)
G major/E minor7th fret
A major/F# minor9th fret
We can find a few licks within each pattern that we can use to augment our solos. Like these:

Also notice as we put the patterns together and complete the major scale up the neck that the chords for the tune we're playing become available for licks. Like this:


We can use these triads in our solos to really accentuate the chords and pull-off the triads in kind of a "Hotel California" "Sultans of Swing" solo kind of thing. Find a pattern that you like and that feels comfortable for your fingers and playing style. Then play it a thousand times. Have a friend play the chords over and over and try it out. Or play along with a tune in each key. Well, this should get you started.

83 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I think this makes a lot of sense. I have had guitars for quite a few years off and on, and always shyed away from soloing because I didn't understand what notes to play. Luck rather than judgement if it sounded good, but it usualy didn't. I've printed this off and I'll practise and see!
    u can solo on the low... if ur singer is a 400 lb black lady.. ha jk.. ive found you can make it work w/ quite a bit of distortion and the right rythm guitar.. but for the most part stick to the high notes. as for the article.. it was ok.. but you cant learn to solo by learning thousands of scales.. you gotta channel ur mood through the guitar. I find it works best w/ a little substance abuse. but thats just me : )
    It's a great lesson, it explains alot, I've been playing about 8 months now, and I'm starting a band with a friend. Your lessons are probably really gonna help my songs out. But if someone could, can you tell me why no one ever solos on the low strings? It seems all the crazy, over the top soloing always happens on the high strings... Maybe I'm missing something.
    isnt there another series that has the same thing in it, almost word for word?
    in fact ill go you one better, this guy is using different user accounts....all the time copying stuff, nearly all the lessons in the soloing sectiona are just plain stolen.
    i bet u if tht stevie guy read this forum then he would be crying by the end of it lol
    i cant understand all this stuff. been playing guitar for 5 years(sad to admit that i still suck) and no matter what books i read i cant get a grasp at soloing. i do rythm pretty good but whenever my band tells me to write some solos i get blank. I just play something like a 5 7 8 on the first string and just ascend and descend. Maybe i should stick to my drums. =(
    lol i suck at soloing 2 just screw soloing lol leave it to someone else or just do covers where the soloes are already made lol jk i'll give it a shot again
    Big Bacon: this a place for friggin comments not a whole extra article nobhead the bloke who wrote the big thning in the middle actualy was saying interesting stuff
    He cant explain it better because he DIDNT F*CKING WRITE IT!!!! to clarify, this and all this authors other posts are just passages copied straight from a guitar tuition book by Joe Bennett, the book is called 'Guitar on Tap'...Joe Bennett is a Musician and a lecturer at Bath University in England...bollocks, see for yourselves Now f*cking stop it man, I started off friendly, now all 'your' posts are just pissing me off Unless of course you are Joe Bennett, in which case, youre a legend. Later
    baldanuz wrote: sorry to ask a stupid question, but what does it mean when the writer of this posts i agree. what the heel does that tab mean? Not well written at all E---l---l---l---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l B---l---l- --l---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l G---l ---l---l---l-x-l---l -r-l---l---l---l D---l---l--- l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l--- l A---l---l---l---l-r -l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l E---l---l--- l---l-x-l-x-l- --l-x-l---l---l (hoping this turns out correctly) i don't know what to do here, am i meant to barre the first fret and play it as a chord or what? please help, i'm confused, if you can help and not just call me a dipshit, either post help here or email me at
    whats the difference between D phygorian and D major arent they the same intervals
    Ohh! I get it! the 1's are the frets. This makes so much more sense now thank you so much!
    kirk_hammettGR8 wrote: Well done very understandable, for the ****ing masters!! i though it was guitar solo basics part 1, more like kirk hammets ****ing notebook!
    There are way way way way way way more talanted and better guitar players than Kirk Hammet... @Topic ... i don't care if it's stolen ... It's good isn't it ?
    you've used a natural minor for the d minor that doesn't have the raised 7th of the scale and labelled it incorrectly.
    30 30 150
    that was good.....i think there were a few words in there i had no idea about because my brain is like a siv and ive forgotten everything about scales
    Well done very understandable, for the ****ing masters!! i though it was guitar solo basics part 1, more like kirk hammets ****ing notebook!
    im not really a beginner, ive mostly taught my self and i was trying to brush up on theory and i stumbled on your article hoping to gain valuable knowledge and came across a diagram that ment nothing to my normal english reading eyes. what the @#!^$%$#&%$&%#&%U$ does all the `Pattern 1: E---l---l---l---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l B---l---l---l ---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l G---l---l---l---l-x-l---l-r-l- --l---l---l D---l---l---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l A--- l---l---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l E---l---l---l---l-x-l -x-l---l-x-l---l---l 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 MEan?
    niiiice dude nice, i never really got how all that works until now i made a beautiful Dm harmony backed by a steel acoustic that im going to extend upon later cos i just broke the little 'e' on my strat and my BC....they needed to be changed anyway.
    [02/09/2007 - 02:49 pm] by gamejokerr : | artist: My Chemical Romance Tabs Print this tab tabbed by: f1f2 [ 66 votes ] [11/14/2006 - 05:40 am] by f1f2 : | wooops this one was the non-updated one in my pc.. nahh... sorry, i updated it immediately... [11/14/2006 - 10:46 am] by Mathamology : | Is this the updated version? I'll give you permission to put my tab (House of Wolves) in here, if you credit it to me But its up to you, if you want to keep it all your own work then that's cool. However, if you want my House of Wolves in there, send me a PM/email and I'll check it over once and send it to you [11/14/2006 - 03:10 pm] by Guitarmaster12 : | Finally, someone tabbed the album, thanx, 5 stars :} [11/14/2006 - 03:41 pm] by vmanoman : | wow. i deem you god [11/15/2006 - 06:19 am] by f1f2 : | Thanks to all [11/15/2006 - 06:30 am] by geminivenom : | the WTTBP here is better among the others [11/15/2006 - 03:10 pm] by pirate_jessus : | Well done, this is way over due. =] [11/15/2006 - 03:49 pm] by ed182 : | yes people, come one and all, look at my amazing chords, they are amazing [11/15/2006 - 04:57 pm] by Jawkster : | wow, you got my grats because you actually had time to put this together :o well done! 5 star! (plus i was waiting for it too for some time lol) [11/15/2006 - 070 pm] by KileManA7X : | Great tab. Very, very good. Thanks for tabing the whole album! [11/16/2006 - 077 am] by f1f2 : | alright!!! i'm just gonna make a guitar pro tab for Cancer! [11/18/2006 - 106 pm] by vmanoman : | dude, i need to say that ur amazing at tabbing and i hope that one day i can tab as acurrately as you rock on [11/19/2006 - 12:36 am] by f1f2 : | thanks [11/19/2006 - 07:19 am] by Yawdim : | Yea, My congrats for tabbin "dead" to, 5 stars 4rom me man [11/20/2006 - 12:18 pm] by therubberduck : | amazin well done m8, thnx alot 5* [11/20/2006 - 12:58 pm] by lil-miss : | this is a great tab. well done. isnt there 14 tracks on the album though. i thought ther was a track called heaven. help us. might not be though. 5* rating [11/21/2006 - 05:19 am] by f1f2 : | ^ there is a MCR track called "Heaven Help Us" but it's not in the album It's a WTTBP B-Side. [11/21/2006 - 110 am] by gothic-punk-kid : | the extra track is called "kill all your friends" it says in the book you get with the limited edition cd case thingy. -x- [11/21/2006 - 111 am] by gothic-punk-kid : | most just think its called "blood" even though its not! great tab though! -x- [11/22/2006 - 04:22 am] by f1f2 : | ***** UPDATED: added Cancer ***** [11/22/2006 - 09:31 am] by stuart_cowan90 : | very good work 5 monkeys, i mean stars [11/22/2006 - 03:11 pm] by lil-miss : | i thought "Heaven! Help Us" was on the album. oh well. Yay "Cancer"'s a great song. I thougth "Kill All Your Friends" was called "Blood". Thanks for telling me the real name. [11/23/2006 - 01:39 pm] by The Spoon : | Kill All Your Friends is actually Teenagers. (The names connect see?) And Heaven Help Us is a b-side as someone said. and i think the little bridge thing in Dead!, (The part where he's like omg! theres a complication in ur heart!) is just like the verse [11/23/2006 - 01:39 pm] by The Spoon : | oh yea, great job! [11/23/2006 - 01:48 pm] by The Spoon : | damn i wish it would let me erase comments, forget my earlier statement about Kill All Your Friends. According to Wikipedia, it might be a b-side to the Famous Last Words single. They've already finished shooting the video!!! sorry for spamming up these boards [11/24/2006 - 044 am] by f1f2 : | oh my my.. thanks for looking in my tab [11/27/2006 - 10:53 pm] by universal_man : | well well...look who's tabbed it if isn't f1f2 [12/01/2006 - 048 am] by f1f2 : | ***** UPDATED: Added Teenagers' Solo! ***** [12/11/2006 - 01:47 am] by mdwallin : | umm... is the teenagers chorus correct? other then that it sounds almost puurrrrrfect [12/13/2006 - 032 pm] by gd_ddev : | Amazing tab! wish i could tab a whole album... and in the time you have! Great job! ***** [12/14/2006 - 010 am] by punk_isntemo12 : | know, on the normal album(nt the spesh one WHICH I WANT SO BAD!!!) it sez on the lyrics booklet thingadodge that the extra track is called Blood. but if your sure....*shrug* i s'ppose your right. !! POST A COMMENT !!
    chris b.
    everyone is saying all this stuff about how to do a solo. when i do a solo, i just let my fingers take over. seriously, just let muscle memory take over for you. i kon't even think about it when i come up with my best solos. my best have coe from just zoning out and letting my fingers, not my mind play. trust me. if you know your scales, it will just come.
    i can fkcking solo like a mother fcker no thanks to this you fukin stealer i taught myself too im good as shit
    Yo dude, your copyin all the diffrent lessons form diffrent websites and people you ****in crazy fool!
    u all suck if u need to use this u need to lear on ur own like hendrix stevie ray cobain and alot more and aloso me i learned every thing from a piano and my self *** u posers dude, you know why they taught themselves all this stuff? because they didn't have any money to take lessons or buy books or nothing
    u all suck if u need to use this u need to lear on ur own like hendrix stevie ray cobain and alot more and aloso me i learned every thing from a piano and my self *** u posers
    You need to learn to spell, you could try on "ur" own, but not everything can be taught like that!
    I don't even have a 22nd. I bent upwards half a tone for that, but then decided against going a tone and a half for the 24th fret (e), and just left it out..
    COOL i'm 26th to post a comment! yay. I guess this helps a rookie like me how to solo. hm Thanks whoever posted this.
    There's no barring going on here folks. These are just notes in a scale. The diagrams are meant to represent your guitar. The "1"'s are just fret divisions. This is laid out simply for you. Print it out and read over it a couple times. Guitar doesn't come easy. You have to actually spend some time with it. I guarantee that if you actually try and work with what's here, you will begin to understand it. Good luck,
    ok so this is supposed to be you first lesson in soloing right? honestly is somebody whose about to take his first steps in playing solos supposed to understand this??!