Soloing Basics. Part 1 - Soloing Pattern

Let's say that your makeshift band is jammin' on a simple three chord warm up progression. It's your turn to solo and what are you going to do? Based on the chord progression, we'll pick a note as our soloing key of choice.

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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
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
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)
E---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l---l
B---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l---l
G---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
D---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
A-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l---l---l---l---l
E-R-l---l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l
  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

Pattern 3(D minor scale)
E---l---l---l(x)l---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l
B---l---l---l(x)l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l
G---l---l---l-R-l---l-x-l---l-x-l---l---l
D---l---l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l-x-l---l---l
A---l---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l
E---l---l---l-r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l
  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: (In TAB form)
E------------------------------------8-10-12--l
B---------------------------5-6-8/10----------l
G-------------------2/3-5-7-------------------l
D-------------2-3-5---------------------------l
A-------1-3-5---------------------------------l
E-1-3-5---------------------------------------l

E-13-12-10----------------------------13-15-17/18-l
B----------13-11-10----------13-15-17-------------l
G-------------------10-12-14----------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l

E--20-18-17----------------------------18-20-22/24l
B-----------20-18-17----------18-20-22------------l
G--------------------19-17-19---------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l
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:
Dm
E-----5-6-8-6-5---5-------l-8-----5--8-----5-8-10-l
B----6---------8-6--8-6-5-l--6---6----6---6-------l
G---7---------------------l---5-7------5-7--------l
D-------------------------l-----------------------l
A-------------------------l-----------------------l
E-------------------------l-----------------------l


E---------------------------5---5-6-5-6-8-6-8/10--l
B----------5--5-6-5-6-8-6-8---8-------------------l
G----7-5-7--7-------------------------------------l
D-------------------------------------------------l
A-------------------------------------------------l
E-------------------------------------------------l
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:
Dm
E-5--------13-10-----l
B--6-------------10--l
G---7----------------l
D----7---------------l
A-----5--------------l
E--------------------l

C
E-8--------15-12-----l
B--8-------------13--l
G---9----------------l
D----10--------------l
A-----10-------------l
E-------8------------l

Bb
E-10-------13-10-----l
B--11------------11--l
G---10---------------l
D-----8--------------l
A--------------------l
E--------------------l
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.

74 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    KuPo
    I think this stuff is great. FOr you guys out there that cant read tabs, i can understand that its confussing.
    omgitscj
    Ok I can understand it all now and it is good and I can move on to #2
    kelz101
    i didnt understand any of the written stuff, but all the tabs were wonderful n i really like the way the sound even tho my guitars kinda broke n untuned right now. good job.
    deadroseromance
    Hey good lesson. This type of lesson is probably more for people who actually understand music and can intrepret chord diagrams into soloing patterns to fit music. I give it a 5, people who don't understand this most likely have no good musical experience to understand chord layouts lol. Good work
    deadroseromance
    I don't see how people find it so hard to understand... it's really simple and makes soloing even simpler. A method i use that is very similar to this is "Boxed Soloing".
    liam177lewis
    same here, jesus get a life man... lesson pretty heavy-giong, please could people stick to normal tabs... y'know, the ones most people can read, a lot of my friends keep moaning to me about it...
    Guitar ace
    this exact lesson is on olga.... can anyone say playgerism? also this lesson sucked
    P_WiseGuy
    i thought it was a very usefull, i think everyone that is bitching should have to realize that if you really want to play the guitar, your gonna have to learn this shit, and just cause you dont understand it doesnt mean its stupid, dumb asses
    omgitscj
    it would be easier to readi if he put "o" instead of "x" when he was making the position that would make it easier to read. I admit I got lost but it was later in the page. And yes if you want to make songs and solos you need to know this stuff.
    eedee_rocker
    Sorry dude but this doesn't make a lick of sense. Why doesn't someone make a simple lesson involving the actual basics like a few simple penatonic scales, like the only one I know the Natural Minor Scale instead of all this crap about C minor and A major conjoining to do this crap and all that.
    xoixtoyx
    um you cant hit a bad note. we went over this in guitar class... as long as you stay in the key then whatever you play will sound good. but i guess it a certain note could sound "bad" to some people.
    Reggy
    Im pretty sure I have read this in a book, the line '(which you will remember is supposed to be a story within a story, not just a bunch of licks)' is clearly referencing something that was written before, thats why this lesson is a little hard to understand, its taken completely out of context. Not a good idea really to just rip something off from someone else blatently, sure people need the information, who may not have access to it otherwise, but passing it off as your own....oh dear.
    metal-fury
    Interesting article. The '1's in the tab make the diagrams difficult to interpret - probably not helped by he black background on the page. The later Tab diagrams are much clearer. I'm going to re-read it again and try it when I get home - it'll be interesting to try something that isn't pentatonic.
    Pentogram
    Man I must say, this lesson really helped, thank you a ton! And to address those that say its hard to read, take a closer look and re post that... its actually quite easy if you look.
    bmanchego
    The 1's are the frets...the x's are where you place your fingers. The R, is the root...so if your playing in Dm (D Minor), then the R would be your root note. He did write out a tab version which is alot easier to read just below this one. Its actually quite a simple lesson, once you understand what you are looking at.
    alphablade7
    wtf? how the f*** do you expect anyone to read tht? Pattern 2(F major scale) E---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l---l B---l---l -r-l---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l---l G---l-x-l-x-l---l-x-l---l- --l---l---l---l D---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l---l---l---l---l A-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l---l---l---l---l E-R-l---l-x-l---l -x-l---l---l---l---l---l 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Pattern 3(D minor scale) E---l---l---l(x)l---l-x-l-R-l---l-x-l---l B---l---l ---l(x)l-x-l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l G---l---l---l-R-l---l-x-l- --l-x-l---l---l D---l---l---l-x-l---l-r-l---l-x-l---l---l A---l---l---l-x-l---l-x-l-x-l---l---l---l E---l---l---l-r-l ---l-x-l-R-l---l---l---l 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
    redhavok
    DUDE HERES AN IDEA, USE " | " INSTEAD OF " 1 ". IT JUST LOOKS LIKE JUMBLED BULLSHIT
    Tenacious D'er
    Why do people use '1' instead if '|' as a break between frets and after string names in Tabs...?
    Reggy
    Im almost 100% sure the book was called 'Guitar on tap' by Joe Bennett
    p0204619
    hey cool lesson, now i know scales on guitar hahaha but i dont understand why u go two levels up and 1 level down on the pattern. (as a guide maybe?)
    rev_olie
    i dont know wethr tht was confusin or not cos i fell asleep after the first paragraph cos it rambled. o n then read it again n agree with most. my head hurts but hey nice try :o
    METAL4LYF
    i dont understand what ur digrams are about but i know wat ur talking about. Hendrix was high, sry no offence
    celluloid
    Hey people out there! It's really quite confusing. If you really want to learn soloing just search to yahoo and type "guitar lead pattern" and im sure you'll gonna love it. Happy New Year!!
    tango2150
    this was really useful! so good, if you know how to play guitar and youve had at least a little experence with scales (mine consisted of learning the A major scale) or even can just read properly withour prior negative opinion,this guide will help you
    Koni
    This was a bit difficult for me to follow, but thanks for the effort. I'm going to try to digest it some more and try again.
    loxman
    thanks for the article, it seemed a little confussing at the the diagrams but once I got it, it was useful. Go to cyberfret.com under improve for lessons even retards could learn but, you'll probably have to go over the lessons a few times because it takes time to understand this skill. Anyways UG stranger go to stevevai.com and listen to the slip of his song bad horsie, this guys got a 7 mph alt.strum and has been ranked as one of the best guitarist in history. S H I T man! he became Frank Zappa's lead guitarist at the age of 14 so ay of you who feel like there bad-a s s because they can the solo to teen spirit or whatever need there pride strip from them and shoved up there a s s and noone will ever be able to solo like hendrix because he was a genius and none will be able to do the certain tech's he did or solo just like him because there not him
    RANCIDFAN
    it was abit tricky but ive only been playing for 5months.but still good lesson otherwise and its good that someone has spent time putting that up
    TOOL13
    The tabs at the end were cool but most of the stuff in the beginning, Ive never seen crazy diagrams with 1's all over em.
    mongbrain
    how can u not understand this article. All you gotta do is read numbers with correspond to a certain fret and string...the same as any guitar tab. wtf?
    lilius
    your article seems too hard to understand can you make simple?
    ggirl12
    What? I have been playing for 9 moths and thay was the most confusing i have read. make it clear.