Soloing With Minimal Theory Knowledge

You want to jam and don't know how? Read this and learn. This lesson will show which notes you can play for a certain scale, all written in easy to read and remember diagrams. This won't tell you why. Just how.

Ultimate Guitar
First off all, this lesson applies to songs in major, minor and blues keys. I do not guarantee it will work in other keys (I'm not that kind of a theory guru, I just play my guitar), this is for basic beginner improvising. It will not make you play like a god, it just shows you the path to improve your techniques by improvising. I don't think it will be of any help to experienced players, but you can give it a try (but don't blame me if you've wasted your time). When I was a beginner, it helped me a lot. Before we start, you need to know how to find which key the song is in (mostly it is the first chord of the song, but don't take it for granted - here is a good lesson about it http: //www. ultimate-guitar. com/less... ey_and_why. html the credit goes to SilentDeftone) and you need to know the notes on the e string: 0=E=Fb, 1=F=E#, 2=F#=Gb, 3=G, 4=G#=Ab, 5=A, 6=A#=Bb, 7=B=Cb, 8=C=B#, 9=C#=Db, 10=D, 11=D#=Eb, 12=E, 13=F=E#... The same all over again. So here's the point, for example (I with my mate do it this way) you say four letters) A, E, C, F (the jam is in the key of A (it does not matter if it is minor or major - you can just use the power chords if you are confused)). These basically stand for A5, E5, C5, F5 to make it an easy one. Play them over and over again in a certain rhythm (one of you does this the rhythm guitar), it doesn't really matter what the rhythm is. Now there are what I call 5 solo figures. The diagrams shown are as if you put your guitar on the table with the neck pointing to the left and the o's are where you can move on the fretboard for a certain figure(if you are confused, don't worry, you'll see). The numbers above are the fret numbers. Also there are r's>the root notes, which I will explain later. First I will write the figures separately and then all together. These are figures for a solo in the key of A. The r's printed in bold are the note A. Thanks to the knowledge of the notes on e string. The key is A, so all you need to do is find the note A on the e string. It is the 5th fret, so on it you can "build" the 1st figure and the other figures can be built on the 1st figure. I wrote on which fret the figure begins on the e string, but don't take me wrong, the figures don't have a beginning(except for the root, where it sounds better to begin, although you don't have to, it depends on your personal taste I'll explain roots later) nor an end, it is just a point of reference I will use later.
1st figure:
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Begins on 5th fret

.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Begins on 8th fret

.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Begins on 10th fret

.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Begins on 12th fret

.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Begins on 15th fret
Study them a bit before reading on. Try playing each of them. Now the whole fretboard (each figure is twice on the fretboard, because it is in two octaves. I wrote each one just once with the exeption of the 1st figure the frets marked x are the 1st figure in the upper octave, so you can see that it follows all over again).
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
Now you see why I separated it into figures-it is much easier to learn it that way. You see how the figures 'fit in' each other? It means that if you learn the 1st and 3rd figure alone, you basically know the 2nd, because it lays between them. Of course the same applies to the 3rd and 5th. Between them is the 4th... I recommend using that when you are learning it, it makes it less confusing. How to begin? Remember the r's? The root notes? Well those are all the A notes on the fretboard. From any of these points you can start your solo. And you can end it there. And of course you can play those notes during the solo. You can hit any of the " o's " on the fretboard and it will sound OK. It takes time and practice to be good at this, but this lesson is to show you the path to improve yourself. Now you know how to solo in A. But what about other keys? Now when you understand those figures, I can make a general diagram: ... 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th. 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th
This is it in two octaves. The 1st, 2nd etc above it is the number of the figure above the fret where it begins (see? I used it). So for example if you want to solo in the key of F#: F# is the 2nd fret of the e string. The fretboard with marked solo notes is going to look like this: ... 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th. 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th
... 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9101112131415161718192021222324
|-| o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|-| o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|
|r| -|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|
|o| -|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|-| o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|
|-| o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
^ What is this? Well, you can see that I also included the 0, or the open string, but that is what would be on the theoretically -1st fret (minus first). Why did I do this? Just to keep the whole shape of the first figure. If you are confused, just ignore it. Just to be sure, I'll include the E. (my favorite, by the way ) ... 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th. 1st... 2nd. 3rd. 4th... 5th
... 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819202122
|-|o|- |r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
|-|o|- |o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|
|r|-|- |o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|
|o|-|- |o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|
|-|o|- |o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|
|-|o|- |r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|
Remember that you can start the solo either on the low or the high e and also you can try altering the octaves(there are two bold r's on one string for a reason, if you didn't notice). And there are also other, additional notes, but those are just to spice up and you will surely find them as you will be building up your style. I'll add them in part two of this lesson, is this is successful (which I don't think it will, anyway). Oh, and be sure to put some time in it, it took me weeks before I started jamming along songs no problem, but on the other hand, what I wrote here is all I knew and then it only took practice. Well, that's that, and be sure to read all of it and post a comment. Any questions - PM me. I will reply, but sometimes it takes some time.

154 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    ahh after such comments life feels just so good .... Keep em comming
    im just a beginner, but i think i u just have 2 listen 2 d music 2 get d solo...
    hey this is great dude...everyone should just quit hatin people because they learn differently or because they play differenty everyone has their own syle...thats what makes them unique...if everyone was the same, music would be a musician and just let people be, and worry about urself...unless ytou have CONSTRUCTIVE criticism but yea dude, this was a great helped...ive bene playin for a while so i know alot of this, but its really ood to go back and read this kinda stuff really well laid out
    whoever didn't get it just read it again thoroughly and then apply a solo u like to it, or make one up accordingly...don't just cry about it
    whoa. nicely put across. iv been playin about 10 months now and ive read dozens of lessons on scales and easy soloing but this one actually made sense. Cheers!
    The only part that confused me was after the 5 scale things when you put that general diagram I got lost. BUT you have opened up many, many doors for me I can now understand this stuff so now I can learn chords and scales and all that good stuff. 5 stars for you.
    This helped me a lot. Covered exactly what I was looking for and skipped the parts I didn't want to delve into right away. thanks!
    i just worked it out... i think... methinks you play all the notes along the bottom string, then the 2nd then 3rd etc... that make sense? dont think i can explain it... yeah it is bloody hard...
    That is what they are called in central Europe.What you know as B is here called H and what you know as Bb is here called Hes OR B.So sometimes it causes confusion, because whenever I see B I am not sure if it refers to "H" or to "B".... HUH So you see, I am used to EADGHE as well as EADGBE.That's why the typo came out.I really didn't realize it... Stupid system, why can't everyone call them the same?
    Its a matter of personal taste, IMO. I know it is more commonly understandable in tab, but then again, this shows you what you can play, not an order you have to follow. But anyway, there are lessons in tabs.This is a different approach. Thanx for feedback.
    shut the $% up chongee u little piece ofv $%$ that doesnt understand anything. By the way good lessson dude.
    good lesson man,you have it layed out pretty nice. I thought it was easy to comprehend, and helpful, thanks
    Yeah, thanx Iboseth.I see that it depends on how intelligent you are as some just don't get and others who understood like it. Anyway, I know you can solo in other keys dammit.Guess you didn't understand anything I stated in the lesson Evil Noodle...
    thank u klayy thats what I was lookin for.easily explained for noobs like me. for those who dont get it : stupid pricks, go to grammar school
    it's just the pentatonic you use here, and as can see, you used the minor type, so it matters in which key your song is played. if u play this major pentatonic to a oure minor song it wil sound very crappy
    oh sorry, if you read my comment above, please replace minor with major and major with minor.
    I am amazed at the different levels of ( education??)comments. Klayy, you laid out a good grid for a starting point for all of "us" who are interested in doing some soloing but didn't know where to start. As for the ones who just like to trade @#$& behind the safety of the internet,let the musicians trade the joy of information and take a hike.
    Thanx hillyardca, I've made it for people like you, I knew most of the people wouldn't like it, but I don't care. And for Matze> you may be right but I use this for major and minor and it always sounds good to me... Whatever,lol this wasn't the point of the lesson.People can read tons of theory in other lessons.
    rock zeppelin
    i agree with guitarplaya1217 i cant read any of that. The R's and the cicles i'm not following
    that is bloody confusing... i've been brought up pn tabs mate, not whatever the hell these are...
    Damn, confusing is just what is was NOT meant to be.If you really want to get it, e-mail me at and I'll give you some further explanations. The whole point of the lessons is that you will learn shapes on the fretboard, which are not that hard to remember and thanks to that you will know which frets you can hit in a certain key...
    i extremely appreciate people who devote time to teach people things for free. i just started coupla months ago and i just want to thank EVERYONE who writes lessons
    this may help and all, but the only true way to better your soloing ability is to gain a firm grasp on music theory, specifically scales/modes, basic chord theory, intervals, etc soloing isn't something you can be better at overnight, so work at it and try to understand music theory because unless you're going to be in a crappy punk band who plays a bunch of power chords, then learn'll make you a much better guitarist...better to understand then to memorize
    pretty confusing, a beginner probably wouldn't understand this, but once you figure it out, it's actually pretty helpful...
    the idea is good, could of been portrayed a little better, and less confusing but i get teh jist of it, thanks alot.
    xxTNCxx wrote: pretty confusing, a beginner probably wouldn't understand this, but once you figure it out, it's actually pretty helpful...
    you just condesended yourself, its pretty confusing, its ppretty helpful, make up your mind
    the diagrams are hard to understand...they are pretty confusing...but they are somewhat useful...
    until i read this, i barely understood scales, good lesson, it seems to me that the people criticising you are not begginers, so I dont know why they have to read your lesson in the first place
    Great help to me, and for that you will be rewarded by my ppl, unfortunatly it might just end up being a guy giving you a pack of sugarfree gum.
    speedballer88 wrote: very good but there isnt an Fb or a Bb
    You mean Cb because there is indeed a Bb. He was just trying to show that it could be said both ways.