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.

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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
e|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
h|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
g|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
d|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
a|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
e|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
Begins on 5th fret

2nd
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
e|-|-|-|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
h|-|-|-|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
g|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
d|-|-|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
a|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
e|-|-|-|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
Begins on 8th fret

3rd
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
h|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
g|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
d|-|-|-|-|-|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
a|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
Begins on 10th fret

4th
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
h|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|
g|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-| 
d|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
a|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|
Begins on 12th fret

5th
.. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 910111213141516171819
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|
h|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|
g|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|-|-|-| 
d|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|-|-|-|
a|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|r|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|
e|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|o|-|-|o|-|-|-|-|
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
e|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|ox|-|x|-|-|
h|-|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|ox|-|x|-|-|
g|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|rx|-|-|x|-|-|
d|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|ox|-|-|x|-|-|
a|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|ox|-|x|-|-|
e|-|-|o|-|r|-|-|o|-|o|-|o|-|-|ox|-|x|-|-|
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
|-|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|
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
    Gyser
    wow...nice...lemme tell u why i like this its a lot easier to improv..because i cant think of where the root note is, and then just play that form on the rest of the strings down...then switch forms and all this other stuff very nice thanks this really helped
    trueguitarhero
    ok, lemme get this straight, we start the solo on an r, but we can play any fret marked with an o or r? if im right, this just helped immensely. thanks dude.
    led_zephyr
    Dude, it soes matter whether its major or minor. Just learn the Jazz Scales, 7th Chords, and modal theory and you'll have much more options, plus it won't sound like $#!t. Thanks. Anyone who only knows power chords sucks. Peace.
    Klayy
    leftys rule wrote: what the **** is with the 0's and the r's. this shits confusing anyone know any sites that teach you stuff in music not ****ed up 0's and r's.
    Well I apologize for not putting enough stress on "Minimal theory knowledge" in the title
    bronkim
    Great Lesson , Helped me out alot thank you very much for sharing. Now are there any lessons in here for the Lefty Guitarist? ; )
    Klayy
    joeyramoney wrote: h does not come after a in the alphabet, nor does it in music theory.
    Yeah, I've already explained that one quite a few comments earlier
    Klayy
    floydfanben wrote: http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/lessons/s... i believe here it says that this is the c scale not a,,, i'm confused, also could you give me a few example songs in the key? thanks
    if you have a question, feel free to email me The link you have posted shows a MAJOR pentatonic. The one I use in the lesson is a MINOR pentatonic. Does that clear things up?
    leftys rule
    what the **** is with the 0's and the r's. this shits confusing anyone know any sites that teach you stuff in music not ****ed up 0's and r's.
    iml84myd8
    I like this lesson. The figures he shows are easier to understand than tab, because it shows all the positons directly on your fretboard. And to clarify this is not just an A minor pentatonic scale. These are all the pentatonic scales in the key of C.
    Klayy
    patg31k wrote: dude this shit was prty hard to understand wtf man y dint u jst put it in tab
    Because there are like a million lessons like that on the web. None of them helped me, so I just wanted to share this different approach which was more understandable for me.
    altah
    thanks Klayy .. much appreciated this lesson is. I've been playing the guitar for 6 years and don't really know anything about theory and i feel bad about it. At least i know pentatonics now
    koh132001
    Good lesson except when u gaze much on th notes, it is like watchin 3d and feels kinda weird and sick.
    ghostofhendrix
    Any1 who doesn't get that should just give up lead guitar. Pentatonics are THE simplest scales to learn and that lesson xplained it pretty well IMO thnx klayy
    Klayy
    hbarnett1 wrote: don't quit your day job,you suck at guitar lessons!
    lol, when I wrote that lesson i was still in high school
    shredisking
    Really clear, easy to understand (if prepared to put in a teeny bit of effort!) - thanks. What's with these people confusing scales (usually shown as notes on the fretboard either horizontal or vertically) with tablature which is simply a way of making a piece of music accessible for people who can't read music (or can't be bothered!) the traditional way! A good next step would be to show how the minor and major blues scales are just the same scales with two or three added notes. Don't listen to people like hbarnettt1 who obviously sucks at guitar learning!! lol
    patg31k
    dude this shit was prty hard to understand wtf man y dint u jst put it in tab
    fishergirl106
    lol frikkin great lesson, i already knew all of this but its definitely great for someone who doesnt know where to start. pentatonics are definitely the best way to go when starting to solo. and if you want to play a solo in a song in a major key, you can use a minor pentatonic. you just have to use the relative minor pentatonic (oops some theory goin on here lol). okay i'll give an example. say a song is in the key of C major, you can use the A minor pentatonic for soloing, because A minor is the relative minor of C major. If the song is in C# major, then you can play a Bbm pentatonic scale. all the relative keys are: C=Am, C#/Db=A#m/Bbm, D=Bm, D#/Eb=Cm, E=C#m/Dbm, F=Dm, F#/Gb=Ebm, G=Em, G#/Ab=Fm, A=F#m/Gbm, A#/Bb=Gm, B=G#m/Abm. hopefully that is not too hard to understand lol. sorry if it is :S
    Klayy
    gutfeeling666 wrote: WHAT THE HECK ARE THE "R"s FOR! Cmon Klayy!
    Root notes... it stated is in the article E major - root note is E ... and so on
    zep_hed449 wrote: Im glad that we finally got "h" strings Ive been waiting for those
    I do apologize for this, I did before in a comment a few pages above. Although most people dont know it, notes dont have the same reference names in all countries. In middle europe, where I live, B is what e.g. USA call Bb. And what USA call B is here called H. It is hard to keep switching between these two systems
    Klayy
    gutfeeling666 wrote: WHAT THE HECK ARE THE "R"s FOR! Cmon Klayy!
    Oh, and - dont bother, just play them same as the o's. Roots are just something what is a starting point of a scale, here it is just a good place to start a solo, but you dont have to
    Klayy
    axe_grinder247 : 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 theory...it'll make you a much better guitarist...better to understand then to memorize I agree, but you know, there are players who want to play or jam just for themselves and dont want and need to know theory. This lesson is mainly for those people.You know, if someone likes how it sounds, why should he know why it sounds good?
    Klayy
    Fb and E is a difference when you work with intervals in theory, not sound
    *kill'emall*
    14GreenDay wrote: 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
    no they didn't: "once you figure it out, its pprety helpful." the only things that were messed up were the missing apostrophe in 'its' and the extra p in 'ppretty'
    floydfanben
    hey i have very little theory background, but i don't think you can get any clearer than this. helped me alot, thanks
    shibby013
    its ok but still too confusing, but yeh cheerz for taking time to help others (Y)
    shibby013
    fuuuck i understand now, so u split them all up, all the notes you can play with A5, then all the notes you can play with eg. E5 and then bring them all together, and then improvise around all those frets? is that it?
    hellbound_jonny
    Just read the Lesson Instead of Skim-Reading, take your time. It's a perfect lesson and Klayy has done a Very Good job. Thank You for taking the time to write this down, Klayy!
    boboguitar
    r0ckam3r1ca wrote: what the heck? this makes no sense. all the o's confuse me
    same here... use tabs.
    Klayy
    I think that a good idea is to take a paper, draw a guitar neck and draw the diagrams yourself, I know that it looks like a mess when it's in ascii, but I didn't have much of a choice
    ChicNStu0017
    it was too confusing for a beginner, I was lost after the 2nd paragraph... I think it could use work to help beginner's understand what all that means instead of just typing it out without giving some sort of direction
    WTSP
    good lesson, but for people with little attention spans (like myself) its a little long but goo nonetheless
    Don Hoefelmann
    I've played mostly rhythm guitar for 40 years. Here's an observation, for what it's worth. People used to tell me I was a good writing teacher because I could remember the things I used to not know. This enabled me to see through the eyes of inexperienced writers and help them where they needed help. Maybe you experienced and (by ear) players could try to put yourself in beginner's shoes--even me after 40 years--and try to remember the time before you were so good you didn't have to think about it. Maybe don't take for granted that we understand "the shapes" or "the scales or modes." Just a thought. I signed up only this evening and have enjoyed reading the comments--and the lessons.
    kingsnake76
    i dont like your thery...yea that will work for few songs but you need different scales to play with all the songs. basicl i think this lessons crap it goes agains a crapload of theory.
    Guitar4ever666
    This lesson is easy to understand if you read it slowly. i get it now. Yay i can now solo in the key of A.
    ddavis8frontman
    Umm, learn the scales, match your each scale to your rhthymn notes, then just ****in' have fun!!! If it sucks, you suck as a lead! Solos come from the heart.
    DEATHbyBLOOD
    this is good information, but if you're like most people on this stupid site you'll just skim through this lesson and when your'e done you expect to know some secret formula to being an awesome guitarist. sit down and take this information in, apply it to your guitar. there is no magic secret to playing the guitar, just practice.
    WarlockSlinger
    good lesson, i have some theory knowledge, but my concern is i learn the scales, and when i go to make a song, i get a chord progression going and then i don't know where to begin to solo. for example, i wrote a chord progression thats relative to the E Phrygian, which is the 3rd degree of the C maj scale, but i don't know how to solo to it, every time i try something it sucks. i try using blues, min scale, major, modes, but nothing works. what should i do?
    wannaberocker19
    Will someone explain to me why everyone thinks that you have to know musical theory to play the frickin' guitar??? I have people where I live that say until you have the scales memorized you can't play worth a crap, and the modes, etc... I'm lucky if I can remember what note to tune my guitar strings but I can play so many famous songs perfectly it isn't even funny. Secondly, don't you think that things like tablature should replace musical notation for guitar. It's much more informative on special f/x done on the fretboard. Klaay, I'm not gonna diss you because you believe in theory and that rigamaroll, but just don't mess with the people that don't use it or need it, because once you learn it, all the creativity is gone, plus... if you just sit and play around on a guitar all day, you'll eventually figure it out if you aren't a complete bollock. Peace
    Klayy
    wannaberocker19 wrote: Will someone explain to me why everyone thinks that you have to know musical theory to play the frickin' guitar??? I have people where I live that say until you have the scales memorized you can't play worth a crap, and the modes, etc... I'm lucky if I can remember what note to tune my guitar strings but I can play so many famous songs perfectly it isn't even funny. Secondly, don't you think that things like tablature should replace musical notation for guitar. It's much more informative on special f/x done on the fretboard. Klaay, I'm not gonna diss you because you believe in theory and that rigamaroll, but just don't mess with the people that don't use it or need it, because once you learn it, all the creativity is gone, plus... if you just sit and play around on a guitar all day, you'll eventually figure it out if you aren't a complete bollock. Peace
    You aren't making much sense, I'm sorry.