Introduction to my blog
Whether you’re new to lead guitar or you’ve been playing solos for years, one topic that tends to confound even six-string veterans is scale choice.
Which scale can I use over this progression?
Do I play one scale over the entire progression, or do I play a different scale for each chord?
Frankly, there really is no single approach to guitar soloing. In this blog, however, I aim to provide some guidance. At the end of the day, you are the ultimate decider of what scales (i.e., notes) you are going to play in your leads.
That said, there are some scales that work better in certain situations, and a big part of this blogis helping you identify those scales. In addition to perhaps learning some new scales, you’ll likely come across some unfamiliar chord progression— and maybe even some music styles that you’re unaccustomed to playing.
After some requisite music theory, Modern Lead Guitar is divided into four genre-specific chapters: Rock and Metal Progressions, Blues Progressions, Country Progressions, and Jazz Progressions. Although most progressions are found across multiple genres, some are synonymous with a specific musical style, so I’ve included some of those here.
There are 23 progressions in all, including:
- 10 rock/metal
- four blues
- four country
- five jazz
After each progression is presented as a rhythm figure in that chapter’s musical style (rock, jazz, blues, etc.), we’ll do a harmonic analysis and discuss the progression’s key (C major, G major, A minor, E minor, etc.) and whether the chords are diatonic (i.e., they belong to the same key) or non-diatonic (don’t belong to the same key).
After some harmonic analysis, we’ll go through different scale options for playing over the progression.
We’re going to use two distinct soloing methods for each short (mostly four-bar) progression: the key-center approach and the chord/scale approach. The key-center approach involves determining what key (major or minor) the chords are derived from (F major, Bb major, D minor, etc.) and then using one scale to solo over the entire progression.
The chord/scale approach (a.k.a. “playing through the changes”) involves applying a new scale to each new chord. This type of soloing is far more sophisticated than the key-center approach and is the method of choice for most jazz guitarists.
Since the soloist is playing an entirely new scale for each chord change, the chord/scale approach offers more options, sonically, than the key-center approach. It also places greater emphasis on chords tones (i.e., arpeggios). Instead of running up and down the major or minor scale of the key, with little regard for the progression, which can sometimes be the case with the key-center approach, the chord/scale approach inherently outlines the underlying harmony.
One drawback, however, is that your solos can become too disjointed, or “vertical,” due to constantly having to transition into and out of a new scale every measure or so.