Making the Transition from Rhythm to Lead...

The road to learning how to improvise is a long one and knowing your scales proficiently is a great place to start. But, there is more required to developing your improvisational skill than just learning scales on the guitar...

One of the most important steps will be learning how to form musical phrases out of the notes of a scale. Probably the easiest scale to start with for this step is the minor pentatonic.

As you learn to play the minor pentatonic scale, learn how to sequence through the notes of it. Just playing it up and down won't bring to to soloing as quickly as sequencing the notes in unique (musical) ways.

Start to slowly experiment with forming simple phrases out of your sequences and learn to make up licks from the notes of the scale. Be sure those licks seem interesting to you and that they're musical, (you'll need to like the sound of them for them to integrate).

Go by intuition, of what sounds good to your ear. As you do this more and more, this will become a spontaneous process for you. And, it will become easier for you to create lines.

Moving from scales to improvisation is quite an in depth study for guitar players. After learning scale shapes and developing their proficiency, (use a metronome and be able to play the scale flawlessly and at a quick tempo at 16th-notes around 100 b.p.m.), learn how the guitar neck works, (keys, patterns, note movement), and learn where you can go when playing music within a specific key center.

Musical phrases are created, you generally don’t have to continuously memorize phrases. However, guitar players do (over time) develop their own personal, "Phrasing Patterns." These "patterns" are unique to them as musicians. This is what forms - what many people will call - a player's style or a players, "sound."

The first step to being able to phrase together musical ideas is that you’ve got to understand how scales work in order to make it to this stage of having a number of your own unique, "Personal Phrasing Patterns."

After that stage is reached, you’ve got to learn to let go and play from your heart. It will be difficult to sound flowing if your conscious about playing the "right" notes, or if you're feeling worried about how you're doing, or thinking to much on where you can go with your lines. You'll need to free your mind and allow the music to come out freely and openly.

Once you've learned to play in a scale position ascending and descending, the next step is to start to practice your scales in sequences to learn how to phrase with them. This will help ingrain the position of the scale, as well as, the sound of the scale.

You can learn more about practicing in sequences in my free lesson on "How to Practice Guitar Scales." Once you can perform the scale well, spend more and more time on learning to sequence the shapes. After that, start to spend time experimenting with the scale, try to come up with phrases using the notes of the scale that sound good to you.

When you feel ready, move into experimenting with the scale over backing tracks, (I have several backing tracks on the JamTracks Page of my Blog site). As you study jamming to pre-recorded tracks, playing lines will start to become more of a spontaneous process. You'll get better at learning to hear what you want to play from your mind and those ideas will start to flow much easier from your fingers.

Probably the most important piece of music theory relating to scales is how to form chords from a scale that can be used together in the same key. My lesson on "Harmonizing the Major Scale" will help you to learn the chords that are used in a key and how progressions are developed from key centers.

It is also useful to know how to form the modes of a scale, (my eBook "Using the Major Scale Modes" covers this in detail). Other information such as the intervals that are used to form the scale are also important for learning more about how the notes of the scale interact with the notes of the chords and the key signiture.

Basic music theory will help organize the parameters surrounding how all of the concepts of melody and harmony fit together. This is very important, because if you do not comprehend how scales interact with chords, (especially how intervals operate), you'll be lost as soon as you encounter a more advanced situation of lead playing. Take the time and learn basic music theory. The benefits will out-weigh the time spent on the study of the information.

If all of this is new to you, start out by tackling a number of directions at once. Write out a practice schedule and keep organized. Begin with Scale-Pattern studies, and practice playing in time with a metronome for developing your competency, speed and rhythm, (the goal is to master the art of single-note playing).

Learning simple single note riffs and licks will go a long way during this period. I have some excellent exercises to help you develop your ability with that. They can be found on my "GuitarBlogUpdate" YouTube channel in the "Micro-Lessons" play list.

There are 300 short lessons (of all types of licks and riffs) in there. Studying those Micro-Lessons will help you form an excellent foundation for better control over the use of scales applied within riffs and licks.

If you're past the beginner and Intermediate stage, and you really want to learn all of the scale and soloing information in detail, consider joining my members area and start working through my, "Advanced Guitar Program."

That "Advanced" course is devoted to developing the skills of improvisation on guitar. You could also begin with a FREE membership and watch the lessons titled, "QwikLicks," to get started. Those "QwikLicks" lessons are a great collection of scale lines, licks, riffs and melodies applied to all types of key centers and modes and can really help to get you started with the application of scales, arpeggios and modes.


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