Table of Contents
- Your First Scale to Learn How to Solo on Guitar
- Applying the Blues Scale for Your First Blues Guitar Solo (Hours of fun!)
- Recap: Using the blues scale within the 12-Bar Blues
- What’s Next for Your Guitar Journey?
You might not know it, but you already know how to solo on guitar.
If you’ve been following along with The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar, you have all the necessary tools and skills to start soloing on guitar.
But…I know what you’re thinking.
“Tony, I just don’t think I know how to solo on guitar yet. Can you teach me?”
Here’s the rub: the biggest thing that holds you back when learning how to solo on guitar is your confidence. The more you doubt yourself, the harder it is to solo on guitar.
Guitar solos are fun, and I want you to have fun. Learning how to solo on guitar and improvisation isn’t as intimidating as you think it is.
I’m going to walk you through some simple ways to learn how to solo on guitar. We’ll cover your first guitar scale as well as plenty of techniques to spice up your guitar solo.
And just as a quick reminder, if you haven’t gone through the other sections of The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar, I strongly encourage you to check those out here.
Now, are you ready to learn how to solo on guitar?
Your First Scale to Learn How to Solo on Guitar
Learning how to solo on guitar is like walking across a creek.
You need to step on the stable rocks to get across the creek without soaking your boots.
Now, think of the creek as the music you’re playing. You need to get to the end of the song. You can either splish-splash with the crawdads and trout, or you can pick the right rocks and play your first solo on guitar.
The rocks in this creek metaphor are the notes in the scale I’m about to show you. If you play these notes for your next guitar solo, you’ll be able to cross the creek with dry boots and applauses all around.
The Blues Scale [A Minor Pentatonic Scale]
I know this scale has a big name, but the blues scale is actually fairly straightforward.
There are only two notes per string, and it sounds incredibly musical once you get the hang of it. So, let’s dive into the blues scale!
- Place your index finger, 5th fret of the low E string.
- Next, play the 8th fret, low E string, with your pinky.
- From there, index finger, 5th fret, A string.
- Ring finger, 7th fret, A string.
- Now move to the D string, index finger, 5th fret.
- 7th fret, ring finger, D string.
- 5th fret, index finger, G string.
- 7th fret, ring finger, G string.
- 5th fret, index finger, B string.
- 8th fret, pinky finger, B string.
- 5th fret, index finger, high E string
That may seem like too much information at once. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to think about the blues scale.
You can think of it in terms of frets, knowing that there are only two notes per string.
- Low E: 5, 8
- A: 5, 7
- D: 5, 7
- G: 5, 7
- B: 5, 8
- High E: 5
Did you notice how the A, D, and G strings use the exact same frets? This is a helpful pattern to remember for the blues scale — and any minor pentatonic that starts on the low E string.
You probably also noticed that your index finger is only playing the 5th fret across each string. If you start shifting your hand around, make sure that you stay grounded with that finger on the 5th fret.
Another way to visualize the blues scale is through the fingers you use.
- Low E: index, pinky.
- index, ring
- index, ring
- index, ring
- index, pinky
The point is, there are a few different ways to remember the blues scale. Everyone’s brain works a little differently, so feel free to explore different methods of remembering the blues scale.
Practicing the Blues Scale
Before you start learning the next steps of how to solo on guitar, you NEED to familiarize yourself with this scale.
When you start playing the blues scale, you want to focus on the accuracy of the notes. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again…don’t start playing fast right away!
Playing the blues scale evenly, accurately, and at a moderate tempo is better than racing through it and flubbing notes.
Make sure you’re practicing how to descend the scale just as much as ascending the scale. You want to know this scale forward and backward — literally.
If you’re looking for more exercises and ways to understand the blues scale, be sure to check out the 30 Days to Play Challenge.
The 30 Days to Play Challenge offers play-along videos, additional exercises, and community support that you won’t find with The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar. Click here to learn more about the 30 Days to Play Challenge.
Once you feel comfortable playing the blues scale, it’s time to move on to the next step of learning how to solo on guitar. But before you scroll down, make sure you feel confident with this scale!
Applying the Blues Scale for Your First Blues Guitar Solo (Hours of fun!)
I’m beyond excited for you because you’re about to learn how to play your first solo with the blues scale…and actually do it!
Here’s what you’re going to do — and don’t worry I’ll guide you through each step.
You’re going to start by playing the blues scale with the backing track that I created.
You don’t have to play crazy fast or vary the notes. All I want you to do is play the blues scale I showed you earlier over the backing track.
There are a couple of reasons why I think this is a beneficial exercise:
- I want you to get used to playing single notes while a rhythm guitar is being played. It can be disorienting at first but just focus on the single notes in the blues scale.
- I want you to hear the collection of notes in the blues scale and how it sounds against the backing track. You’ll find that, while all notes sound great with the backing track, there are some that sound incredible on certain parts of the 12-bar blues.
Do you remember the creek metaphor from earlier? I want you to know that playing the blues scale over the blues backing track is the safe-stone path.
You can experiment with stepping off the safe stones, but remember that the blues scale will sound great when playing along with a blues.
Make sure you play the blues scale — ascending and descending — with the blues backing track. Don’t move onto the next step until you’ve played the blues scale with the backing track!
Repeating Notes in the Blues Scale
Now that you’ve played with the backing track, it’s time for the next step of learning how to solo on guitar.
I mentioned earlier that some notes in the blues scale might sound better at different points of the blues backing track.
For this next part, I want you to really pay attention to which notes sound better during specific parts of the blues progression. If you need a refresher on the blues progression, feel free to visit the blues lesson here.
You’re guiding mantra through this process is as follows:
If it sounds good, it is good.
When you find a note that sounds good, make sure to repeat it the next time your at that part in the 12-bar blues progression.
This will also help you gain confidence while learning how to solo. If you know a certain note sounds good to you when you play it, just accept that it is inherently a good note.
Feel free to repeat a note as many times as you want. In fact, you could play one note, over and over, for the entire progression if you wanted to!
Creating Phrases Within the Blues Scale
You’ve practiced the blues scale with the backing track, and you found which notes sound good. Now, it’s time to create musical phrases with the blues scale.
Creating phrases within the blues scale doesn’t have to be complex. You’re not looking for insane runs up and down the scale — and it doesn’t have to be fast!
Instead, I want you to find groupings of two to four notes. You’re going to create notes that match the backing track.
In other words, take the notes that you thought sounded good over specific parts of the backing track and create a little dialogue.
“Now, Tony…how do you create a dialogue with music? I just started playing guitar!”
One, if you’ve been following this course, you are a guitar player…not just a person who started playing guitar. And two, think of phrasing with the blues scale as having a conversation.
Some of your phrases can be short.
Other phrases can be long and drawn out, perhaps repeating and repeating and repeating the same note until the chord changes in the backing track.
In addition, don’t be afraid to rest for a beat or two. Use space to break up your phrases.
Be sure to check out the video lesson to see how I apply the blues scale to create musical phrases within the blues backing track.
Recap: Using the blues scale within the 12-Bar Blues
Just as a reminder, you went through three different exercises using the blues scale and the blues backing track.
First, you played the blues scale, up and down, with the blues backing track. You might have noticed notes that sounded better than others, but you stuck to the blues scale.
Second, you zeroed in on the notes that sounded good. You repeated them at different parts of the blues backing track, and you took note of how they sounded at different parts.
And finally, you started playing groupings of notes called phrases.
Now, I want you to know that this isn’t a one-and-done lesson. Learning how to solo doesn’t happen in a couple of hours, days, weeks, or months. This is going to be a life-long practice.
The important thing is that you have a solid foundation of how to solo on guitar, specifically with the blues. You have the tools, now you just need to play with them — and practice, practice, practice!
The nice thing about practicing how to solo is that it’s fairly fun. Soloing is expressive and emotional. So, feel free to keep playing along with the backing track!
What’s Next for Your Guitar Journey?
Congratulations! You now know how to solo on guitar using the blues scale.
And, I’m sad to say, that was the final lesson in The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar. But let’s reflect a little on the journey so far…
You started out knowing little to nothing on the guitar. You set out on a journey to not just learn the guitar, but lead a more fulfilling life.
You’re starting to make the dream or memory of learning how to play come to life.
Over the last few lessons, you learned how to hold the guitar, fret a guitar, play beginner guitar chords, strum a guitar, and even play your first solo.
I want you to bookmark this page and revisit it whenever you need a refresher or want to play around with backing tracks.
Moving forward, the next step in your guitar journey is going to be developing a routine. Having habits can be negative, but having a guitar habit will help you develop and grow as a guitar player.
There’s no better way to do this than by signing up for the 30 Days to Play Challenge. I’ve talked about it before, and I’ll continue to because I think every beginner guitar player can benefit from these lessons, additional exercises, and the active community.
With that said, click here to learn more about 30 Days to Play. In addition, make sure to check out our Acoustic Tuesday Show and tons of other lessons on Acoustic Life.