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How do I turn scales into solos?

Kat the metalhead

Music Theory Bragger
  • Jan 20, 2020
    Ontario Canada
    So as of recently I just learned the major scale and I’ve known pentatonic scales for years but I have no clue how to turn scales into solos. Are there any rules of what I can and can’t do? Can I skip strings? Or do I just use the notes in the scale and mix them up any way I want? I’m lost as you can tell :ROFLMAO: I’d love to write my own stuff but I feel like not knowing how to apply what I learned into songs is a problem! Anything will help thanks!!


    Hot Topic Tourer
    Apr 18, 2020
    Cologne, Germany
    I'm still a beginner myself, but here are the most important points in my opinion:

    • The most important thing should be the melodies (and maybe motifs) that you want to create! PG explains it beautifully in this lesson: https://syngates.com/lessons/melody-motif-lesson-2.164/
      Really, the most important thing about learning scale patterns and intervals and whatever is to enable you to directly translate melodies from your head to the fretboard. Of course, you will want to embellish the played notes, with hammer-ons/pull-offs, bends, slides, etc, but the translation melody -> fretboard comes first.
    • Learn solos from songs that you like, and just steal licks (short phrases) that you really really like, play around with them, change them to your liking, etc...
    • Don't feel too boxed in or restricted by a scale. There are 12 notes available in an octave (the chromatic scale), and all notes are available to you at all times if you want to play them, at least as filler notes. So if the melody in your head wants a particular note, but it is not part of the scale "you are supposed to be playing"... play that note anyway.
    So that's just how I think about these things, the most important part is probably to just play a lot of improvisation, and learn a lot of other solos and learn from them as possible, and everything else falls into place with time (it hasn't really for me yet either).

    Brian Haner Sr.

    Staff member
    Nov 11, 2019
    Hey Kat!
    The best solos are melodies - not scales. Playing scales just sounds like you're practicing. You can skip notes, skip stings, and even play notes that are not in the scale, IF they sound good to your ear. The best way to create a melodic solo is to practice playing existing melodies. Pick a couple of songs (preferably old standards) that you know really well. Songs you know so well you can hum or sing the whole melody. Something like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the "Wizard of Oz". Try and play that on guitar. You will quickly find that it is not a scale. It's all over the place. It involves note skipping, string skipping, etc. It is a GREAT melody. If you want something more modern - try playing "Seize Thee Day". It has a nice melody that makes you skip around. All the notes in these melodies are from scales - but they are NEVER just the scale.
    Melodies are usually much simpler in rock. You're often forced to play over one chord for a long time - which totally sucks. You can still make it interesting by skipping around and trying to create melodies. Also mix up your techniques. Stay on one note a little longer using a lot of vibrato. slide into notes, bend into notes. There are a million possibilities combining note choice and different techniques.
    Make it melodic and make it interesting.
    Hope that helps!
    Synner Endless Summer Collection


    Music Theory Bragger
    Jan 14, 2021
    New Jersey
    There’s a ton of great advice here! The only thing I would add is think about your phrasing. When playing a melodic lead line think about it kinda as if you were playing sax or something you need to take a breath for. They don’t just continuously play there’s room to breathe in there as well. I actually take literal breaths now. Just thought it was worth a note because it helped me a lot

    Romain Tassan

    Free Bird Player
    Nov 11, 2019
    Lille, France
    The thing is to not consider the scales as pre-defined successions of notes. You must experiment with different combinations and use different techniques (string skipping, sweeping, tapping etc...). By doing that, you'll be able to find your own stamp, and discover the melodies that you like the most. The second thing is to always keep the tempo of the backing track in mind and make every note you play fit in it. Don't try to play faster or slower than the tempo. Scales allow you to play in key, but playing in key isn't enough. To build solos, you will have to find your own favourite combinations of notes and your own licks