The following lesson is an excerpt from my book “Awesome Lead Guitar”.
This book contains many more lessons like this one, including:
- Full Scale Diagrams
- Example solos and Backing Tracks
- Easy to understand explanations of music theory
- Which notes to play over each chord, and which to avoid
For more information, click here now and get started learning how to play Awesome Lead Guitar!
The first scales that you should be familiar with are the pentatonic scales. These scales have only five notes in each octave, and there is one for major and one for minor.
Let’s start with the minor pentatonic, as that’s used more in rock and metal playing.
Minor Pentatonic Scale
The notes in the A minor pentatonic scale are:
…and when you apply that to the neck, you get these notes:
We can then turn that into a moveable shape to apply all over the neck.
Hint: never confuse a ‘shape’ with a ‘position’!
A ‘shape’ is the pattern the notes make, but a ‘position’ is where on the neck you’re playing it!
Extending that to the whole neck, we end up with these five shapes (root notes highlighted).
Learning the Scale
When learning this scale, try not to just play it up and down. This is just repetitive and boring. Instead, I like to use sequences- where you start on the first note, go up a certain number of notes, then do the same from the second note etc.
With the first shape of the A minor pentatonic, that looks like this:
Notice how the pattern goes up by three notes, then goes to the second note and goes up three, and then the third? That’s a sequence of three.
Here is an example of a sequence of four:
This time you’re going up by four each time. You can use any number that you want for a sequence, but even numbers are usually easier.
These types of sequences can also make good licks, or scale runs.
Using the Scale
Talking about making good licks, here are some for you to try out. Just remember to line the root notes of your scale shape up with the root note of your chord (or key). This is also a minor scale, and so it will work best with minor chords (although feel free to experiment!).
In the example solo, I’m using various minor pentatonic scales. See if you can spot which shape is which.
Listen to this solo here:
Playing the Solo
This solo is a little bit different to the others so far in the book because the backing track doesn’t play a chord progression, it plays a riff. A riff is like a chord progression, in that it’s usually played by the rhythm section of a band, but instead of having different chords to think about, this riff just uses a scale- the E minor pentatonic scale.
Therefore, our solo is in the key of E minor.
The First Line
The lead part starts around the same part of the neck as the riff is being played. This is a useful thing to be able to do, especially if you’re both lead and rhythm guitarist in a band! We’re in 5th position, and we’re playing the E minor pentatonic scale, which means we’re using the 3rd scale shape.
If it’s confusing how I worked out which shape of the scale to use, just find the first shape, and then go through the sequence until you reach the position you need. It will take a while at first, but will become much easier with practise!
The 3rd and 4th bars in this line start off by repeating the opening lick an octave higher, and in the neck scale shape up (the 4th shape). It’s also a good exercise to practise moving a lick between shapes this way, as you’ll learn the positions of the notes on the neck much quicker.
Also, when you play the same thing in a different shape, it can help to give you new ideas- try it!
The last bar on this line uses slightly faster notes in a rhythm, to match the intensity of the rest of the track. Make sure you play this part with energy!
The Rest of the Solo
If you want to read more my new book ‘Awesome Lead Guitar’ is out now. In it you’ll learn the most common scales and techniques that lead guitarists use with full scale diagrams and tabs!
Then, you can practise along with the 17 included full solo examples and backing tracks! Click here now for more!