Blues Rock 1 - Solo A

Animated Blues Rock 1 - Solo A tab by ActionTab on guitar. So easy you'll be playing in minutes.

This ActionTab is from a series in the Jamzone. Go there to learn more!

It is a well-founded belief that being able to play good blues on lead guitar is crucial to any aspiring rock musician. Good blues doesn't mean fast shreds, it means putting feel and expression into your melodies - usually rooted in the pentatonic minor or blues scales. If you can play in a meaningful way at the slower speeds, then you have a solid foundation from which to work for the faster, complicated stuff. In this series, we will start with some nice slow blues rock lead and work our way up from there.

Here we are going to start with a simple Solo. However, we'll be occasionally breaking away from the key scale (E minor) as we follow the backing chords with the melody. This is to show you some important principles behind melodic soloing. Even if you don't feel good with scales, just think about the concepts touched on here before you practice. They will help you later!

For the lead sound we've used some distortion / overdrive, with a touch of chorus and a phaser effect. Don't worry if you don't have lots of effects, even a clean guitar sound will sound fine for practice. The effects just give the lead that 'Pink Floyd' edge.

For this lead guitar we are keeping close to the Background Chords for our melody. However, we are not going to stick rigidly to one key scale. Instead we are going to adapt the melody notes a little more closely to the background chords, to make things a little more interesting.

What do we mean? Well...often guitarists will find out the key for a tune and stick to it for their melody. For example, the backing chord progression is in the Key of E minor. That means you can use the E natural minor scale (or E pentatonic minor scale) notes for your melodies without any nasty note clashes.

E minor: E F# G A B C D E
Pentatonic: E - G A B - D E

This is safe, but limited - and after a while becomes a bit dull. That's because, when just using 1 scale for your solos, you are limited to the 7 notes in your scale (5 if its pentatonic). Yes, everything is safe, but there is so much more you can do!

Of course, you could just stick to the key scale and use lots of varied techniques (bends, pinch harmonics, vibrato etc). That's good, and will do wonders for your technique and familiarity with the scale. However, another good thing to do is to break away from the key scale and adapt your melody more to the background chords. Even if it's just for the occasional note. This brings out more flavour from the backing chords, and offers alternate directions for your melodies.

It's good to look ahead to the next chord in the progression, and use notes specific to it in your melody - especially where they are different to the underlying key scale. So for example, in this solo, we start 'in key' with the E minor scale over the Em7 chord. But, as the backing chord changes to Asus4 - then we use the C# note in the melody. C# is the major 3rd of A major so works well here, but it is also not a note in the standard E natural minor scale (the closest would be C or D instead).

Now, not everything will work wonders - some notes will work better than others, depending on what else is happening in the tune. The point is to think outside the limits of the key scale, and adapt your melodies according to what the backing music is doing. That is the basis of good soloing! The rest is down to technique and your own style.

The best way to start doing this for yourself is surprisingly simple. Use arpeggios! (An arpeggio just means play a chord note-by-note instead of strumming it). If you are already familiar with the backing chords, then your fingers will already know where to start without you even needing to know the scale for that chord! Once you can do that, just get a little more familiar with other notes associated with that chord (for example if the backing chord is A major, then you know to use notes from the A major scale). From that point on you have a whole variety of new directions to take your melody. Not everything will work wonderfully, but that's where practicing and experimenting come in to play.

Let's break the solo down into chunks according to the backing chords...

While the Em7 is strummed in the background, the lead guitar plays a little blues melody using the E pentatonic minor scale. The notes are: Low E - A hammer to B - D (hold). This is true to the E minor key scale.

As soon as the Asus4 chord is played in the background, the lead switches to play down through an Asus4 / A major arpeggio. The notes are: D - C# - A - E. The C# note here breaks us out of the E minor key scale, but works well with the background Asus4 chord.

Then bend the G on the Low E string and pull off to the Low E note, instantly repeating the Em7 lick once more. Just repeat these licks until the backing chords change to C major.

For the C major - D / Dsus4 backing chord parts, again, we just continue the melody but centre the notes around the backing chord. For example, the first time the C major chord is played by the backing guitar, the lead guitar just plays between the C and G notes. The C major chord is simply 3 notes combined - C, E and G. So, again you should be able to see how very close the melody is related to the backing chord!

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