How To Break Out Of The Pentatonic Scale And Really Start Sounding Like A Pro With Your Blues Guitar Soloing
If you have improvised a solo over the 12 bar blues progression before you will no doubt be familiar with the pentatonic scale.
While this scale is a great starting point for your guitar solo and improvisation, it is just that, a starting point. Before too long you are going to become bored with this scale and be looking for something more to bring to the table.
Don’t get me wrong, using the pentatonic scale to solo and improvise with is just fine, and it sounds great, but there is so much more you can do.
One approach you can take that will definitely elevate your playing to a whole new level is to use arpeggio’s in your solo’s.
What are arpeggio’s?
Put simply, an arpeggio is when you play the notes of a chord separately. So for example, when a C chord is being played, you can play an arpeggio shape over the top of it and be playing/targeting all the notes that make up a C chord. When the chord changes, you change to an arpeggio shape for that specific chord, and in turn play/target the notes of that chord.
This is a very melodic way to play guitar and sounds awesome! It’s the difference between an amateur soloing and a pro soloing.
Do I really need to ask which you’d prefer to be/sound like :)
Before we get stuck into some arpeggio shapes and their application, be sure you are familiar with the following 12 bar blues chord progression in C:
It’s more important than ever if you are going to be using arpeggios in your solos to know the chord progression you will be using them over.
To begin using arpeggios in your solos, you must first get some arpeggio shapes down on your guitar.
The following two arpeggios shapes that we will work with in this article come from chords I am sure you know.
The first is what’s known as a Major arpeggio and relates directly to the root 6 major bar chord form:
The second is also a major arpeggio only this time relating to the root 5 major bar chord form:
Take some time to get these arpeggios into your fingers. You must be somewhat familiar with them if you are to then use them to solo with.
Soloing With Arpeggios
Now you have a couple of arpeggio shapes down in your fingers, it’s time to apply them to our 12 bar blues in C.
Even if you have dominant 7 chords in your blues, which you often do, you will still be fine applying these major arpeggio shapes. This is because the base of a dominant chord is a major triad. We could add the 7th note into our arpeggio and make them dominant 7th arpeggio’s, however we will keep that for another article.
For now just know the major arpeggios will serve you just fine for a blues.
So here now is an example of applying our arpeggio shapes over a 12 bar blues in C.
Notice how I need to change to the appropriate arpeggio as the chord changes in the progression I am soloing over. I start out with the C arpeggio, using the major 6 pattern, over the C chord, but need to change to the root 5 F arpeggio pattern when the chord changes to F.
We are following the chord change and the result is a very melodic solo.
The above example is a little exercise like, but an important step in getting arpeggios into your guitar playing.
Watch the video below where you will see myself explain and demonstrate these arpeggio shapes over the blues.
You can also hear me improvise a little more with these arpeggio shapes to give you a glimpse of what’s possible, including two guitars arpeggiating through the blues at the same time.
Even though there are no chords being played at this point you will still here the outline of the 12 bar blues progression as each chord is implied through the arpeggio being used at the time.
As always experiment and have fun with these arpeggio shapes in your guitar solos. You can use them anytime you have major chords backing your solos. They are not exclusive to the blues, so use them as much as possible so they become a natural part of what you do when playing lead guitar.
Simon Candy is a professional musician and guitar instructor from Melbourne, Australia. Running his own guitar school, Simon teaches and trains guitarist’s in the styles of rock, blues, jazz, and fingerstyle. Simon particularly specialises in the acoustic guitar and also offers online acoustic guitar lessons