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Take all the hard work out of soloing, and discover how to make awesome solos without lots of theory or scales!
Want To Know The Secret Of
Why is it that some guitar players appear to be able to solo effortlessly, while others struggle so greatly to produce something simple?
Does soloing HAVE to include blood, sweat, and tears?
Is that a 'necessary stage' that everyone just wades through, and finally claws their way out the other side, finally able to solo without frustrated concentration over every single note?
No, it's not.
It's not a necessary stage of learning how to solo, and soloing should be a lot of FUN, not a slow, painful process.
If you've got at least a little bit of experience soloing on your guitar, and you're looking for ways to take it to the next level without thinking hard about every note then you're in the right place.
"My Solos Always Sound Like A Scale"
As a guitar teacher, this is probably the most common complaint I hear.
Folks are unhappy with how their solos sound. Sure, they might like to play faster than they can currently, but lack of speed is not usually what they are most concerned with.
It's note selection.
The notes they choose just don't seem melodic, and their solos come off sounding a bit too much like scale practice collided with a 12 bar blues.
Some people remain stuck in this unsatisfying limbo for a long time, and it can be truly disheartening, when all you want to do is play a nice, effortless, musical-sounding solo.
Even just once!
Well, the good news is, that's a good starting point. Learning the scale is always the first step.
Start With A Scale
When I first learned how to solo, my guitar teacher taught me some scales, and made me practice them, nearly upon pain of death and dismemberment! (If my memory serves correctly...)
Then, while playing with a friend one day, we found ourselves trading solos, and his were much better than mine. More aggressive and emotional, faster, more energy...
But they had a LOT of wrong notes, and we both noticed it.
My solos were slower, but had fewer glitches. We talked about it afterwards, and I discovered he didn't know any scales, or even "believe" in using them. He figured since I used scales, and he didn't, and his solos were better, that his method was therefore better as well.
He was wrong.
I kept practicing. Months later, we traded solos again. This time, my solos were faster, more interesting, and still contained fewer "oopsie" moments than his did.
His approach relied on playing "by ear" which was effectively a form of trial and error. Whenever he played a note that didn't sound super great, he'd try to remember that, slowly building up a memory bank of different things that sounded good.
Unfortunately for him, he was unaware that there are different scales that work with different chord progressions.
On a particular progression, one particular color note might sound great (add that to the memory bank!), but on another song, that same note might clash horribly. Now what?!?!
This makes the trial and error approach very difficult indeed.
The scale is the best starting point for learning to solo, because it gives you all the notes you need on a silver platter.
The Pentatonic Scale
Of all the many scales one can play on the guitar, there is one that rises above ALL OTHERS in terms of its incredible simplicity, versatility, and usefulness.
You're probably already familiar with the pentatonic scale - anyone that has spent five minutes searching for soloing lessons on YouTube has bumped into it at least twice. It's amazing because it only has five notes, and in most contexts, it works beautifully without any conflict notes.
But it has an Achilles' heel, which is no fault of its own.
I believe that the very fact that it is so simple and so commonly known has actually hindered many guitar players from truly mastering it.
The reality is, many famous guitar players hardly ever play outside of the pentatonic patterns, and yet they still somehow manage to produce some amazingly beautiful, emotional, and expressive solos.
The question is not whether you know it, but how deeply you know it.
Once you get to the point where music pours out of that scale like a waterfall, then you know that you know the scale.
If you're not there yet, don't worry.
The work you've put in learning those patterns was worth it, and I can help you get to the place where you see the payoff from your hard work.
How DEEPLY Do You Know It?
There are five pentatonic patterns on your guitar.
Chances are good you've learned at least one of these, if not more.
When you truly understand how the scale works, you will realize that from one perspective, all the patterns are the same, because they re-use the same notes.
But when it comes to actually playing them, of course the visual pattern changes from position to position. This gives each pattern a slightly different character than the others, simply because of the nature of the guitar.
That's awesome - but it can also be a distraction from truly getting to that point where you can solo effortlessly.
Long term, I'm sure your goal is to solo effortlessly across the entire fretboard, but that's not a good starting goal.
Once you deeply understand how to make music in one position, you can quickly translate that same ability to every other scale position you know.
In my Box 1 Blues Soloing course, I very specifically chose to focus only on Box 1 of the pentatonic scale.
Yes, that's the one everyone already knows. Here's a picture of it, for free.
Adding The "Blues" Note
It's amazing what happens if we take this simple scale pattern and add one single note to it - the flatted fifth. This note has been called different things, but is probably most famously known as the "blues" note.
That note puts the magic in those blues turnarounds we've all heard, but what you may not realize is that the flatted fifth is also very prevalent in many other genres. Simply put, it's probably the quickest way to spice up the scale, and add some extra musical character to your solos.
The blues note can be used (of course) to add a blues flavour to your solos, but it goes beyond that too. If you're trying to break out of the "my solo sounds like a scale" rut, then experimenting with the flatted fifth can be a really inspiring way to play a little "outside" the normal scale sound.
But again, using the flatted fifth is no secret.
Chances are, you've come across that before in your travels as well.
But the fact that you're still here reading this tells me that even though you may be familiar with this scale, you probably wish you could use it more effectively than you are right now...
Transforming Scales Into Music
For many players, there seems to be a disconnect between their ability to play the scale (easy) and turn it into an expressive solo (hard).
"My solo sounds too much like the scale!" is a common complaint I hear all the time.
There are different ways of fixing this problem. In Slow Blues Solo in A, and Following The Chords, I focused on identifying the notes present in the chords of the progression, and then using those as a foundation to craft a melodic solo. In Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos I took a good look at the use of thirds and triads in solos, which is a similar idea.
This method works great - it really helps you produce a melody that fits the music - but it does require a fair bit of initial thinking, and a fairly solid grasp of music theory. Of course, in time, these techniques become second nature and you don't need to think nearly as much anymore.
But there are other ways to fix this problem too.
One of the simplest ways is learn how to add as much expression into every note as you can possibly manage. This is where techniques like string bending, vibrato, and slides really start to shine.
If you can master vibrato, you can play a very simple solo using just a handful of notes, and yet make it sound like your guitar is singing. BB King was a master of this. All of a sudden, the need to keep on playing that scale evaporates, and you discover the beautiful joy of camping out on a single note for longer.
These pauses naturally add musicality to your solos, and help you begin to recognize the value of individual notes.
And then there's a third way to address the "boring scale" problem...
Mastering the Mini-Melodies
The third way to solve this scale-like solo problem is to learn some great riffs.
A riff (if you don't know already) is simply a mini-melody. Think of a single riff like you would a single word. It has meaning, but all on its own, it's hard to express a complete thought. But, if you can assemble a few different riffs together, pretty soon you've got a cool solo - just like with several words you can have a complete sentence.
Eric Clapton calls these stock phrases, which is a great term that really describes how they're used. In any given solo situation, you can simply look to see what you have "in stock" and pull out some of those phrases to build a solo!
When these stock phrases pass through your techniques filter, they get adapted ever so slightly to the specific song you're playing, and come out sounding different each time.
And when the next song comes around, those same riffs are still part of your vocabulary, ready to draw upon at a moment's notice, and be re-arranged into a completely new solo.
Riffs are an awesome way to draw on other artist's styles, as well as discover new ways to put the scale to work for you. Riffs come from the scale, but they don't sound like the scale. So, the more riffs you have available to you, the less your solo will sound like you're just playing through the scale.
And the more techniques you have availalable to you, the less any particular riff will sound the same as the last time you played it.
The Box 1 Blues Soloing Course
If you're looking for a fun way to start improvising your own guitar solos, without getting into a lot of theory, thinking, or fretboard knowledge, then Box 1 Blues Soloing is right up your alley.
We're focusing on just a single scale pattern, because once you learn the how to truly make music from that one pattern, you'll naturally and easily apply it to other patterns later on.
We're learning some great universal guitar licks that can be used in all kinds of solos. But even better than learning individual licks, you'll discover how to modify them over and over again, multiplying their usefulness to no end!
We'll be modifying the pentatonic minor scale by adding the flatted fifth note - the famous "blues" note.
For this reason, I've called the course Box 1 Blues, but while many of the licks sound bluesy, it is not a "learn to play the blues" type of course. The reality is, many blues licks can be made to sound amazing in any genre, and we'll be learning how to use that flatted fifth to make our licks far more expressive and interesting.
Now I'm beginning to "hear" where the music wants to go!
I have just finished Module 1. Having all the action in Box 1 certainly takes the pressure off where to go next – except that I’m now beginning to “hear” where the music wants to go and have started using the extended scale to get there! But that’s OK I guess? And I can always run back to Box 1 if I get lost.
All good stuff!
This was perfect for me!
I thought this course was great. It was just what I needed, I got a lot out of it. The way you consistently explained the riff patterns great. The play alongs were great too. I have several of your courses. This was perfect for me. Do more like this one. I got a lot out of the multiple riff play alongs.
Love the melodic feel of the copycat rhythm!
Excellent Jonathan, getting into my "gettin' it off my grumpy 64 year old shoulder blues!!" Love the melodic feel of the copycat rhythm!
Watch out there... even managed to set up a jam practice with a Robert Johnson influenced geetar player (heard him in a post lockdown session in a pub garden last Sunday) about 12 miles from my house in his music room next week... as the guy above said ... raptures ... possible euphoria!
I Simply Couldn't Resist
I had to really force myself to stick to the Box 1 blues scale in this course, and I think it was worth it. Too often guitar players think the answer to spicing up their solos is to simply learn more scales.
That's NOT the case, and I believe that by limiting yourself to a single pattern, it will really help unlock your musical creativity.
But... BUT! I simply could not resist adding a sweet bonus right at the end of the course.
I added a section that walked through in detail how to take a single guitar lick and get as much as 7-8 times the usefulness out of it - without even changing a note!
Once you connect with this technique, you'll be able to take all of the riffs learned in this course, as well as every other riff you've ever learned, and multiply their usefulness many times over, finding new ways to play those same licks in EVERY area of the fretboard.
This technique alone can be a real game changer for your solos, and applying it will open up your fretboard knowledge like never before.
By using this exact technique, I discovered what have since become some of my all-time favorite go-to guitar licks. I hope you will too!
The Copycat Solo Sessions
A lot of courses like this one simply demonstrate what things need to sound like, and then move on. This one is different. I've recently had good feedback with a new approach that I'm calling the Copycat Solo Sessions.
The course really revolves around learning a whole bunch of licks.
In the Copycat Sessions, I'll turn on the jam track we're working with, and then start applying the riff we're working on over top of that. I'll give you several different ways to think about that riff, and then as soon as the cycle ends, it's your turn!
You'll have an opportunity to work those riffs over the jam track immediately following me, just as if we were sitting across from each other trading solos.
Then, I'll have another go, and then you'll have another go after that.
This is all done in a single take, so there's no buttons to push, pages to flip, or anything else to distract you. You'll get to hear how I play, and then immediately, have a go yourself.
The benefit of this is enormous, because your ear is your best teacher. When you can compare back to back, your ear will quickly tell you the parts you need to work on, much quicker than if you didn't have that example fresh in your mind.
Is This Course Too Advanced FOR ME?
I've bought plenty of courses online, so I'm well familiar with the question of "is this going to be too advanced for me? Is it too basic and below where I'm at?"
So - here's what you should have already:
Basic Guitar Theory - Surprise! You don't actually need any theory for this course, though as always, the more you know, you will always find that helpful.
Pentatonic Scale Patterns - we're only using a single scale pattern in this course, and if you're not familiar with it yet, there is a section in the course where we'll go through it and you can learn it there.
Here's the thing: if you're still in the stage where you're trying to remember how that pattern goes together, or which notes are where, then I highly recommend you put in some practice time and get past that stage of learnig the scale.
That's all it is - a stage in your development, and with a bit of concerted effort it can be a short one, perhaps even as little as a half hour of focused practice.
Once you're not consciously thinking about the scale when you play it, that's a really good time to start interacting with the riffs we learn in this course.
Is This Course Too Basic FOR ME?
This is not an advanced soloing course, by any means. It definitely leans towards the beginning-to-solo skill level, however, I know there are a lot of guitar players who have had some experience - perhaps even quite a lot of it - soloing already, and they're looking for ways to break out of the rut.
They're looking for ways to solo more freely, without thinking hard, all while making the solo melodic instead of just sounding like a scale.
If that's you, this might be just the perfect course to help you do that.
The licks we're looking at in the course are for the most part not inherently difficult, which is awesome, because it means they can easily be applied on multiple skill levels!
In many of the licks I demonstrated easy options for how you might play it, as well as more advanced options.
In this way, I've tried to accomodate different skill levels at the same time.
If you've got more experience, you will more quickly grab onto the more complex versions of the riffs that are presented.
And if you don't have much experience yet, then those more complex versions will probably be out of reach for you - for a time. But that's just fine, because each core riff should be accessible no matter where you're at, and that's enough to get the ball rolling.
The course supplement book (on PDF) included with the course truly supplements and adds to what you will find in the video. From theory to detailed discussions of riffs and patterns, you will find this an invaluable study tool.
Are You Ready To SOLO?
Box 1 Blues Soloing is laser-focused on helping you develop your on-the-spot, improvised soloing ability. You'll learn great licks and how to apply them in a fun and practical manner.
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Let’s work together to take your guitar soloing to levels that you never dreamed possible!
To Your Success,
PS. You'll learn fifteen sweet lick "ideas", which will quickly multiply into several hundred individual licks as you learn to modify each one many times over.
PS. After taking this course, you’ll be able to improvise musical solos over any chord progression!
PS. If for any reason at all you’re not satisfied, you’re protected by my 100% “No Weasel Clauses” 60-Day GUARANTEE
Well conceived and executed!
Well conceived and executed! Great idea to laser focus on Box 1 with flatted fifth. Had fun and learned by doing tons.
Thanks for making it available. Moving on now to Slow Blues Solo in "A". See you there!