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Improvising in Open G… Here are some Riffs!

Many days when I pick up my guitar I end up just noodling away… improvising is probably my favorite part of playing the guitar.

Improvising over open chords is probably the easiest way to get started, and the key of G is the best key for that.

When you’re playing in G major, then you solo in Em. Em is the relative 6th of G, therefore is the minor scale that you use to solo in. (See my lesson on I IV V for a better explanation).

Playing in the key of G means that we can use Em Diatonic OR Em Pentatonic. Both of these scales become super easy in the open position…

I really relate to the fretboard in patterns. I find them much easier to get my brain wrapped around than note names. One day soon I am going to do a full-length lesson on that. However, for the time being, have a look at the scale pattern on the page here – that is the Em diatonic minor scale.

Now go through each of the chords in the key of G (G, C, D, Em, Am, Bm) and find where the notes from each chord fit into the scale. You’ll see that every chord is built out of notes within that scale.

Em Diatonic ScaleNext, get that scale pattern embedded in your head and pickup your guitar. That pattern now becomes your structure for improvising. With the pentatonic scale you can truly play any of the notes you want, wherever you want. With the diatonic scale, you have to be a little bit more careful, but you can usually get away with pretty much anything there as well.

Now that you’ve got that pattern stuck in your brain, watch this video, and do your best to follow my fingers and see how everything is coming out of that diatonic pattern. When you’re able to see that, it will really open up a door in your mind in relation to the guitar.

Please note I’ve indicated the extra E and A on the 5th fret. These notes are still in the scale, but those specific spots on the fretboard aren’t in the minor diatonic pattern – they are out of the G major diatonic pattern. It is important to know they are there though, and can of course be played. You’ll see one of the riffs in the video uses these two notes quite a bit.

One other thing – PLEASE don’t get hung up on playing the riffs exactly like I do. This lesson is to help you improvise – not copy. Take my ideas and make them your own, with your own rhythms or sequences.

Just have fun with it and let it all hang out!

As I already mentioned, I absolutely love improvising and playing this type of stuff. Consequently, I have no problem bringing a lot more in this vein, and yes, going into more detail about specifically what I’m playing. However, I need to know if you guys are interested in improvising, or if you prefer to learn common riffs to copy.

Leave a comment below and tell me if you love it or hate it.

Watch Open G Riffs on Youtube

For More Riffs Like This One, Click Here

If you liked the style and difficulty level of this guitar riff, you might like to check out my short course that contains a bunch more guitar riffs in G major.