As you learn more and more scales, you'll notice certain chord-scale
relationships emerge from the fretboard. Tones that are used in the
backing chords need to correspond with the tones in the scale(s) you're
playing, otherwise it'll clash. It's therefore important to know what tones
the backing chords are
using so you can highlight these same tones through your solo. There's
an easy way to find a "starting point" for your solo in this respect,
and that's what we'll be looking at in this lesson.
Here I take the concept in this lesson to its ultimate ends - to see
the intrinsic relationship between chords and scales as a group of related intervals on
As a guitarist, you must be able to identify any chords
you'll be playing with or over. This is an "ear skill" that will come
time, but I'm assuming that you'll at least be aware of the chord
sequence you'll be playing over, whether you're improvising or writing
a lead part for a song.
Let's say the piece begins on a D major chord, and you want to apply
a major scale phrase over this chord.
The first thing to do is locate a potential shape for this D major
chord. As there are several main shapes for this chord (based on those
5 barre/movable chord shapes) we
should at this stage just pick one and run with it...
This is one major chord shape you should know. It's the basic A
form barre chord. Rooted
at the 5th fret gives us D major.
Now, when learning scales, it's important to learn their boxed
patterns on the low E string and A string root notes, for the
very reason that it gives you a good starting point for playing over
chord shapes like the above. I show you these patterns in the
individual scale lessons.
major scale pattern
We've simply superimposed the A string scale pattern we know right over
the A form chord shape we know.
You only really need to identify the corresponding root notes,
as this is the point from which both the chord shape and scale patterns
However, we can also see a chord scale relationship between the 3rd and
used in both the major chord and the major scale. We could use these
tones as "starting notes" if we wished.
So that's the basic idea. Identify a possible chord shape for the chord
you're playing over and use a scale pattern in the same position.
Again, it helps a great deal if you learn the main boxed patterns for
each scale (that's why I include them in my guitar
Now, I could give you a hundred and one examples of this same process
different chords and scales, but the concept is the same
whichever chord-scale relationship you use.
added 9th (Abmadd9) chord shape
So first we establish that the above is a minor chord. But
there is also an added tone (the 2nd/9th) that we could (if we want)
highlight in our solo. There is more than one minor scale that will
work over this chord, but for this example I'm using Dorian...
Again, notice how we can use our knowledge of the root note
position of the chord shape and correspond it with a scale
pattern that uses the same
root note position. We now have a solid starting point for
our A flat Dorian phrase/solo.
If in doubt, at first, start on the root note and work through the rest
of the pattern from there. Eventually, you'll be able to identify other
tones that reside in the scale pattern and start on those (e.g. the b3,
5, 2 etc.).
In a later lesson, we'll look at how this technique can help us solo
over chord changes. For now, make sure you reference this lesson when
learning individual scales. It really is a great way to find your
bearings at first.