There’s a couple of keys that are very popular with guitarists, the keys of G, E, A and D these keys feature lots of open string chords and sound great whether they are played in a group with two guitars or just a solo acoustic guitar.
Because these keys are so popular it’s important to know how to play creative solos in these keys not just the tired old major or minor pentatonic scale patterns.
One way to come up with new solo ideas is to completely change your approach to playing scales on the guitar, some guitarists do this by altering the tuning of the guitar with the view of breaking old familiar patterns however a much simpler approach is to play your scales in a linear fashion.
97% of all scales presented in guitar method books are lateral scales so if you practice linear scales as well as the standard lateral patterns your off to a great start.
Here’s how they work…
Step 1: select a key
Using the key of E major for our example the notes in the key of E are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#
Step 2: Select a string
I’ll use the third string
Step 3: Create a version of the scale starting from the first applicable note of the selected scale.
Since the key of E does not contain the note ‘G’ I’ll begin my E major scale on the G#, first fret, third string.
Step 4: Continue playing the scale lengthwise up the string as far as your instrument will allow.
Here is a E major linear scale played on the third string beginning on the note G#
G# = 1st fret
A = 2nd “
B = 4th “
C# = 6th “
D# = 8th “
E = 9th “
F# = 11th “
G# = 13th “
Let’s take a closer look at what we’ve done so far… the standard E major scale contains the following notes:
E, F#, G#,A, B, C#, D#
We began on the G# note, creating this linear version of the E major scale
E, F#, [G#, A, B, C#, D#, E, F#, G#]
Technically speaking what we have created is a G# Phrygian mode, but that’s another story for a future article, today let’s just be content with the idea of playing a major scale lengthwise starting from any note in the scale.
Lateral scales means to play across the strings e.g., from string six across to string one or visa versa.
Linear scales refers to playing lengthwise along the string e.g., from the head stock to the body of the guitar or visa versa.
The advantages of linear scale playing are:
1. Even though the notes are the same as the lateral scale the notes have a different flavor, musical weight and density.
2. The player tends to create more original sounding melodies because they have to slow everything down an pre-hear the next note before they play in much the same way as a blind person has to be careful where they place their feet the guitarist has to be careful where they place their fingers.
The result is the guitarist tends to do a lot more brain-to-fingers playing instead of the usual situation where the fingers are flying up and down a scale (lateral) as fast as possible, the musical result is like a person running fast in one spot… there’s a lot of activity but they aren’t going anywhere!
So next time you decide to practice scales try playing linear scales on your guitar.