Major Scale Basic Improvisation

In Foundation 1 we looked at the Major Scale Pattern 1 and I just asked you to memorise it and play it up and down. Well, now we are going to have a look at using it...


I would hope that you have this scale pattern in your memory now but I'm leaving this diagram here just as a refresher.

Try not to look at it if you don't need to - develop the confidence in what you know!

Let your ear be your pilot...

So the idea now is to try and use the scale to make up a solo.

The way to do it is to use a backing track and jam along. I have one for free the G Major Backing Track below. It's the track I use for the demo stuff... While we're on it, I have a whole album of major backing tracks, Jam Major available here, which will give you a bunch of tracks to play in different keys as you progress!

If you prefer to record yourself (or jam) you can use the chords in the key of G in any order: G, C, D, Am, Bm and Em. (more on keys in Foundation 3).

Basic tips:

  • Stick to the scale notes - other notes are likely to sound horrible, and the point of the exercise is to explore the Major Scale for improvising.
  • It's a good idea to stay mostly on the thinner strings, thick strings (low sounds) tend to get mushed up in the bass frequencies and not sound as good.
  • Make sure you play a bit and then stop, play and then stop. If you play too long without a break it just gets boring and people will not understand what you are 'saying'. You can think of it as the play/rest approach if you like (one bar on, one bar off). While you are learning it is useful too - you get to stop and think about what you are doing next, and it sounds better - bonus!!
  • Keep it simple. It will sound better.
  • Often repeating an idea while the chords change sounds good.
  • Explore - do not be afraid, the worst thing that can happen is that you play something that doesn't sound great!! So when practicing try and explore as much as you can.

There are not as many "licks" as there are in blues style playing - the major scale is more about listening than playing licks!


Try and use the major scale to improvise with the backing track once through each practice session.

You will find that playing (improvising) for a full 5 minutes can be very challenging - and that is the point - I'm hoping that in the first few minutes you will get out all your pet licks and things you usually play so that the last couple of minutes you will do some serious exploring and try some new things.

When you have it memorised we can look at the next lesson - some technical work to get you playing with better technique!


Intermediate Foundation 2