5 ways to boost your guitar-playing confidence

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By arming yourself with a few electric guitar jamming and improv tips, and getting your onstage environment organised, you can make sure you’re at your best.

Here, we've shared some sound advice that will improve your confidence no end at your next rehearsal or gig.

1. One shape, two scales, jam with any music you like!

C major pentatonic scale

C major pentatonic scale

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A minor pentatonic scale

A minor pentatonic scale

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The C major and A minor pentatonic scales are essentially the same – they just start on different root notes (black dots). Our short U2-style progression alternates between C and Am chords. Not exactly classic improv material we admit, but it shows you how one easy shape is all you need in the event of an impromptu live jam. Here are your options...

  1. The easy choice: Use the A minor pentatonic scale throughout.
  2. The alternative choice: Use the C major pentatonic scale throughout.
  3. The logical choice: C major pentatonic scale over C; A minor pentatonic over Am.
  4. The bigger picture: Both scales work over any chord in the key of C major or A minor, so try writing your own progression then jamming with the scale.

2. Jam for longer with pentatonic sequences

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Ever felt like you ran out of ideas too soon? This Angus Young/Jimmy Page-style Page 1 of 1 lick uses short, repeating phrases to keep the minor pentatonic goodness going Notes: for longer. Milk it for all it’s worth!

3. Repeat-peat-peating is good

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Repeating licks isn’t a bad thing. In fact it’s a vital part of music, keeping listeners latched on and listening for longer. This Beatles-y rock ’n’ roll lick will help you get more from pentatonics.

4. Pentatonics for jazz

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Jazz often ventures outside familiar pentatonic scales but take a close look here. The black notes are from the A minor pentatonic scale – a handy framework to build on. The red ‘non-pentatonic’ notes use the jazz trick of only going one fret away from a scale note. Improvise with a pentatonic scale, then throw in a few one-fret shifts. Instant jazz!

5. Make a checklist before you play live

It’s easy to get distracted in the rush setting up before a gig, but forgetting things can affect your performance later on. Try this checklist before you play to ensure you’ll have some peace of mind up on the stage...

  1. Tune your guitar and the backup guitar.
  2. Double-check your amp settings but don’t change your volume from soundcheck (it’s already set).
  3. Make sure none of your pedal patch cables have become disconnected. Check your pedal knobs.
  4. Can everyone's who playing see a setlist?
  5. Keep a spare plectrum handy in case you lose one.
  6. Make sure you have water before you play to stay hydrated, especially if you're singing too.