Improve your improvisation in 20 minutes with this easy guitar lesson

Break out of your old habits and infuse your improvisation with four new concepts and ideas to jump start your jamming.

Improvising solos is a rewarding way to play the guitar but it requires a constant flow of fresh ideas, so we have four approaches for you to try.

The first lick is a one-note jam, which may seem a little odd but actually limiting yourself to a specific idea can unlock things you might not have thought of. By jamming on only one note you are left with rhythm, dynamics and effects, such as vibrato to keep things interesting.

Next we have a one-string jam, which is an excellent way to break out of your regular scale shapes. Moving up and down a string using slides and hammer-ons will help you focus more on melody. You can play any scale along the length of a string and exploring new sounds will also improve your fretboard note knowledge. In addition to the melodic notes it is useful to have a droning root note, such as one of the lower open strings that you can jam to.

One-note jam

Play this C note at the 5th fret with your first finger and start by learning the rhythm. Tap your foot to maintain a solid tempo when switching between eighth-notes, triplets and 16ths. Next bring it to life by adding accents, dynamics and staccato notes.

One-string jam

This lick is based in the D Dorian mode [D E F G AB C] played along the third string with the root note at the 7th fret. You can use slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs to ascend and descend the string and add the open fourth string so you can hear the root note throughout.

70s funk wah

This lick is based on the A minor pentatonic scale [A C D E G] with an additional b5 (E b) interval referencing at blues scale. Start with your first finger at the 12 fret.

Scale sequences

This bluesy idea is based in the A minor pentatonic scale [A C D E G]. Play the first lick using your 3rd finger to perform the bends and finish on the minor 3rd (C note) interval at the 5th fret. The next lick begins in a similar fashion but finishes with a different ending, finally resolving on the root note.

Practice plan

  1. One minute: Play through each exercise slowly and check each note sounds clean 
  2. One minute: Play through each exercise slowly with a metronome 
  3. One minute: Increase the tempo slightly and repeat 
  4. Two minutes: Play the examples up to speed with the tracks provided

Once you have learnt the licks we have provided, it is time to do something new with them. Learning licks is a great way to channel concepts and inspiration into your playing. Rather than repeating the licks note for note, think of how you can adapt them. Try applying different rhythmic phrasing, change the scale notes or change the tempo and dynamics to make something new.

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