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A Pattern-Based Soloing Approach

In the last several columns, I demonstrated ways to develop new lick ideas by moving between different pairs of adjacent strings while traversing up and down the fretboard, as opposed to remaining within a scale’s fixed position and “box” pattern. Now I’d like to take the opposite approach and look at ways to get the most out of sticking within a single fretboard position.

When staying within a single box, licks can be built from moving across all six strings. A great way to elaborate on this approach is to take the melodic shapes and phrases that are played in a given position and move them up or down the fretboard through all of that same scale’s other positions and patterns. Using this approach, you have a template for generating new phrases that are based on the articulations and rhythmic syncopation of the notes originally played in one position, and new melodies can be discovered when moving that template around to various positions.

To illustrate, let’s begin with the E blues scale (E G A Bb B D) played in 12th position. A good way to develop a melodic idea while staying within a box like this is to play a line on the top three strings (the G, B and high E), then move over to the next set of three adjacent strings (D G B), then the next (A D G) and then, finally, the bottom three (low E, A and D strings). This results in four areas, or “cells.” In FIGURE 1, four one-bar phrases are played in this manner. Notice that the rhythmic motif for each lick and bar is similar. In this sense, it is the rhythm of the line that creates the continuity and sense of theme and development. This type of solo phrasing is readily apparent in the playing of Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Jeff Beck, Duane Allman and many other blues-rock greats. FIGURE 2 offers another example of this lick-development approach, wherein the rhythmic syncopation of each phrase is virtually identical. 

FIGURE 3 illustrates what happens when we move this melodic and rhythmic template down to the next lower position of the E blues scale, 10th position. Because the various scale degrees are fretted with different fingers and fall on different strings, the shape of the melodies changes accordingly, yielding distinct results.

Let’s move down one more time, to seventh position, which generates the lick shown in FIGURE 4. Using this system for creating phrases and building solo lines can result in some unusual and unexpected results, and I encourage you to explore as many different variants as possible while utilizing this concept.

Guitar World Associate Editor Andy Aledort is recognized worldwide for his vast contributions to guitar instruction, via his many best-selling instructional DVDs, transcription books and online lessons.