Beginner guitar: how to write guitar solos

Beginner guitar: how to write guitar solos
(Image credit: Future)

Ever heard the idea that scales are hard to learn? Well, we’d say different! Some scales are almost identical to chords you probably already know – that makes them easier to remember and also tells you that the chord and scale are probably going to sound good together. 

Don’t get it? Read on as we show you how to write new lead guitar ideas starting with a chord and a scale.

A Major Pentatonic

Here we are going to look at the A chord and the A major pentatonic scale. Once you learn the shapes move on to the lick below and see how they combine to create interesting lead guitar licks.

Everyone knows the A chord. As you play it here, make sure it’s the cleanest A chord ever heard! (Image credit: Future)

The major pentatonic scale is great for creating bright, melodic lead lines. It also contains the A chord. (Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

The idea here is to see how the chord, scale and lick all relate to each other – the three shapes are pretty similar. Play the A chord with a first-finger barre. Your third finger should fall into place.

A Minor Pentatonic

Let's move into a minor key. Once again, we are looking a chord, then the scale, before moving onto a lick that combines both. Here we are looking at the A minor chord, then the A minor pentatonic scale. 

Play each note one by one to check they’re ringing clearly – adjust your thumb position if needed. (Image credit: Future)

Notice how the notes of the chord are found within the scale. It means they’ll sound good together. (Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

Jimi Hendrix used to thicken his lead lines with doublestops. This lick shows how he might have combined them with a bluesy bend. Try branching out your ideas by using other notes from the chord and scale.


Finally, let's look at how a G7 chord can be combined with a G Mixolydian scale for a solo idea.

Notice how the dominant 7th chord sounds unresolved, like it needs to move to another, more final chord. (Image credit: Future)

Look closely! Once again the notes of the chord are found in the scale. Jam around the two together. (Image credit: Future)

(Image credit: Future)

This laid-back melody is inspired by the North Mississippi Allstars’ softer moments. Once again, play close attention to the lick’s feel and try some more ideas with other scale and chord notes.

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Chris Bird

Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.