For any guitar player, it’s important to search for, identify and develop your voice on your instrument. In order to make that happen, a foundation of scale knowledge is important, since that will fill the bag from which you draw meaningful melodies and other musical statements.
As you continue to progress, you’ll find you have tendencies depending on the music you’re improvising over. For most guitar players, whether we know it or not, our first instinct is to hover around root notes against various chords. There are a handful of reasons for these inclinations, one of which is that most guitar players start learning to improvise in a blues tonality, which will draw your phrasing toward root notes.
If you’re looking for a more melodic approach, I invite you to effectively remove the root notes from your vocabulary as you craft your ideas. For example, in the context of a G blues progression, you’d avoid the G note. As the chord changes to C, you’d steer clear of each C note over that chord. Finally, you’d keep away from D notes over the turnaround, which would be a D chord.
While it will be difficult to completely avoid these root notes, this is an awesome exercise to pull you out of your comfort zone and project you to a new, more expressive plateau. This approach is applicable to any harmonic progression or scale, so give it a try. What comes out may pleasantly surprise you.
Tyler Larson is the founder of the guitar-centric brand Music is Win. His insightful, uncomplicated guitar lessons and gear demonstrations along with entertaining, satirical content about life as a musician receive tens of millions of video views per month across social media. Tyler is also the creator of the extremely popular online guitar learning platform, Guitar Super System. A graduate of Berklee College of Music, Tyler has been teaching guitar for over a decade and operates a production studio in Nashville, TN.