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In certain musical situations, the head or the lead part will be passed around from player to player. Even the bass player will occasionally take a solo over the melody of a fiddle tune! Sometimes, you haven’t heard the song or don’t know how to play the melody. In this situation, it helps to have an approach that you can apply over almost any chord progression. 

In this lesson, we look at 3 techniques you can use to approach a bluegrass or flatpicking style solo:

  • G Major Scale
  • Chord Scale Tones
  • Bb Chromatic Passing Tone from the Pentatonic Scale

Learning how to apply these 3 concepts will give you an approach to solo over almost any chord progression. Here, we will use the I-IV-Vchord progression in the key of G as an example.

Because we are in the key of G, we can use the G major scale to create a solo over the I-IV-V chord progression.

The G major scale is made up of 7 notes: G-A-B-C-D-E-F#. In order to determine which chords we will use for the I-IV-V chord progression, we will simply count starting on the root note (G), which will be our I chord. Then to the fourth scale tone to the (C), which will be our IV chord. Finally we count to the fifth scale tone (D), our V chord. So, our I-IV-V chord progression in the key of G will be G-C-D. Now, let’s look at the G major scale again… this time, notice the notes hi-lighted below. Each color represents a different scale tone from the I-IV-V chord progression. Using these three scale tones as a parting point for your solo, you can use the same G major scale over all three chords from the I-IV-V chord progression. Just start your solo on the scale tone that corresponds with the chord you are on in the progression. Another way to spice up your solos using the G major scale is to add a note from the pentatonic scale. Add a Bb note to this scale to give it a ‘bluesy’ feel. Have fun, get creative and see if you can create solos using these three concepts. Try not to play all of the notes in the scale in a row. Make it musical and try to communicate musical ideas rather than just running scales.
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