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Hi, I've been playing guitar for about a year now and recently I've been detaching myself from simply learning song after song and have been concentrating on improvisation. I know a few scales here and there, all the major modes, pentatonic and the harmonic minor scale. Yet, I'm having trouble incorporating my knowledge of these scales into my soling. Most of the time that I do improvise, I do so using primarily the pentatonic, but most of the time I play what I hear, through which I do generate a few catchy melodies but as soon as I try a phrase in a very high speed it sound horrible!

I'm primarily a heavy/death metal and rock guitarist so speed obviously matter. What I want to know is how I can use the major modes and what not to improvise in a decent speed. And note it's not my technical ability that fails me, I simply loose track of what I play at higher speeds.

Plus, my knowledge of modal theory is seriously flawed. As I said, most of the time, I improvise simply out of the blue without any knowledge of scales or theory.It would be really helpful if someone could point out what scales or modes I could use for different chords and how to come up with speedy riffs spontaneously.

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Hi

Yes many guitarists use scales and modes in that genre. Check out Kirk Hammett or Paul Gilbert. Frank Gambale is also worth checking out. Not a metal guitarist, but plays a lot of modal lines at very high speeds, and influenced a lot of metal players with his technique.

Study some solos of the guys who inspire you, and then adapt their licks to your own playing. Playing at high speeds can be a challenge, so knowing what you are going to do beforehand can help.

Modal Theory for Guitar Players. IIonian Dorian Phrygian Lydian Mixolydian Aeolian Locrian

Have a look at that link and see if it helps.

The modes outline the harmony of chords within the key.

So Ionian is the I chord (major 7th), Dorian is II (min 7th with a natural 6th), Phrygian is III (minor 7th with b9th - very metal, think Yngwie. A small adjustment and you have the Phrygian dominant, which Yngwie uses all the time) Lydian is IV (major 7th with #4th - Joe Satriani and Steve Vai - listen to 'Flying in a Blue Dream') Myxolydian is V (dominant chords) Aeolian is the VI (natural minor scale - plays over the minor 7th, has a minor 6th interval. Gary Moore is the master of beautiful, melancholy tunes with this scale.) and Locrian is VII (minor 7b5 - in my experience mainly used in jazz in building a II-V chord movement).

Depending on the souns you are after, youy may want to study some arpeggios as well. Plane talk could also be a good option for you to bring chord tones into your playing, and then you can mix it with scales and modes.

All the ebst with it.

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Thank you, that helped. =)

A few questions though,

The phrygian Dominant scale is a harmonic minor mode, isn't it? It sounds like it and has the middle eastern flavor to it, I feel. I love Yngwie's music but I could never point my finger at a mode he frequently incooperates , though I could tell he uses the Harmonic minor scale quite frequently as opposed to the natural minor scale.

Thank you for how you mentioned an artist who uses the specific scale or mode. Now I know what to listen for. =)

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yep the Phrygian dominant is a mode of the harmonic minor scale. It is used for playing over dominant chords, especially the 7b9 chord. I am not into metal really, so I can only make some passing observations, but Yngwie seems to use it to play the cadence, rather than using the harmonic minor scale in and off itself.

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I see,

Well, I'm having plenty of fun with the phrygian dominant scale.

But, are a guitarists choice of modes for a particular more of a personal preference rather than a theoretical obligation? I mean, does the backing track really confine what mode or scale we can use or do we have some leniency in deciding? But,I guess that's a question that can be answered with a little bit more knowledge of theory and experience.

Oh, and I've heard something about modal pentatonics ( though I'm not sure about the exact terminology). Are they of any use? I mean when I use them I feel as if I'm missing out some notes which give the mode it's distinctive characteristics, and some notes just sound downright horrible when you land on 'em.

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From a theoretical view, the mode is related to a particular chord type/function of the chord. You can play anything you like over a chord, but then it becomes something else.

Modal pentatonics can be useful - try a B minor pentatonic over a Cmajor7 chord in the key of G - instant Lydian sound. It is only one approach, and so it cna be good for variation, but like anything can get old pretty quickly.

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distant_haze,

Everything scotty_b has said here is right on the money. Let me add a couple things for you to consider.

I get the idea from your post that you may not completely grasp what improvisation is. Let me begin by defining what it is not. It isn't a God given ability to invent melodies from nowhere. It isn't a bolt of lightning that enables one to become a monster soloist. It isn't a mystical gift which only a few have because they are special.

Improvisation is the spontaeous reorganization of your musical vocabulary. In other words, the rearrangement of something that already exists. It is learned the same way a spoken language is learned because music and improvisation are languages.

When you speak or carry on a conversation, you don't instantly invent the words you speak. They already exist. Likewise, when we solo we use patterns and ideas which already exist in the language of music.

When we speak, we generally do so intuitively and it seems to be an automatic process. However, if you consider how babies learn to speak, it is neither intuitve nor automatic. Language is learned by imitation. We repeat the words and phrases we hear our parents speak. Upon entering school, language is then further developed through spelling, grammar and the enlargement of the vocabulary.

You acquired language one word at a time. That's the same way you learn to improvise, one lick at a time. You get them from books and magazines. Some from recordings. Some are shown to you by other guitarists. All of your favorite guitarists started out copying other players.

You say that you are trying to improvise without a knowledge of modes & scales and that your knowledge of modes is flawed. If this is so, then any attempt to improvise will also be flawed.

You also spoke of problems when trying to play fast. Every metal player I've ever known who could play really fast practiced everything really slowly, using a metronome, gradually raising the tempo until they could play it flawlessly. There are no shortcuts to technique.

Last of all, when you are playing a solo in perfomance, you're playing a song. The chords of the song provide the framework for your solo. You have to follow the chords.

The quickest way to acquire musical vocabulary is to copy solos from your favorite recordings, analyse what was being played against the chords then try to use those phrases in other songs against the same chords. Careful listening to your favorite players will reveal patterns and phrases that get recycled over and over.

I hope this is helpful.

Regards,

Monk

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Hey guys,

Another way to look at modes is that they're simply the same scale but shifted around in different keys.

For example:

C Major scale = A Minor Scale = D Dorian = E Phrygian = F Lydian = G Mixolydian = A Aolian = B Locrian

It's all the same scale shape but if you play it on different keys or progressions, the sound will be different because the accents will be different. Personally, I don't focus too much on the scale shapes because when it comes to keys and modes, they all use the same shapes - just in different parts of the fretboard. Rather, I focus on the melody because that's what catches your ear.

Like others have said earlier, scales and modes themselves aren't very musical. It's how you string together the relevant notes within those scales in a song context that matters the most.

As far as speed goes, again, I agree with what was posted above. Speed is all dependent on accuracy and technique. To build up speed, you have to start as slow as possible where you can play all the notes cleanly and progress slooowly. if you add a beat a day and play everyday, in a few months you'll be really fast.

I suggest you practice triplets, quadruplets and six notes in a row runs using both pentatonic and major scale forms. And also practice your arpeggio's - these can make even the fastest solo sound musical. Also look at chromatic runs and string skipping.

And warm up and stretch. You don't want to strain yourself too much and get injured.

best of luck!

lorsban

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Personally, I don't focus too much on the scale shapes because when it comes to keys and modes, they all use the same shapes - just in different parts of the fretboard. Rather, I focus on the melody because that's what catches your ear.

lorsban

I can see you're going to fit right in here lorsban, welcome again.:yes:

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Some very wise words here. Accuracy first and then build up the speed is especially sound advice. When you mentioned modes, I thought of some vids I watched on youtube from one of my favorite guitarists, Joe Satriani, and how he uses the varying modes to create a mood within the confines of the given chord structure of a song. Worth watching. Here's the links.

YouTube - Joe Satriani - Great Guitar Lesson on 'Modes' #1

YouTube - Joe Satriani - Great Guitar Lesson on 'Modes' #2

Practice smart.

Cheers, Jeff

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