For More Expressive Guitar Solos, Avoid the Root Notes

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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.