Punching Holes in Scales

Use these tips to add unpredictability to your lines and a fresh sound to familiar patterns.
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For many rock guitarists, diatonic scale lines are a common soloing device. In this lesson, we’ll explore simple ways to break up scales by skipping notes within them, giving an air of unpredictability to your lines, and a fresh sound to familiar sequences and patterns.

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Take a look at Ex. 1 (above), a very normal-sounding three-note-per-string scale in C major. Kind of boring, right? Now, let’s mix things up by skipping a note at the point where we cross from one string to the next. To do this, we use a small shift when moving to an adjacent string, passing over the expected note and instead sounding the next highest (when ascending) or lowest (when descending) note in the scale.

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 Ex. 2 (above) illustrates this idea using the lowest two strings of our scale, and then moves this fragment across sets of two strings in octaves.

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Once you have a handle on those moves, apply a melodic sequence to each set, like in Ex. 3 (above).

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Ex. 4 (above) takes it further, carrying the cross-string/note-skip idea across all strings, covering a wider range than the previous examples. Notice how each octave of the scale contains a different series of notes, while never leaving the confines of C major.

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Finally, Ex. 5 (above) takes our extended scale and applies the same two-string sequence from Ex. 3. Broken up this way, it sounds less and less like what you might expect from an ascending major scale line. Try working this concept into your favorite sequences and patterns as well as other scales (melodic minor, harmonic minor, etc.). The possibilities are many!

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