How to Choose the Correct Scale to Solo Over a Guitar Chord

by Steven French
Most guitar solos are based on one or more scales.

Most guitar solos are based on one or more scales.

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You can play a guitar solo using a variety of different scales. Many guitarists choose a scale based on the key of the overall song, which produces a very musical result. You may sometimes want to tailor the scale to the individual chords in the song. This creates a constantly changing solo that can seem to stay more in sync with the song. There is often more than one scale that can be played with a particular chord, but the process of identifying a suitable scale is a simple one.

Items you will need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Chord chart
  • Scales chart
Step 1

Write down the chords of the song you wish to play your solo with and choose one chord to start with.

Step 2

Identify the root of the chord. The root is generally the letter name of the chord. For example, a D and a D7 chord both have a root of D.

Step 3

Identify whether the chord is major or minor. A D chord is a major chord while a Dm or Dmin chord is minor.

Step 4

Play a major or minor scale that starts at the root of the chord. For example, play a D major scale over a D chord, since it is a major chord. Play a C minor scale over a Cm chord, since it is a minor chord.

Step 5

Alter the notes to accommodate the other conditions of the chord, such as raised or lowered pitches. For example, a Cmaj7 chord has a raised 7th note, so you should play a major scale with a raised 7th note.

Step 6

Repeat the process for each chord in the song until you identify a scale with a pleasing sound. Write the scales down to help you remember them.

Step 7

Practice playing a solo, switching scales along with the chord changes.

Tips & Warnings

  • Practice playing certain scales over their corresponding chords until you become more comfortable with them.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images