Table of Contents
In this article, I will provide you with a simple and effective tool to instantly determine which scale to use when soloing over any rock, pop, or metal chord progression. It’s not necessary to delve into complex music theory; this tool will do the trick.
Finding the Key and Chord Progression
To begin, you need to identify two things: the key you’re in and the type of chord progression.
Finding the Key
To find the key, you can either ask someone or assume that the last chord in the song represents the key’s root chord. For example, if the song ends on a C Major or Minor chord, you’re in the key of C!
Finding the Root Note
Next, locate the root note on your low E-string. If you’re in the key of C, the 8th fret on the low E-string will give you the note C:
Determining the Scale
Now that you know the key, it’s time to determine which scale to use.
Blues Rock or Regular Minor?
If you’re uncertain whether you’re in a Blues Rock or a Regular Minor context, start by playing the C-pentatonic Minor scale. If it sounds great, you’ve narrowed it down. To confirm, play the Dorian pattern over your pentatonic scale and listen to whether the added note sounds pleasing or not:
If the added note sounds great, you can continue playing the C-Dorian scale with the C-Minor pentatonic Blues scale on top of it.
On the other hand, if playing the added note sounds awful, it indicates that you’re in the key of C-Minor. In this case, play the C-Minor pentatonic scale:
Remember, you can check if the Dorian or Natural Minor scale works by emphasizing the added note. This note will determine whether you should use the Dorian scale with your Minor Pentatonic or the Natural Minor scale.
If the Minor Pentatonic scale sounds strange, there’s no need to persist with the Dorian or Natural Minor scales, as they will sound just as unpleasant. Instead, you can move the scale pattern down three frets and play the C-note with your pinky finger:
This is now the C-Major pentatonic scale. Place the Natural Minor shape on top of it, resulting in the following:
Now you’re playing the C-Major scale along with the C-Major pentatonic.
Harmonic Minor and Phrygian Mode
If none of the previous approaches seem to work, you’re likely dealing with a Harmonic Minor context. In this case, refer to the Harmonic Minor shape, located five frets above C, and turn it into the Harmonic Minor shape:
Now you’re ready to shred over a C-Phrygian chord progression, Yngwie style! Please note that this tool provides a basic understanding, and there are additional details I haven’t covered in this article. This is a tool I use daily myself, eliminating the need for playing other scales or using different tools to solo over rock, pop, or metal songs.
By utilizing this tool, you can quickly and confidently determine which scale to use when soloing without even knowing the exact chords of the song. Trust your ears and rely on this simple system. We’ve covered a lot in this article series, and in the next installment, I’ll show you a fast and practical way to implement everything we’ve discussed. With this foundation, you’ll achieve instant fretboard vision in a more enjoyable manner. Stay tuned!
Note: This article was written in collaboration with 5 WS.