Guitar Intervals: A Simple Way Make Stale Solos Fresh

Are you stuck making what feels like the same, linear, solo? Do you feel like you're trapped, playing the same scale progressions? Are your ears unable to keep up with your muscle memory?

This has happened to almost every player at one point or another. From the perspective of a guitar teacher, I believe the issue stems from the way players are taught different scales over the last thirty years. Scales are important to learn, but most "instructors" have put them emphasis on learning them by heart and simply playing them up and down.

What this has created is a large number of guitar students who get stuck playing scale patterns that aren't as universally useful as they are taught — and you may have been taught this way, too. If you have been following my articles you may have heard me discussing the CAGED system in these terms. But that's a debate for another article.

There is a plethora of methods to get out of that way of playing. The most radical, of course, is to learn the scales the proper way, where you can master them instead of getting trapped in them. But this time, I'm going to show a different method. And this one is a simple shift in the paradigm.

We'll start by dropping the scale patterns idea for the time being, and looking at the fretboard differently, in a way that will explore new ways of utilizing sound. For this video, I will show one example: navigating a guitar fretboard using diatonic intervals of 6th. This creates a melodic sound that works in many different styles of music. And those who don't enjoy the sound of sixths can work in different intervals with the same theory to obtain different appealing results.

It won't be possible to show this with tabs and words, so I recorded a video to explain it. Take a look below:

Remark: the patterns that I've shown aren't the most important part of the lesson. The important part is how interval patterns (the 6th, in this case) can help guide how we move around the fretboard. Of course, this will not sound like the typical "linear" scale everybody is playing.

To really leverage the possibilities, try using these ideas with other intervals, or maybe also with an arpeggio (3 notes rather than just 2) to liven up your lead guitar in new ways. In the end, that's what we're all after.

Tommaso Zillio is a professional prog rock/metal guitarist and composer based in Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Tommaso is currently working on an instrumental CD, and an instructional series on fretboard visualization and exotic scales. He is your go-to guy for any and all music theory-related questions.

Tommaso Zillio