Tonality In Lead Guitar Playing

This training lesson contains play along tracks which will help you to learn how to use the six scales in the modern palette. To use the scales you must be aware of not only the musical tonality of the music but also the artistic qualities they possess, the emotional and psychological impact they have on you and your music. The table below describes the sound of the scales and help you think of the six scales as being divided into two families:

Bright, Happy, Tuneful, Fresh
Major Pentatonic
Sweet, Melodic, Tasty
Major Blues
Smooth, Melodic, Bluesy But Clean & Major
Dark, Sad, Mysterious Mournful, Contemplative
Minor Pentatonic
Hot, Funky, Rockin', Bad, Kick Ass
Bluesy, Smooth, Cool, Funky, Rockin'



In the previous lesson, I suggested that you memorize two fingerings for each one of the six scales in the modern palette: (1)the pattern with its root on string six and (2) the fingering with its root on string five. For the last two lessons we've been working with a C root note but have also practiced transposing the scale shapes using root 6 and root 5 thinking. Practice the scales in this diagram without accompaniment, composing melodies with a sense of rhythm. The starting point is the C root note and is drawn as a big red pentagon. When running the scales, don't break your rhythm until you play the entire scale and return the C root note. In this way, you force yourself to hear this as the natural and logical starting and ending point of each scale. After you spend some time with this, apply your new skills and ideas to the play along tracks.

Whats The Big Idea?

Developing solos means having ideas, like writing a poem, there are not only themes throughout the work but a beginning, middle and end. Below are background tracks, without solos, similar to the listening exercises found in the previous lesson. As you develop your lead guitar playing vocabulary and abilities, your ‘chops,’ remember to think of use the concepts and elements of melodic construction we have discussed so far in this course:

Major Tonality

The recorded examples below are classic chord progressions and cadences base entirely on the key of C major. A harmonic analysis of each chord appears directly next to that chord and the scale choices for the entire exercise are in pink boxes to the right of the selection.

These play along tracks are short and are repeated once, this encourages to get right down to the business of creating interesting melodic solos, not rambling on and on.



Pentatonic Tonality

The recorded examples below are based on the C minor pentatonic but cadence to a C major chord. The mystery surrounding this concept is one of the wonderful things about rock and blues based music. I always like to say that modern styles of music play the game of traditional music theory in a fast and loose manner.

Minor Tonality

Well known and well used chord progressions are used in the examples below. Music that is so clearly and completely in the minor tonality demands a minor scale. The three most logical and most popular scale choices below are all taken from the six most important scales in lead guitar playing.


Dominant Tonality

In many blues, jazz, rock and funk songs, the tonality of the song is a dominant 7 one, a C7 sound in the case of the music below. In this soloing situation, most experienced players may rely exclusively on the minor pentatonic scale and the blues scale for the entire progression. When you experiment with the major pentatonic scale and the major blues scale you will find some pleasant surprises and unexpected colors.

The 12 bars blue progression that makes up the exercise is played once through, stops and then plays again. This is because the goal of the exercise is to play one logical, conversant and coherant solo that is 12 bars in length, forllows the rhythm nicely and comes to a strong ending.