How To Improvise Over Any backing Track

How To Improvise Over Any Backing Track

So you have found the perfect backing track to improvise over, but you have no idea what to do?? Buckle up today's lesson is just for you!

We're going to cover:
-How to start improvising seamlessly over any backing track.
-What scales you can use.
-How to use those scale to make your improvisation sound less boring.

We're going to start with very basic concepts to get everyone on the same page, before diving deeper into what's going to help you improvise like the pros.

Let's get started!

Before You Improvise, Listen To The Track!

For today's lesson I'm going to apply everything to the key of A Minor as an example.

Disclaimer: As always these concepts will apply to all the other keys.

Let's give the backing track a listen and take note of what chords are being played (More on why in upcoming steps).

So As I mentioned the track is in A minor, and the chords we are improvising over are respectively: F - G - Am - G

Even If we know the key of a track, and we know what scales to use while improvising over the track, it is extremely important to know what the chord progression is. This will help us play more melodic solos. 

Go To Scales For Great Soloing

You'll need to have a bunch of scales in your bag of tricks. More Scales = More Freedom While Improvising.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale:

First of which and probably the most basic of them is the minor pentatonic scale.

An since we're improvising in A minor we're going to play the A minor pentatonic scale, here's the first position of that scale.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
Now in all honesty as long as you know how to play the minor pentatonic you're good to go, like I mentioned before more scale = more expressive freedom.

But if you're only getting started, the pentatonic scale is a great place to get started.

And most importantly for killer solos/improvisation, what matters is how you use the scales you know. 

The Natural Minor Scale: (a.k.a. the Aeolian mode)

The second scale we need to learn for great sounding improvisation is the natural minor scale and we could use any of the 2 shapes showcased in the diagram below.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
You can use either shape, it does not matter, Just stick to whichever you are most comfortable with.

The Relative Major Scale:
Every minor scale has a relative Major scale, and every major scale has a relative minor scale.

The word relative indicates that there is a connection or relationship between both of these scales.

Here the connection is that both scales share the same notes.

In this example A minor and C Major are relative scales and both consist of the same notes: A B C D E F G.

But for Am we start and end on A:  A B C D E F G A.
Unlike C Where we start and end on C: C D E F G A B C.

Check out min @2:52 for an in depth tutorial. 

Here's an easy way to find your relative major/minor scale on the fretboard:

Major -> minor: Move 3 frets down. (Minor third down)
Minor -> Major: Move 3 frets up. (Minor third up)

Check out min @3:53 for a quick demonstration.

So now since we are in A minore the relative key is C Major.
A Major Scale on the Guitar
And again here we can use any of these shapes it really doesn't matter. What's really important here is how we end up using our scales.

An there you have it, those were the 3 go to scales you'll need to improvise over an A minor track.

Check out min @5:03 for a demo of all 3 scales over the backing track.
Example: If we were improvising over a track in D minor, we would use:
-The D minor pentatonic scale.
-The D natural minor scale.
-The relative Major scale, F Major.

How To Improvise Using A Relative Scale

It's true that both relative keys share the exact same note, however, there is more to it.

For your solos to sound great, you need to target the notes that make up the Am chord, (Chord tones) because we are improvising in A minor after all.

If you want a more in depth deep dive on this concept, which will allow you to really transform the way you tackle improvisation forever, check out this ''Easy Melodic Soloing Using Chord Tones'' lesson.

In this case those notes are: A - C - E

Whenever I'm improvising using the C Major scale (The relative Major scale) I need to really emphasize those 3 notes.

Now if you don't know how to find the notes that make up a chord you can check out this complete guide and learn ''Everything You Need To Know About Triads On Guitar'' or you could just do this by ear, those notes feel more safe, and sound way better.

Check out min @7:17 for a quick demonstration.

Improvise Better Using The Chord Progression

Let's take a step further and focus on emphasizing the root notes, of every chord in our chord progression, to create a melodic lick.

This melodic lick will be my base line while improvising. I can always fall back on this lick whenever I'm not too sure what to play, this is especially helpful for guitarists who are just starting out with improvisation and that haven't gotten their fretboard down completely just yet.

So here's what you do in a nutshel:
-Study the chords.
-Build a melodic line using their root notes. (or other chord tones)
-Start embellishing.

Check out min @9:09 for a demo over the track.

After that you will start to embellish more and go crazy with your improvisation, then come back and acknowledge the track every once in a while.

Check out min @11:01 for a demo over the track.

Final Words:
Remember it's not about how many scales you know, it's about how you use those scale, following this step by step approach will allow you to start improvising like the pros.

If you know more position for each of these scales feel free to use them as well, add some phrasing elements, bends and slide and really have fun with this.

Have you been playing guitar for a while and feel like you've been stuck playing the same old lick? Want to learn more ways to add some spice to your improvisation? Do you feel like you need some guidance to help you unlock your full potential as a guitar play? 

If any of those things are true, then you need to check out our premium guitar training program, "guitar elevation'', it might be just the thing you've been missing!
Author: Jack Haddad
Jack Haddad is an expert Guitar educator and teacher and has been helping guitarists, through his innovative methods, get incredible results on the guitar, whether they want to jam with friends or rock out on the big stage.

You can find out more about Jack Haddad's teaching here:
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