Why playing guitar scales is bad for your soloing

Did the title grab you? Are you infuriated or intrigued? Is your face screwed up about to unleash a scathing comment? Or are you thinking, “yeah I’ve tried playing guitar scales and I’m still crap at soloing?”

Now don’t get me wrong… I’ve practised guitar scales for hours and hours, and it allowed me to know the guitar neck very well. But here’s the problem. If you practice a scale up and down the strings in a linear fashion, you will solo up and down the strings in a linear fashion. If you start at the top, your solo will start at the top. If you pick every note, you’ll solo by picking every note. If you hammer on the whole time, you’ll solo by hammering on the whole time. Get the picture?

I discovered this myself when I was learning the 5 pentatonic scales in order. I’d sit in front of the TV with my unplugged budget strat in hand, wearing the tip of my plectrum down by endlessly going up and down each scale shape with a zombie-like expression on my face. Then I’d sit down with my mates and jam, only to find myself playing quickly up and down the scale shapes but without really saying anything.

This is like listening to a group of teenage girls talking to each other… “I was like…. Whatever! And she was all like WTF! Like OMG… Who does she think she is? She was so like lame and stuff…”

No content… just noise!

So how do we get good at soloing?

Is there a better way to learn to solo…? Yes!

Do we need to learn guitar scale shapes…? Yes!

So how can we learn the guitar scale shapes without sounding like a robot? Easy.

  1. Spend no more than 5 minutes playing a guitar scale shape from top to bottom.
  2. Know where to apply the guitar scale shape in relation to the key of the song your soloing to.
  3. Break the shape into 3 string sections. E.g. top 3 strings (E,A,D then A,D,G then D,G,B then G,B,E).
  4. Find some Backing Tracks to jam to.
  5. Be as expressive and experimental as you can, using a section at a time, using every technique you know (Hammers, Pulls, Bends etc.)

The most important part being the Backing Track. Get a variety and it’ll make you’re playing so incredible and practice will be super fun!

For awesome Backing Tracks and all of my tips and tricks for Soloing, check out my courses here on Jamorama.

Happy soloing Guitar Freaks!


  1. Ali Nawaz

    That was very important what you mentioned. I can relate to it and am learnig both bass and acoustic myself and in both i can feel the similar zombie pattern. Shall try your pattern, and hopefully it’ll work. Thank you. joy!

  2. Malwinder Sidhu

    Hi Mark
    Excellent stuff – you make everything it easy to pick up and I’m really enjoying the soloing course..just wondering where the backing track is on the course?

    1. Jon Coursey

      Hi there, we’re adding the backing tracks just below the videos. Currently we only have these on the lead guitar for beginners course, but we have more on the way!

  3. Richard Elkan

    Thanks Mark I will certainly try this method I was getting bored trying to play scales

  4. Hal Stull

    OK, so you got me hooked on “Falling Slowly” so how about giving us the rest of the song?

  5. Mike Hernandez

    Mark, This is really great information regarding scales. Up until today, I thought that scales were only good for fish!!!
    And, I am still working on the finger style course.

    Regars, Mike

  6. Bill

    I was a little surprised at your first comment but found that your advice makes perfect sense!

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