Check out these songs featured in the Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos course.
Have you learned a few scales and arpeggios, but can’t figure out how to turn them into music? In this workshop, you’ll learn to turn scales and arpeggios into solos that sound great, whether you’re improvising or playing a composed solo. You’ll learn about thematic soloing and improvising, how to create lines with a sense of forward motion, how to combine the melody of a song with fills, melodic variations, arpeggios, and more.
Scott talks about what he’s going to cover in Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos.
In the first session of Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos, Scott gives you an overview of what he’ll be doing in the workshop and then talks about the wonders of the major scale, showing you all of the scales, chords, and arpeggios that can be extracted from the major scale. He also gives you a lot of ideas about practicing the major scale in different ways.
In this session of Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos, you’ll learn to create melodic lines that match the chords you’re playing. You’ll learn about strong beats and weak beats and how playing chord tones on strong beats creates lines that sound good over those chords. Scott introduces the concept of six- and eight-note scales, as opposed to five-note (pentatonic) scales and seven-note scales (major scale and modes). He also talks about the importance of tension and resolution in creating forward-moving lines, and shows you that playing non-chord tones on strong beats creates tension that sounds good as long as you resolve it. Scott uses the first four bars of “Maiden’s Prayer” to illustrate these concepts and give you ideas for creating your own variations and elaborations on “Maiden’s Prayer” and other melodies.
Pentatonic scales (major and minor) sometimes get a bad rap as a sort of easy fallback scale for lazy musicians, but they can be very effective, especially if you target the chord tones and melody notes in the song you’re playing. In the third session of Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos, Scott shows you how to create variations on two pentatonic melodies using the minor pentatonic scale (“Wayfaring Stranger”) and major pentatonic scale (the old-time fiddle tune “Little Liza Jane”). He talks about using target notes and how to modify the pentatonic scale with chord tones from the chords of the song.
In the fourth session of Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos, Scott talks about using blues inflections and blues scales. He uses the Bill Monroe recording of “Blue Moon of Kentucky” to show how Monroe and fiddler Chubby Wise inflect the major key melody with flatted thirds and flatted fifths. He’ll also show you two different blues scales: one that adds the flatted fifth to the minor pentatonic scale (a sound associated with Tony Rice in his playing of songs like “John Hardy”) and one that is a combination of the notes in the major and pentatonic scales that results in a Mixolydian mode with the addition for a flatted third, which creates a swing blues sound. He finishes by showing you how to use all these ideas in a bluesy solo on “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
In Creating Bluegrass and Roots Music Solos, so far, you’ve had sessions on major scales, pentatonic scales, and blues scales. In this session, Scott talks about using arpeggios in your soloing, in particular as the basis for “place holder licks”: things you play when you want to pause for a bit in your solo. Usually, you’ll use place-holder licks when you get to long, sustained melody notes, which are often the “target notes” in a melody. By combining the phrases you’ve worked on to lead into target notes with place-holder licks, you begin to create more complete solos. Scott uses the folk standard “Banks of the Ohio” to show you a variety of guitar-oriented, place-holder licks, and (using a Django Reinhardt solo as an example) shows you how to use arpeggios to fill in spaces in an improvisation or composed solo on “Wayfaring Stranger.”
In this session you’ll learn how dominant chords move through a circle-of-fifths progression like that in “Sweet Georgia Brown” (D7–G7–C7–F) through voice leading, and how to use a variety of scales and ideas to play through the circle-of-fifths progression. Scott uses the bluegrass song “I Know What It Means to Be Lonesome” to illustrate these ideas with snippets of solos from Clarence White and David Grisman. He also shows you what to do when you encounter a non-diatonic chord in a song, for example the B7 in the first four bars of “The Old Home Place” (G–B7–C–G), with examples from Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice.
In Session 7, Scott talks about improvising, in particular the importance of practicing improvising and getting comfortable making “mistakes.” He also gives you lots of advice on how to practice improvising, with backing tracks you can use to practice simple one- or two-chord grooves as well as common song forms (eight-bar fiddle-tune form, 12-bar blues, etc.).
In Session 8, Scott talks about how to structure your solo and things you need to think about when arranging a solo in a band: where the solo is in the song, the tempo of the song, what the other instruments will be doing, etc. He talks about some common solo structures (call and response, “bluegrass fiddle” style, theme and variations), kickoffs and endings, dynamics, and more. You also look at transcriptions of solos by Tony Rice (“Old Home Place”), Adam Steffey (“Every Time You Say Goodbye”), and songs Scott recorded with Tim O’Brien and others, including “Forever Young,” “Señor,” and “She’s Running Away.”