Antony Reynaert
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Soloing 101 For Blues Guitarists Lesson 2 – Starting To Use More Of The Guitar Neck

Are you only able to use a single spot of the pentatonic scale? Let’s discuss how to free yourself from that one spot and start using the whole fretboard.

We have already talked about the first position of the pentatonic scale and we also created a few licks with those notes. Almost every blues guitarist applies this first spot of the pentatonic most of the time. That’s also the reason why this position is the first you learn when you learn about blues improvisation. In addition, it is essential to learn how to play some famous licks in this position. I have already taught you some known basic blues licks, but if you haven’t seen that lesson yet, you can learn them right now by clicking on the next link: Blues Lead Guitar Basics .

From the moment you know your way around this first position, you can start expanding towards other positions and eventually learn to solo on the entire fretboard.

When starting out you can choose between two main approaches:

  • Expanding diagonally
  • Learn to play the five positions of the pentatonic scale (these will be discussed in volume 3)

Expanding Diagonally

Expanding diagonally is a good approach to end your restriction to the first position. Take a look at the diagram below. It shows you how to travel diagonally from the third fret on the sixth string to the twelfth fret on the first string. Take a closer look at the notes on the fifth and seventh fret and see how it overlaps the first position of the pentatonic scale.


Check out the slides we use to attach the fifth fret, fifth string to the seventh fret on the same string. We slide from the seventh fret to the ninth fret on the third string as well. These are the same notes but played at an octave higher. I have proposed which fingers to use for which notes with the circled numbers you see below the tab. Now this is the standard shape to move diagonally across the neck. Of course there are several of these diagonally shaped routes across the neck. Nevertheless, it is important to stick to this one at first, because you can always learn others afterwards.

How To Apply This Into Your Blues Solos

Of course we want to be able to use this approach in a musical way. So don’t proceed to the following information if you have not yet learned all the fingerings.

It is crucial to be able to use scales. After learning a new scale or a new spot on the neck, we want to make music with it and be original in using it. It is very beneficial, however, many beginner or mid-level guitarists ignore to do this. So what do we do now?

There are a few possibilities, but the most efficient is to get to know a few licks and then start trying to do your own thing with them. Let’s begin with a basic lick just as you can see in the tablature underneath. We start off with applying the diagonal shape in the first measure and then move to the first position to finish the lick with a double stop.


If you have got this lick down, attempt to approach the lick in different ways. Play it backwards for example. Maybe even leave out some notes or include some other notes from the diagonal or first position. This way you will not only train your fingers, but also become more innovative with scales as you will not always rely on the same licks you have learned by heart.

Use These Licks When Playing along With A Backing Track Or Friends

You should play these licks while playing to a blues backing track or when you are jamming it out with some buddies. This kind of musical utilization is quite an extensive topic. However, you should realize how crucial it is to play along with blues backing tracks if you want to keep improving your soloing skills. It’s really easy to find them, just surf to Youtube and enter “blues backing track”.

It is also very important that the examples in this article are in the key of A, so we were only talking about notes of the A minor pentatonic scale. This means you can only apply these notes while playing along to backing tracks in A minor. Practically all the videos include in the title which key they are in.

Licks Applying The Entire Diagonal Shape

We often use only a part of the diagonal shape in our licks. We end our lick in that position or we begin the lick there. In the initial stages of learning to improvise, we frequently restrict ourselves to the first position of the minor pentatonic scale. For the Am pentatonic, that position starts at the fifth fret on the sixth string. In this article we have talked about how to escape from this first position.

You can also play licks that go all the way through the diagonal scale shape. These licks, however, are a bit more difficult and you should have a bit more advanced technique to perform them. I have included this type of lick to make it more clear to you. It begins at the twelfth fret of the first string and goes to the fifth fret on the sixth string. The diagonally formed position crosses the fretboard from the third fret of the sixth string twelfth fret to the twelfth fret of the first string.


In case you want to improve your guitar technique so you can start practicing licks like this I would recommend you to download my free guide on the best blues guitar picking exercises .

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@pauljones   4 years ago
I've seen a lot of beginner and intermediate guitarists playing their solos in just one position. This limits the amount of notes they can reach when soloing. Just as you said, expanding diagonally allows you to reach higher notes. Learning the positions of the pentatonic scale will also help beginner guitarists to get familiarized with the notes and shapes on the fretboard. Very good lesson!
@fl3k   4 years ago
As is Paul Jones' comment, I'm one of these guitarists who ends playing only over a part of the fretboard. This will be great to change this and expand my abilities. ;) I will follow your lessons from now on.

Thanks for this approach and please continue writting these lessons.