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I am starting to play / improvise in the major scale and would like to learn some guitar solos that are good examples of this scale so that I see how other people use it. What are some famous solos in contemporary or classic rock that make use of this scale?

Update: I asked the question in this form because I thought it was more genericly useful, but some of the answers aren't quite getting at the question because they're assuming I'm a begininer (which is how I phrased the question) and giving other advise. I'm a teacher, and I find that my students learn scales, theory, and improvisation much better if they learn it in the context of a song they might know. I was looking for some new examples to change up my teaching a little.

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I think it's a great idea to teach scales by including real music, like a solo, along with the regular playing of scale patterns on their own. – NReilingh Nov 4 '12 at 18:04
I kinda went the other way, going through the major scale, first up and down so my fingers knew where to go, then skipping notes and such until I started recognizing things. "Oh, that's 'God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen'", and such. – Dave Jacoby Nov 6 '12 at 14:51
Brian May from Queen used the major scale notes in lots of his solos. – Tim Apr 16 '13 at 7:49
Even though it's not rock (and that's why I comment instead of answering), moto perpetuo By Paganini (the violin part obviously) is a great exercice to learn the C scale and even to learn to sight read because of its very few alterations. – Chipsgoumerde Apr 16 '13 at 8:55
Check out: Lou reed, sweet jane; – Roland Bouman Mar 25 '14 at 10:02

Sweet Child Of Mine always struck me as a decent solo that stays mostly in the major scale.

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To me, you don't learn solos to learn scales, you learn scale patterns. While it's possible to learn scales from solos you'll never quite be able to understand them and it can take an awful long time (maybe for a few intelligent people it will work but for most it won't). If you want to learn scales learn scales, not solos, chords, etc... If you wanna learn to solo learn solos, etc...

If you want to teach improvisation you can have them learn specific solos so they can use them to get used to working the changes/playing in time/etc but if they ultimately want to be free to do their own thing they have to do it all. You shouldn't assign solos based on which scales they use but the complexity. Music isn't about scales and even if you knew the major scale perfectly doesn't mean your solos will sound any good.

If I were the "teacher" I would assign "solos" based on complexity, style, and specific issues it may solve for the student(if they student has issues with position changing I might try and find a solo for him that would help with it). I would also have the student work on scale patterns along side of everything else.

A student should be working on many things a little bit at a time and not one thing only. Scales, songs, chords, arps, solos, improvising, techniques, theory, etc... All these need to progress about the same although some are more important than others. This is assuming the student wants to do more than just play his favorite song.

Heres a list of the order of things that should be focused on by a beginner:

  • Basic Chords (standard open position chords),
  • Basic Scale pattern fragment(very simple 2 or 3 line box pattern),
  • Simple fun songs for chord practice and maybe even a little simple soloing,
  • Basic Theory (very basic as not to overwhelm the student),
  • Possible sight reading
  • Very simple techniques.

The lower stuff should be introduced subtly and without any requirement. Like if your teaching a pull-off you would do it very quickly but just mention a word about it when the context is right. e.g., if your teaching a simple box pattern you could say "You can pull off the note without picking if you want", etc...

Once they get more advanced you can then adapt the order for what they need. For instance if they pick up the chords very easy (which usually isn't the case but assuming) then you could focus more on scales and improvising and more complex chord forms.

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1st, This isn't an answer to the question. If you have comments, put them in the comments. 2nd, please don't use words like "ignorant" in your response, it's unnecessary and makes you sound like kind of a dick, which is, I assume not how you meant to come across. – yossarian Jan 25 '11 at 14:49
3rd, I know. Of course I don't teach something that's too complex just because it's in a scale. Of course I don't teach something out of context of all the other relevant factors. When I teach a new scale, I tend to approach it from all sides. What is the scale? Different finger positions? Chord progressions from the scale? Chord composition? Improvisations? Licks? Solos? Melodies? etc. I teach rock guitar and kids often aren't interested in learning scales or theory. I find it easiest to teach in the context of a song that they like. – yossarian Jan 25 '11 at 14:53
So I teach them a scale, then teach them a tune using that scale, show them how it works, and then get them to improvise. Kids are generally pretty apprehensive of improvising to start out and seem to get nervous again each time they get a new scale. I find giving them licks or a framework to start out with gives them confidence and understanding much faster than if they have to figure it all out on their own. – yossarian Jan 25 '11 at 14:55
I don't think there are rules to learn improvisation. There are tools that can help you to get better, yes, but rules? There are plenty of great musicians that have learnt the hard way, simply listening and playing along with records. – elias Nov 4 '12 at 19:37
I think it depends on the instrument. For guitar (which I play), yeah, it's scale patterns, and as long as you can say "This note is A, this scale pattern is a harmonic minor scale, that's where the anchor should be, so this flurry of notes is in A harmonic minor." But that scale pattern (except in the most abstract sense) is useless with the piano, and I'm sure it's all out the window with horns. – Dave Jacoby Nov 6 '12 at 14:50

I don't know if you would find many solos in Rock that is pure Major. Most would reference the Pentatonic, Lydian, or Mixolydian scales. I would say that Jessica or Melissa from Allman Brothers would be solos and licks to check out. I'm thinking Don't Stop Believing from Journey would be one to look at.

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It seems to be difficult to get a straight answer to "how do I solo in major?". I can play the blues blindfolded in my sleep, but soloing over a major progression has been troublesome, and dropping down to the actual "relative minor" position three frets down was disastrous. None of the usual "tricks" seem to work there. I tried reverting back to my modes or positions to come up with the perfect solution. It's a combination of the Lydian and Mixolydian modes, starting on the IV or the fourth note of the major scale. Be aware that the starting note isn't the root, of course, but in this position (Lydian) on the lower three strings, and then sliding up two frets and continuing in Mixolydian on the upper three strings, I found it extremely easy, using the "pentatonic mindset" that I'm accustomed to, to solo fairly effectively over major progressions. I'm sure the musical "geniuses" will have no idea what I'm talking about, but for those of us working Joes who just want to play a passable solo over major, try this out and I think you'll be pleased. Questions? Just read what I wrote again, and keep trying. There's no magic, if you're good on blues, you're halfway there, just keep plugging and you'll get it. James Taylor's Fire and Rain is the song that helped me with the breakthrough.

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Hey Mike I used to have a devil of a time on the majors and come from a blues background too so I've got to share whats worked for me as well. The myxolodians and what not was way too much memory work for me and playing guitars we think in shapes more than straight lines so I just learned all the chords in the major progression I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi and then the diminished chord which is rarely used but important for soloing. By knowing the chord shapes all the way up and down the neck I know the scales and I know how they relate to the chords played. This is the best! – user10893 Aug 10 '14 at 2:04

I once asked Jimmy Hendrix what scales he thought of when playing solo's - he then gave me the best advice I ever got : he said "I don't think of scales, I close my eyes and go for it'. However, as a start point you may find this interesting.....

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