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I am starting to play and improvise in the minor scale, and I 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 the minor scale? Which flavor of the minor scale are they using (natural, melodic, harmonic)?

Update:
I asked the question in this form because I thought it was more generically useful, but some of the answers aren't quite getting at the question because they're assuming I'm a beginner. I'm a teacher, not a beginner, and I find that my students learn scales, theory, and improvisation much better if they learn it in the context of a song they know. I was looking for some new examples to change up my teaching a little.

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5 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I believe an excellent song for soloing in the full minor key is Black Magic Woman by Santana. It has solo parts that you can learn, but is also a generally welcoming song to improvise on top of.

I'd also consider Dream On by Aerosmith. With some simple fills and more tricky short solos, it has something for guitarists of many skill levels.

While not entirely in a minor key, there are some excellent minor-key soloing licks to be found in Hotel California by The Eagles.

A lesser-known song that has some great minor solos in it is the studio release of Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) by Jimi Hendrix (look for it on the recently released First Rays of the New Rising Sun album, also on Voodoo Child - The Jimi Hendrix Experience).

All of these tunes use the natural minor key; while I am not a music theory expert, it sounds to me like Hotel California employs all three minor flavors... it's in Bm but features a sharp 6th and 7th in its progression.

Good luck!

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Great answer. Thanks. –  yossarian Jan 24 '11 at 17:14
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Seriously? Most songs either use major or minor and they are effectively the same scale. Just about any blues will be based on the minor pentatonic which is a subset of the aeolian mode. Most classical pieces in minor will be based on the harmonic minor and baroque pieces tend to be based on the melodic minor.

Most rock songs are based on blues and hence use the minor pentatonic but also incorporate the major pentatonic(blues does to in a sense as it does add it's own notes).

Stairway to heaven has a nice solo in A minor that isn't too difficult and almost comes strange from the pattern.

Learn your scales if you want to practice them. Simply learn to solo with them by making up your own(that way you are using more of your ear than your memory). Of course learn your favorite solo's too(at least some parts).

I think it would serve you better to ask what you are trying to learn and what you want to accomplish(short term). There are millions of songs and almost all are based around 12 notes... can't be too complex can it? ;)

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Yes, seriously. Minor and Major are not effectively the same scale. While there is a relative minor with the same notes, C major and C minor do not sound the same at all. Also, see the update to my question. I'm actually a teacher and was looking for some suggestions for students. I phrased it the way I did because I thought it would be more generally useful for the site. Probably not the best idea in hindsight. –  yossarian Jan 24 '11 at 14:20
    
C major and A minor ARE THE SAME SCALES(effectively, in minor we actually modify the scale to make it more like major and end up with the melodic minor scale). If you are teaching the parallel concept... e.g., C major vs C minor, then it is good in some regards but bad in others. The reason is that it can be too difficult for some to learn to play in those scales. They learn there patterns for major and minor when in fact they can learn half the information by realizing that C minor is the same scale as Eb major. –  Anonymous Jan 24 '11 at 23:22
    
It also helps with improvising because they don't have twice as much information to wade through. If you teach someone(and show them) that A minor and C major have the same notes... and in reality all the modes are just the same notes from a set of notes, then they can start playing immediately regardless if they understand it or not. I can force someone to play in dorian regardless if they know it or not as long as they know how to play in some mode of dorian(e.g., C ionian). Of course they may be emphasizing all the wrong notes(such as E and G rather than D and F). –  Anonymous Jan 24 '11 at 23:27
    
Of course the bad thing is that they may end up actually believing that it's the same notes and never truly learn to express the mode(for example as a solo line). In any case C major and A minor are effectively the same scale. They are relative's of each other. If you know how to play in C major your 90% of the way of playing in Aminor(and hence Cminor and every other minor if it's on guitar since the patterns are movable). ( –  Anonymous Jan 24 '11 at 23:29
    
Right. I'm not talking about how to fret the scale though, I'm talking about songs that are in the key of A minor (or any other key). Whether or not they think about a scale as strictly A minor or the relative minor of C major doesn't change the fact that a piece is in A minor and not C major. Which is why I said they're different. While the major and minor key are related and some major keys use the same notes as a minor key, C Major is different from C Minor and I'm looking for songs with a minor sound. And that's not getting in to harmonic or melodic minor. –  yossarian Jan 25 '11 at 20:33
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I'm not sure how "modern" he is, but Robin Trower used a Minor Pentatonic scale for a majority of his early recordings: "Caledonia"

Deep Purple: "Highway Star" both guitar and keyboard solos

Albert Collins: He used a Minor Key tuning so learning his solos will give you great insight into using Minor Pentatonic in a Blues setting

Jeff Beck: Cause We Ended As Lovers - which is dedicated to Roy (Buchanan), who was also a master soloist in Minor Keys

I know that these are old school: Enjoy!!

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  1. Guns N Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" guitar solo is in E harmonic minor.
  2. Van Morrison's "Moondance" is in A Dorian.
  3. Carlos Santana uses A minor and A harmonic minor in the song "Smooth".
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"Mood For A Day" is an acoustic solo guitar piece by Steve Howe on the Yes album Fragile. It is in B (harmonic) minor. It requires finger-style picking. This piece was my segue to Segovia; it is what I auditioned for my classical guitar teacher, although my performance was not as fluid as the original.

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