This is a song (

) i like from my country. I like the touch of that lead player. This song is in F major. How do I learn to play like that? Do I need to know the F major scale on the neck to pick notes to play? Does he end up on the root note of the next chord on the song after a small lead part?

  • yes you need to know the F major scale, he's just picking notes from it. on guitar it's easy to move between scales as the patterns remain the same. look for "backing track in F major" on youtube after you know the scale and try to solo over it. after awhile you'll get more experience to what sounds good.
    – user34288
    May 28 '18 at 14:29

It is helpful to know scales, but that won't be enough to get you playing like this. The guitarist here is playing mostly notes from the F major scale, but he is "playing the changes", meaning that what he is playing goes with the chords he is playing against.

By all means, learn your scales, but you need to be able to connect them with the actual chords you are playing over. If you have a good understanding of chords and where they lie on the neck, you can play chord tones and neighbor tones all day long without ever thinking about a scale. Instead of stopping at learning scales and noodling, you should learn about chords. Learn what notes are in different chords, and learn how to play these in different places on the neck.

The player in the video is landing a lot of his phrases on the root, third, or fifth of the underlying chord. A good place to start would be to learn the triads (Major, Minor, Augmented, and Diminished) and how to play them all over the neck. You can make phrases from the notes of the triads, and play lines over the chords this way. Then gradually add in 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc. Another good thing to do would be to learn how to play phrases from this song, and then to see how each phrase fits with the chord that it is played over; figure out what notes from the chord are being used, and try to understand how the phrases are connected.

He is also playing lots of double-stops and chord fragments. Several times he plays descending chromatic double-stops on the C7 using the root and 3rd (C and E) and going down to the 7th and 9th (B♭ and D).

Watch out for the F7 that sneaks in a few times; this chord precedes a B♭, which is still in the key of F major, but the F7 chord itself is not; if you were playing only notes from the F major scale you might play an E here instead of an E♭, clashing with the chord. This is why you always need to pay attention to the harmony. You could use a B♭ major scale here, but better to just be aware of the F7 and play notes that go with an F7 chord.

As far as learning how to find chord fragments and shapes on the neck, this just takes a lot of practice and effort. You are also going to need just enough theory to be able to name chords and figure out what notes are in a chord. I am not really an advocate for the CAGED system, but it does seem to help some people to see how chords and scales relate on the neck. I have never used CAGED in a systematic way myself, but I have spent lots of time transcribing phrases and figuring out how they fit with chords; this is work that will pay off in the long run.

A Little Bit Extra

You mentioned in the comments that you might be able to learn to play some licks and phrases from the song, but that you then might have a hard time using these phrases in other tunes, and you wondered if poor knowledge of music theory might be a culprit. You can't know too much theory, but don't let a lack of music theory knowledge stand in your way; learn what you can, as you need it. A little bit of music theory will go a long way.

F $D 10 $G 7 9 10 $B 8 10 11 13 10 10 13 11 10 | Gm 11 11 8 11 10 8 $G 10 9 7 | C7 $B 11 8 8 11 10 8 | F 8/10 10 ||

This is the line that begins the guitar solo, and you could think of it as four phrases. Note that the chord blocks are only included to indicate what chords the phrases are played against. The jTab rendering has included the chords in the tablature below, but those aren't part of the guitar line. I don't know what I would do if jTab weren't awkward....

The first phrase is played over the first F chord; it starts on the 5th of the chord (C) and goes up the F major scale to the next C, then turns around to land on the 3rd of the chord (A).

The second phrase begins during the F chord and ends during the Gm chord, connecting the two. This phrase starts on the 3rd of the F chord (A), leaps up to the 5th (C) again, follows the F major scale back down to the 3rd of the chord, finally landing on the 3rd of the Gm chord (B♭) when the chord changes.

The third phrase begins during the Gm chord and ends during the C7 chord, again connecting two chords. This phrase starts on the root of the Gm chord, leaps up to the 3rd of the chord (B♭), follows the F major scale back down to the 5th of the chord (D), leaps back up to land on the 7th of the C7 chord (B♭) when the chord changes, finally landing on the 5th of the C7 chord (G).

The fourth phrase begins during the C7 chord and ends during the F chord, once again connecting two chords. This phrase starts on the 5th of the C7 chord (G), leaps up to the 7th of the chord (B♭), follows the F major scale back down to the 5th again (G), finally landing on the 3rd of the F chord (A) when the chord changes.

Notice how the phrases are starting and ending on the roots, 3rds, and 5ths of chords. You could take this idea and make up your own phrases that walk up or down a major scale from one chord tone to another, then leap by a third in the opposite direction. Or try making up phrases that walk up or down a major scale from one chord tone to another, then move by a whole-step or half-step to a chord tone from the next chord.

You can cement this knowledge by practicing the phrases that you transcribed from the song, or the phrases that you made up, in every key. Instead of just practicing them in C, C♯, D, etc., try practicing them around the Circle of Fifths, e.g. in C, F, B♭, E♭, etc. Eventually you will get the sound of this type of idea in your head, and it will just come out when you need it; then you can start thinking about some other sounds that you want to get into your playing.

You don't really need a deep knowledge of theory to do this. You need to know how to identify chord tones, and you might want to know about the Circle of Fifths. You probably need to know the notes on the fretboard very well; if you don't already, practicing phrases in every key will lead to your knowing the notes on the fretboard very well.

  • Great answer +1. Would 'As well as' be a better start to your2nd. para., instead of 'Instead of'? I can't find those Fmaj9 bits. Where are they?
    – Tim
    May 29 '18 at 5:45
  • 1
    Thanks, @Tim -- I didn't mean to entirely devalue scales, just to emphasize using chord tones to construct lines like these; I have edited to attempt clarification. Those FMaj9 bits are punctuations at 4:11 and 7:06, but after another listen it sounds like the chord changes to a C7 there, so it is really a C triad bit instead. The punctuated bit comes right after an F chord, and is a little louder than the accompaniment, so he fooled me ;) I removed the comment about FMaj9 from my answer.
    – ex nihilo
    May 29 '18 at 9:10
  • wow what an analysis. thanks so much for the answer! as you said what im gonna do is learn the phrases he is playing and analyse that against chord changes of the song. My problem is that i can spend sometime with my guitar and learn to play the licks (you can call them licks i guess?) he is playing, but when it comes to a different song i would have been completely lost not knowing how to play licks. Is that because my music knowledge is poor? or if i learn to phrase few songs like this will i be able to atleast do something when it comes to a new song?
    – samsamara
    Jun 1 '18 at 13:49
  • @KillBill -- it is probably less a matter of poor knowledge of music theory and more a matter of practicing what you can play in different keys. The main thing is to get certain sounds internalized so that you can play them without thinking too much. I have added to my answer to talk more about how some of the phrases in the song are constructed, and about how you might practice them.
    – ex nihilo
    Jun 2 '18 at 6:46

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