Blues Guitar Solos – Using Chromatic Movement

Here’s a blues guitar solo tip that will help you spice up your blues guitar solos with licks that use notes from the chromatic scale.

Beginner and intermediate blues guitar learners often fall into the trap of simply playing up and down the pentatonic scales. Pentatonic scales are a great place to start, but your solos can soon feel stale if you are constantly walking up and down those same five notes.

Chromatic notes offer an easy way to start extending your five note vocabulary, breath some new life into your solos and get you moving around the fretboard in new ways.

Chromatic Notes to the Rescue

The chromatic scale is the scale you get when you walk one fret at a time along a guitar string for a distance of twelve frets. This scale contains all the notes available in western music, A through G plus all the flats and sharps in between. The distance of twelve frets, and twelve notes, corresponds to one octave.

You can use the notes of the chromatic scale to fill in your pentatonic scale boxes and give yourself a whole load of extra note options.

Put the Chromatic Scale Into Action

To put this scale into action start with the first pentatonic scale box. The one that starts with the root note on the sixth string. Normally you use the pentatonic notes separated by one or two frets on each string.

To use the chromatic notes simply view the pentatonic box as a set of notes four frets wide across all the strings. You can use any of the notes in that box, but note that the chromatic notes should be used only as stepping stones from one pentatonic note to another. Don’t rest on the in in between notes as they will mostly sound off key.

You can mix the chromatic notes into your licks by using them to walk fret by fret from one pentatonic note to another.

Don’t do this for every note change, moderation is the key, but mix in these one fret walking patterns into your phrases every now and then. Remember, don’t end your licks on the chromatic notes, simply pass through them to finish on a scale tone and things will sound fine.

Once you’re comfortable walking one fret at a time within the scale box you can extend this idea outside of the box. For example, start a phrase by walking up to the root note on the first string from three or four frets below.

Once you get the hang of it you’ll find this technique gives you nice dramatic effects you can use to emphasize parts of your solo. A great way to lead into a solo or a new chorus is with a long walk up the fretboard a half step at a time. Try it, it sounds great.