Drill #52 – Single String E Minor Scale

richardsguitarstudio on June 18, 2016


OK so you’re soloing is getting stale. You are running out of ideas, and your improvisation is uninspiring. Here’s a way for you to generate new ideas, reinvigorate musical expression in your lead playing, and also serve as a cool music theory lesson – the Single String E Minor Scale.

Why a single string? Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and John Petrucci all have one thing in common – they never stay in one “box” shape for very long. They move along the string laterally, instead of only playing scales across the strings. What does this do? This creates a new perspective for expression, a more “singing” quality lead playing, an awareness of the note names in a scale as well as the intervals/distances between the notes, and a single string scale opens up the possibility to perform phrases that are simply impossible to play in a “box” scale. Here are a few tips:

  1. Learn the note names, say them out loud, and practice bending to each note in the scale. Many of you will skip this step. You will also miss a huge opportunity to improve your soloing from an amateur level to an advanced level. BUT, those of you that DO practice this step, be sure to memorize the note names and even skip around a little to test yourself. Targeting specific note names is a huge part of advanced soloing that is invisible to the eye but is incredibly important down the line. But it starts with learning the note names.
  2. Improvise using this scale in E Minor, then G Major, then A Dorian, the D Mixolydian. These are just some of the relative modes, but you’ll find some good backing tracks on YouTube if you search for them. The reason for this step is to train your ear to hear the same scale, intervals, bends, etc in different contexts, with different root notes, over different chord progressions.
  3. Be creative with techniques. Implement as many techniques as possible and be as creative as possible. LIMITING yourself to a single string E minor scale will help you build creativity because you will be forced to make a lot out of a little, and find new ways of playing the same scale.

Have fun! – Nate Richards

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