If you are an experienced player and know music theory, please ignore this wall of text (or point out mistakes). Otherwise, the following might be what you are looking for:And now for an easy substitution once you get the blue note down. Take our Dorian shape, and make the 4th note sharp (raise it a half step). What we are doing here is replacing the 5th note in the Major scale with the Blue note. Our result: a Harmonic Minor scale:
So you have been playing Rocksmith for a bit: learned some chords, songs, riffs and techniques. Where do you go from here?
If you want to get into writing music, improvising solos and widening your experiences, here is an easy way to start.
Scales: why learn them? You may note that some chords in a song just seem to go together. You may have tried to put some random or convenient chords together yourself, and been able to hear which chords work together and which ones don't. The ones that work together are often comprised of notes in the same scale and key. When you learn the scales and how they fit together, writing songs that make musical sense becomes an easy task, as does improvising guitar solos.
Is it easy? With a little dedication, yes. It is certainly a lot easier than spending years trying to "find" the right notes to play at the right times. Some guitar players will just learn one scale (usually Dorian). The seven modes whose frightening names you might hear thrown about by guitar players can all be played in one pattern. The determining factor is which note you consider to be the root note. Don't be intimidated by the likes of Major, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian and Locrian. They are all the same collection of notes, but starting and ending at different points.
Now the question is, why learn several patterns for playing the same collection of notes? If you want to be able to traverse the entire fingerboard while playing solos, horizontally, vertically and diagonally, you will want to learn all of the patterns and how they fit together. Imagine jamming to a song, and being able to find the right notes to play ANYWHERE on the guitar...that is a good feeling. 15 minutes a day for a couple of weeks and you will be well on your way. Have you ever seen a guy play a guitar solo and keep his hand on the same part of the neck the whole time? Not very dynamic, is it...
Since a standard tuned guitar is set to G (every open string is in the G Major scale), it is easy to start with learning the scales in G Major. Any other key will just be a matter of sliding to a different starting position. With learning the following scales, you can write songs in (to jam to songs in) G Major, A minor, and often times E minor, like Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower. It is easy to play through them in time to a song in the same key.
Or, throw together a loop of 3 or 4 chords from the scale and play in time. You can use any of these chords in any order and it will work:
G Maj(7), Am(7), Bm(7), C Maj(7), D Maj, Em(7). The (7) means that the 7th chord is optional and will work as well. Again, why do these chords all work together and sound right when played together? Because they are comprised of notes from the same scale.
Play the scales up and down at a speed in which you can hit each note cleanly such that no other note or string is ringing.
(just like Rocksmiths ScaleRunner):
thinnest string on top, thickest string on bottom. These are 5 vertical mode patterns:
E|-2-3--5- E|---5-7-8 E|-7-8--10 E|--10---12--- E|---12---14-15
B|---3--5- B|---5-7-8 B|-7-8--10 B|--10---12-13 B|---12-13---15
G|-2--4-5- G|-4-5-7-- G|-7--9--- G|9---11-12--- G|11-12---14---
D|-2--4-5- D|-4-5-7-- D|-7--9-10 D|9-10---12--- D|---12---14---
A|-2-3--5- A|---5-7-- A|-7--9-10 A|9-10---12--- A|---12---14-15
E|-2-3--5- E|---5-7-8 E|-7-8--10 E|--10---12--- E|---12---14-15 and then to an octave of the first pattern
Many guitarists think of each mode as having an "anchor" fret, sort of like a home base for playing vertical patterns. Find the anchor fret the is the most economical for your comfort for each pattern. For example, the most commonly learned pattern is the second one, or Dorian. Many will consider the 5th fret as their anchor, making for economical movements for each set of notes on the same string, and only one fret shift of the anchor for the middle two strings (4-5-7 on the D and G strings).
Why only 5 patterns for 7 modes of the same scale? Again, these are all the same collection of notes, so the mode you are playing depends on which note you start on. If you care, starting on the first note of the first pattern is the Locrian mode. Starting on the second note of the first pattern is the Ionian (Major) mode. (Think Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do). Starting on the first note of the second pattern is the famous Dorian mode, etc. Some of you may have learned this pattern as a sequence of whole steps (up 2 frets) and half steps (up one fret). Just to show you that all those modes are from the same set of notes, consider this:
If we denote a whole step as "W" and a half-step as "H", the Major scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do) can be expressed as:
The "1st" note is "Do", or the root of the Major scale, and the last "H" ends on the octave of "Do". So if you were to extend the scale into multiple octaves, remember that the last "H" (the last half step), takes you back to the first note. So we have:
If you want a Dorian mode, start on the "Re". Re-W-H-W-W-W-H-W.
If you want a Phrygian, start on the "Mi". Mi-H-W-W-W-H-W-W.
If you want a Lydian, start on the "Fa": Fa-W-W-W-H-W-W-H.
Mixolydian starts on the "So". So-W-W-H-W-W-H-W.
Aeolian starts on the "La". La-W-H-W-W-H-W-W.
Locrain starts on the "Ti". Ti-H-W-W-H-W-W-W.
And Back to the octave of the Major (Ionian) Starting on "Do". Do-W-W-H-W-W-W-H.
(The Major modes are in RED).
After you get the patterns down, mix things up to keep those scales interesting (and bind them together):
1) play each pattern ascending, descending, and in groups of three notes at a time as you ascend and descend.
i.e., play the first three notes of a mode starting with the first note, then three more successive notes starting with the second note...
E|-2-3-5--3-5---5--------------------all the way to the last note in the mode. Repeat for each pattern.
2) play the scales horizontally on each string, one string at a time, to bind each pattern together:
3) For each string, play the scale horizontally one string at a time, alternating between the open string and the next two successive notes in the scale:
E|-0-2-3-0-3-5-0-5-7-0-7-8-0-8-10-0-10-12-0-12-14-0-14-15 and back on down to the start
4) Speed pick the notes in the scale horizontally (on one string) and vertically (in a mode pattern)
5) Run up and down vertical mode patterns with hammer-ons and pull-offs
6) For each third note in the scale's vertical pattern, bend up to it from the second note as opposed to fretting it.
7) Run through the horizontal scales by finger-tapping.
I hope this gives you a good foundation to start on. Let me know if you want to see more and I can introduce the blue note (for you blues fans), the harmonic minor scales (for you neo-classical fans) and how they fit together.
Now, on to the blue note. Attempt a brief experiment: Play a G Major chord, then immediately play a single note on the 5th string (A string), 6th fret. That note is a D#. Hopefully you can hear that the D# has NO BUISNESS being played with a G Major chord. It soulds bloody awful. That dissonance is called "the blue note". It is what makes the blues sound like angst. It is not to be triffled with. Think of it as ripping off a band-aid - a moment of pain, followed by relief.
Here's what our Dorian shape looks like when we add the Blue note:
The Blue note (seen in blue text) is often used as a transitional note. You get a brief sense that something is wrong when the note is played, because it clashes horribly with the other notes in the scale (or chords behind it). But dramatics are completed when you resolve the dissonance by leaving the blue note and returning to one that does make sense. Make sense? A lot of great blues riffs employ this sharp little gem. Try this one in E min:
h denotes a hammer-on, / denotes a slide up
As simple as that is, the cool sound comes from the blue note, the B flat (A string, 1st fret) and its resolution when it slides up to the B, thus completing the little phrase that marks our E chord.
If you are trying to find the blue note in any Dorian shape, just add a note between the 4th and 5th notes in the scale. When improvising a solo or melody, be careful how long you stay on that note. A little pain can be good, but too much dissonance can be uncomfortable. The general rule is, don't start a phrase on the blue note and don't end on the blue note. I have only heard that done once (by Joe Satriani, who actually got away with it sounding really cool).
Harmonic Minors sound great - depending on your phrasing, they can sound neo-classical, Arabic, Celtic, Indian or baroque. Since we eliminated our old 4th note in the Dorian to make way for a more exotic one, our chords that can be pulled out of the Harmonic Minor are more exotic. For the scale I have above, experiment with playing melodies over the following chords: Am(7), B Maj, C Maj (7), #D dim (7), Em, #F dim (7), G aug. The (7) denotes that you can play the 7th version of the chord as well.
Here is a horizontal harmonic minor scale, with the finger above each note (1-index finger, 2-middle finger, 3-ring finger, 4-pinky) on the high E string:
If I am playing a horizontal scale in groups, say tirads, I will use my index finger to anchor each group of 3 notes:
BTW, for something fun, try this horizontal harmonic minor scale with finger tapping. Here is a classic harmonic minor tapping riff:
Now it is time to put those easy patterns to work:
Some guitar players hit a brick wall when it comes to improvising. Not so much in the "Jazz Odyssey" sense, but whipping out a guitar solo on the fly while a friend plays the rhythm part to Johnny B Goode. Here are a couple of exercises that can help you release your inner guitar solo: This is not a set of instructions on HOW to improvise, but rather a set of exercises that help in learning how to improvise.
1) Play the horizontal scales over a ringing open note. Hit the low E string and let it ring. While the string is ringing, play a horizontal scale on another string (like the D string). Switch up the timing on the notes - slide up to some, fret up to others, and even bend to the next note in the scale.
E|-0=================================== let ring
Try this with different open strings that ring, and other horizontal scales on other strings. Again, play with the timing of your notes, and allow yourself to expressively move up and down the neck by means of sliding, bending and fretting to the next note in the scale.
2) Pick a group of three chords from this set: G Maj(7), Am(7), Bm(7), C Maj(7), D Maj, Em(7). The (7) means that the 7th chord is optional and will work as well. Play those three chords a couple of times until you get the sequence locked in your head. (Or, have a friend play them / record and loop them on your computer). Now, to time, pick a vertical mode and play the notes in the scale to the time of the rhythm part. You may find that some notes sound "right" when they land on certain chords.
After running through the scale a few times, start to switch up the durration that you stay on a note before moving to the next. Go to some notes quicker, hang on the ones that sound better over the chord. Then start to expressivly go from one note in the scale to the next by either sliding to it, bending to it or fretting it directly. Pick some notes, hammer on and pull off to others.
3) Once you are comfortable with exercises 1) and 2), it is time to start thinking about phrasing. For your three chord sequence, the first chord usually establishes the root note (or central tone that we will consider our "home base"). If your chords are, in order, Am -> D Maj -> C Maj, then A is our root. The mode shape that will likely be the most comfortable to start would be the Dorian, since it has the root (A) as the first note in the mode.
Once the root is established, consider the following: (this will sound strange, but it is a FANTASTIC exercise for improvising)
Think of a literal sentence in your head. It can be any sentence, long or short. Now play the sentence through notes in the mode...use the cadence in which you would vocalize the sentence in time to the rhythm. You may notice that some phrases sound more natural than others. Try phrases that start with the root note - try others that end on the root note. Get a feel for which phrases sound natural.
Switch up how you move from one note to the next (fret, slide, bend, hammer/pull-off). Make some phrases end with a question mark (upwards bend), some end with an ex****ation mark (agressively played notes). Experiment with timing, agressiveness and subtlety.
Every once in a while, you might play a phrase that sounds really cool. Immediately repeat it. Then repeat it again. Then again, but slightly change something. Some repetition, and then variations on that theme are a great phrasing technique.
Expand your phrases to all of the mode shapes to cover the entire fretboard. Make some phrases strictly horizontal ones (on one string). Make others strictly vertical (in one vertical mode), and others diagonal (movement horizontally and vertically at the same time).
Experiment and have fun. Let your skills and comfort develop naturally over time. Try not to play too fast - play the notes at a speed in which you can play them cleanly. Speed will come with time. Most of all, be aware that guitar skills are built in a stair-step fashion: you will notice a little jump in skills, then you will plane out for a while before the next jump.