7 Essential Steps On How To Improvise On Guitar

By Monica | Guitar Techniques

Apr 17
How to Improvise On Guitar

Improvising on guitar is an essential skill for guitarists. Aside from playing and writing music, improvising will allow you to mold your techniques even further.

There are a lot of times that you can spare to practice this useful skill. When there is an idle moment, you can listen to the songs in your playlist and see which one will uplift your mood. Well, improvising is not always triggered by emotions invoked by the song. But in some aspect, some stimulation could help you.

You can also hone your improvisation skills by consistently practicing patterns, licks, and arpeggios. In fact, anything that would spice your fingers up is beneficial. After all, your growth as a musician is limitless.

As a fellow guitar enthusiast, I highly recommend that you shouldn't avoid improvising. Many guitar players seem to dislike this because it is tricky and consumes much of your time. But if you really like the instrument, then you can find improvising fulfilling and fun. I can guarantee that all those sweat you shed will pay off!

If you are struggling with this aspect, then you should continue reading. I have listed some of the essential techniques that would cultivate as a good improviser. Sooner, it will lead you to become a better and versatile guitar player.


How to Improvise On Guitar: 7 Essential Steps

How To Improvise On Guitar

1. Play Blues or Pentatonics

As a guitar player, I always make sure that I wouldn't miss my weekly regimen of pentatonic. Specifically, I have to play all the scales possible in all of their five shapes! Some of you might complain about such kind of regime. I, too, struggled to keep up with such pace. But if you do it regularly, your fingers will just get used to it.

But why do I choose the pentatonic scales? Well, the reason is simple. You should know that this type of scale is the foundation of all solos in pop, country, metal, and rock genre. Mastering it can give you an utmost advantage when improvising a song.

2. The Major Scale

After the pentatonic, the next thing that you need to deal with is the major scale. I can say that guitar legends like Hendrix and Van Halen would not have acquired their elite status if they didn't master the major scale. So if you want to enhance your skill, then you start acquainting yourself with this scale.

A guitar player should be able to play the major scale in all parts of the neck. Moreover, playing in different positions is essential. As a recommendation, you should start from the root. Honestly, it would consume your time and energy. But once again, they will be all worth your effort.

If you can play the scale in every position possible, then you should start connecting them with one another. For example, you can play in the second post then continue on the third. The combinations are pretty limitless. Therefore, you can experiment as much as you want. This is where you can enhance for improvising skills.

3. Melodic Sequences

This technical aspect will prevent you from playing monotonously. Melodic patterns will give you more possibilities in your playing style. Later on, you can play freely without minding anything. Of course, such feature is necessary for improvising.

4. Randomizing the Notes

Another way to make you a better guitar improviser is by randomizing the notes you are playing. See below as an example:

  • The major scale - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 etc.
  • The random notes - 1, 3, 6, 2, 15, 12, 13, 5, 14,etc.

There are a lot of combinations that you can choose. Therefore, you can practice as much as you want. Doing this practice will allow you to gain more familiarity over the scales. At the same time, it would make you more flexible and versatile guitar player.

Meanwhile, check out this tutorial on how to improvise a guitar solo:

5. Triads

I use triads to break the cycle of pentatonic and diatonic scales. Specifically, triads run on three-note chords. It is a simple chord combination that should not trouble anyone. But for those who don't know how to play the triads, then I will give you a brief tutorial.

Start playing the root or first note. Next, you can transition on the second note or the first inversion. Then you just have to continue on the third note or the second inversion. This chord progression is just the basic. But getting the hang of it would eventually elevate your skill as a guitar player.

Since there are different types of triads (diminished, augmented, minor, and major), learning them would really take your time. However, you just have to bear on with it. Your improvising skill would eventually progress as you keep on practicing.

6. Arpeggios

I mentioned earlier that I always play arpeggios before I improvise any song. For me, it is an essential component that you can incorporate into your playing style. Specifically, an arpeggio is just similar to a triad. They can open any song and add more variety and "color" to any piece.

In fact, a triad will appear like an arpeggio if you play it note by note. Moreover, the progression could either be descending or ascending. It actually doesn't matter. Once you master the art of arpeggios, improvising any song would be just a piece of cake!

7. Licks

I wouldn't grow as a guitar player if I did not learn licks. Technically, a lick is a brief progression of notes. The vocabulary for licks is quite extensive. Therefore, you have to learn it gradually. For me, it is a continual process that wouldn't just end. As I discover some new licks, then I immediately use it every time I improvise. It is a handy skill that I wouldn't just trade off.


Practicing how to improvise on guitar is a valuable favor that you can give to yourself. Sometimes, we would just want to avoid things that seem "hard" to us. But if we don't overcome them, our skills as guitar players would remain mediocre and dull.

For me, the best way to improvise is actually doing it. Just put your favorite track then find the parts in where you can put any modifications. This is a trial-and-error run, so you should not worry about committing mistakes. Instead, just enjoy the process and pour your soul to what you are doing.

Did you learn in this article? What are the other things you do to enhance your improvising skills? Tell us in the comment section below!


About the Author

Hi everyone! Im Monica and I am an avid lover of guitars and everything in-between. My current profession is not really music-related. It is quite discouraging but I just don't want to drop my zeal--especially not to guitars! I created GuitarTrance.Com so that I can keep up with my hobby. Of course, I want to engage with the community as well! Hope we can all get along!