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Guitar Soloing on a Single String

Updated on December 21, 2018
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Music School Owner, Recording Artist, Guitarist, Composer, Performer & Educator. My goal is to make good music, make and keep good friends.

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Learn a Scale Immediately

Learning to play a scale on a single string is the most visual way of seeing the interval makeup of a scale plus it is an effective way to improvise.

For example take the intervals of a Dorian minor scale:


If you wanted to play in A Dorian minor on the E string you would start at the 5th fret and play

5-7-8-10-12-14-15-17 (A B C D E F# G A)

This is a one octave scale. If you want to keep going higher repeat the interval pattern. If you go lower play the pattern in reverse:


This is useful on the B string since the A is at the 10th fret.

That would be:

10-8-7-5-3-1-0 descending and 10-12-13-15-17-19-20 ascending

The starting note A on all of the strings:

  • E-5th
  • B-10th
  • G-2nd
  • D-7th
  • A-open
  • E-5th

Improvise Right Away

Start with the basic idea of different rhythms and pauses on one or two notes and work your way up and down the neck.

Apply these techniques

  • slides
  • intervals
  • hammer-on (HO)
  • pull-off (PO)
  • HO PO combinations
  • trills
  • sequential patterns
  • bends
  • vibrato
  • tapping
  • octaves


Sliding from one note to the next is a natural sound on fretted instruments. Not only should you slide from adjacent scale tones (2nd intervals) but also practice skipping notes. See intervals.


Sliding, Hammer-On, Pull-Off, Bending and just going there are ways to get from note to note. Regardless, going from one note to another is some kind of interval.

  • 2nd - adjacent fret
  • 3rd - skip 1 fret
  • 4th - skip 2 frets
  • 5th - skip 3 frets
  • 6th - skip 4 frets
  • 7th - skip 5 frets
  • 8th - skip 6 frets (octave)


Hammer-on or pull-off to adjacent notes as you move horizonatally across the finger board. Also try skipping a note (3rds) or, if you can reach skip 2 notes (4ths).

Try combinations like a hammer-on then pull-off in one pick. (5 hammer to 7 pull to 5)

A trill is when you hammer/pull many times in a row.

Sequential Patterns

Playing notes in groups, for example 3 in a row, then moving horizontally is very easy when jamming on one string.

Frets 5 - 7 - 8, followed by 7 - 8 - 10 then 8 -10 - 12 etc.


Fret 5-7 slide to 8, then 7-8 slide to 10 etc


Fret 12-10-8, followed by 10-8-7, 8-7-5 etc

Adding in hammer ons, pull offs slides and vibrato as well as rhythmic variations makes this an easy way to sound good.


Playing on one string you can see whether you have to bend a whole step or 1/2 step to get the right pitch.

If you are on fret 5 and the next note is fret 7 then you bend a whole step.

If you are on fret 7 and the next note is fret 8, then you bend a 1/2 step.

© 2013 Mark Edward Fitchett


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