Guitar - Beginning to Improvise

Covers beginning to improvise on guitar in a blues context. Over a 12 bar blues in the key of A. Electric and acoustic.
3.9 (40 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a
course's star rating by considering a number of different factors
such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the
likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
6,248 students enrolled
Instructed by Dave Ward Music / Instruments
Start Learning Now
  • Lectures 25
  • Length 1.5 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
Wishlisted Wishlist

How taking a course works


Find online courses made by experts from around the world.


Take your courses with you and learn anywhere, anytime.


Learn and practice real-world skills and achieve your goals.

About This Course

Published 11/2014 English

Course Description

This course looks at the basics building blocks of improvisation for guitar. We will use a 12 bar blues in the key of A as the foundation for the lead guitar in this course. The course will be taught on electric guitar but the principles work for acoustic guitar as well. The course is centered around improvising over an audio backing track provided for students. Course content is video and audio. Students with a basic knowledge of Pentatonic Scales should be able to work through the exercises with some improvement in a few weeks. Beginners may take 2-4 weeks before they are familiar with the Pentatonic scales before they begin to advance to a meaningful application of the exercises. Any guitarist who has wanted to try improvisation but was reluctant to try should benefit from this course. The course begins with background information on the 12 bar blues progression and scale patterns on the guitar. The bulk of the course comprises on hands on practical exercises that will improve and encourage your improvisation and creativity on the guitar.

What are the requirements?

  • this course will require a guitar
  • an electric guitar is preferable but an acoustic will work with some modifications to the techniques discussed.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Learn to improvise over a 12 bar blues progression in A
  • learn to create musical phrases
  • learn the differences between improvisation and composition
  • distinguish between guitar licks and scale patterns and improvisation

Who is the target audience?

  • students should have a minimum of 6 months to 1 year guitar playing experience.
  • students should have an interest in blues guitar or a willingness to learn
  • ideal candidates will have knowledge of pentatonic scales and I IV V chord progressions
  • ideal candidates will be comfortable with playing the chord changes to a 12 bar blues and able to hear when the chords change
  • basic technical proficiency on the guitar will ensure you get the most out of this course. Although anybody is welcome to try.
  • you should be willing to practice at least 20 minutes a day to get the most out of this material

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction

Introduction to the course. Description of the goals of the course and prerequisites and course materials.

Section 2: Theory

A brief discussion of what improvisation is.


Learning the notes on the guitar.


A quick outline of how the structure of a 12 Bar Blues chord progression is derived from a Major Scale.


Now that we have the structure of the I IV V chords in a 12 Bar Blues in A let's look at how the chords are constructed.

3 questions

name the root, 3rd and flat 7th of A7, D7 and E7


We've learned the chords that make up the 12 bar blues and how they are constructed now we look at the chord sequence.


This lecture introduces the backing track we will be soloing over. The concept of straight 8's versus swing 8th notes is dicussed.

Section 3: Exercises

Time for your first exercise. Devote a small portion of your daily practice regime to finding the occurence of every note on the neck. Start with the root notes of the chords in the progression A,D and E and work through all the notes found in the chords and scales we discuss.


The A Minor Pentatonic scale is made up of the A C D E and G notes which are the root, flat 3rd, 4th, 5th and flat 7th of the A major scale. This lecture demonstrates the most common fingering patterns for this scale over the entire fretboard.

1 question

Name the notes of the A Minor Pentatonic Scale.

Section 4: Putting it All Together

This is an example of a first try at improvising. Try your best to work within the A Minor Pentatonic scale we have learned. If you can record this to compare against later version to judge your progress.


Singing lines out loud or in your head and then trying to play them can add a vocal quality to your musical phrases and allow for breathing room in your guitar lines.


Limiting yourself to only a few notes within the scale can force you to focus on rhythm and timing and is a great way to come up with interesting phrasing on the guitar.


Much like the last lesson we can also limit our choice of rhythm to force us out of familiar patterns and increase creativity.


The call and response in blues guitar playing uses a question and answer approach to creating musical phrases.


Resolving to particular notes within the chord or scale can really make your blues guitar stand out from the crowd.


The flat 5th is known as the blues note. When added to the Minor Pentatonic scale you get a 6 note scale called the blues scale. The blues note or flat fifth is a great chromatic passing note that works especially well over the turnaround in a 12 bar blues.


Emphasizing chord tones is a great way to outline the chord progression and add another dimension to your blues guitar playing.


Another example of emphasizing chord tones in your phrases.


Too much repetition can be boring but just the right amount can add excitement to your guitar playing.


You don't want to always play loud and fast mixing up the dynamics in your improvisation is a great tool to keep listeners guessing and add tension.

Section 5: Mixing Pentatonic Scales

The 12 Bar Blues using dominant 7th chords allows us the option to use not only the minor pentatonic scale but the major as well. In this lecture we get introduced to the Major Pentatonic Scale.


The major and minor pentatonic scale can be mixed and matched over the dominant 7th blues progression.


No one likes a show off but a little flash in your playing can spice things up nicely. The symmetrical pattern created by mixing the major and minor pentatonic scale allows for a lot of flash with a little effort.


Playing the same phrase in a different position on the guitar neck can help you learn the fretboard and broaden your creativity at the same time.

Section 6: Final Improvisation

Hopefully you have practiced some of the concepts in this course and applied them to your own improvisations. Now record a final improvisation yourself using the concepts you have learned. Here is my example.

Students Who Viewed This Course Also Viewed

  • Loading
  • Loading
  • Loading

Instructor Biography

Dave Ward, Guitar Instructor

Guitarist and musican with over 20 years experience playing and teaching guitar. I've been teaching guitar online since 2006. I've recorded music for use in apps, soundtracks and recordings. I run a guitar blog and am currently designing a new guitar teaching website 'Get into Guitar'. My expertise is in blues and rock guitar but I've dabbled in genres from Country and Celtic to Jazz, Funk and African. My YouTube channel 'VideoGuitarLessons' has exceeded 2 million views and counting .

Ready to start learning?
Start Learning Now