It is inevitable that as guitar players, we can often fall into the classic rock / blues trap. This music is great to listen to, play and jam out with other musicians, but after a while, it is easy to get stuck and end up playing only this style and become typecast as ‘the pentatonic guy’. For creativity’s sake, and in the name of personal development, it is sometimes important to get out of your comfort zone, and push your boundaries. Even when it comes to rock and blues guitar.
This can be achieved in a number of ways, the best being to jump in with different musicians and play genres of music different to what you would normally listen to. This is wonderful for making a player think about ways in which to contribute to a band in the best way, instead of just playing simple solos and relying on only knowing the key of each tune and the relevant major and minor pentatonic licks.
Failing this, it can also be good to stick with your rock / blues band, but force yourself to pull off a couple of solos in a different scale. Exploring different scale lines over familiar chord progressions and styles is a great way to break out of a box. Artists like Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses for example were famous for using mixtures of the pentatonic scale and the dorian mode while soloing, and the extra notes mean that there is a whole host of new ways to create harmonies, musical dissonance, tension and resolution.
Effects pedals are the other way to help spark a little creativity in playing. Famous solos like Tom Morello’s work on Killing in the Name came about from experimentation with the DigiTech Whammy pitch shift pedal, and a number of artists have used ring modulation to create weirder tones which can really bring out some cool solo and rhythm ideas. Phase and flange are examples of some classic pedals which can be used to make even pentatonic soloing sound that little bit more interesting.
Breaking out of the box is not only good for you, but helps to keep things fresh in a band situation, as well as opening the door on a vast horizon of creativity in which you can experiment and find some great new techniques, tones and concepts.