Ask Eddie: Stuck on the Scales?

The latest question for Eddie Van Halen comes all the way from Brazil, where Pedro Nucci is looking for some advice from the great guitarist about his soloing technique.  Read what Van Halen has to say below.

Nucci: Hi Eddie! I’m a guitar player too, but I have a doubt about solos. How to not get stuck on the scales? When I listen to your solos, I notice that I rarely see you playing “up and down” the scales.  What is the best way to get out of them? Or use them in a more creative way?

Van Halen:  Hi Pedro, I will do my best to help you and answer your question but I am not a teacher so it’s an odd or somewhat difficult question for me to answer. Since I am self-taught, I really don’t know much about scales. I started out copying Eric Clapton in his Cream days, which were basically blues licks. When I started to use my pinky, on my left hand, my whole style kinda changed because it seemed to open up a whole world of notes to me.

Then of course, adding my right hand on the fingerboard opened up that world even more, but only in the aspect of how I was able to access notes. ‘Cause the bottom line is, you only have 12 notes. The 13th is the octave. So none of these techniques added any notes to my playing, again, ‘cause you only have 12 notes. What you do with those 12 notes is totally up to you. There are no rules. I think the first thing you should do or try is, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or fall on your face. My whole approach has always been (but not necessarily, consciously) “Falling down the stairs and hoping to land on my feet,” and I don’t always land on my feet. Now this might sound really stupid, but if you are stuck on scales or if you are simply doing something you don’t like, do something different. If I don’t like what I’m doing, I try something else until I’m happy with what I’m doing. I can’t tell you how to be more creative because that is such a deep personal thing and an extension of who you are. That’s why no two seasoned players ever sound alike. Everyone is an individual. And music is such a beautiful and wonderful way to express yourself, that the best advice I can give you is, try to not think so much and let go! Try “falling down the stairs.” Even if you don’t land on your feet, something interesting is bound to happen. And the more you do it, the more likely you are to land on your feet. Whatever that means to you! I hope this helps you get out of your “scales mode” Pedro.

All the best, Eddie VH.

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