How to jam out on three notes without knowing anything about scales or theory

This lesson requires two things. Your guitar and a backing track in A minor.


This exercise involves just three notes (See Figure 1). It’s easy to do and more importantly, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it.


I’m not going to tell you what the names of the notes are, (let alone how they function in the music). If you can figure that out, great. But for now, consider that icing on the cake.


Lest you think this is too simple an exercise for you, before you move on ask yourself the following question, do people often tell you that your phrasing is absolutely incredible or that it blows their mind? If not, then you need to do this exercise as much as the beginners do.


Here are the 3 notes: I’m leaving out the note names on purpose.



Restrict yourself to these three notes and find as many different ways to play them as possible over the A minor backing track. 


If you’ve never done this kind of thing before, you should be able to keep yourself entertained and interested in the music you’re making for a much longer time than you ever thought possible. 


Even if you can’t bend strings or do slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs (or don’t even know what I’m talking about) there are still lots of things you can do.  Simply vary the rhythm of the notes you play, the order of the notes and how many times you PLAY each note. No chickening out, okay?  ☺



Some suggestions to get you started:

  • Pick the 1st finger note (Fret 14, String 3) and hammer it on to the note above it played with your 4th finger (Fret 17, String 3).
  • Do the opposite by taking the note on the 17th fret, and pulling it off to the 14th fret below.
  • Instead of hammering-on or pulling-off between frets 14 and 17, use slides. 
  • Use the 1st finger note (Fret 14, String 3) as pedal point, alternating between the 14th fret and the two notes above it on the 15th and 17th frets.  
  • Pick the 4th finger note (Fret 17, String 3) and then bend it up to match the pitch of the note played with your 2nd finger (Fret 15, String 2).
  • Here’s one of my personal favorites—pick the 2nd finger note (Fret 15, String 2), and let it ring out while you then pick the 4th finger note (Fret 17, String 3), and then pull THAT note off to the note below it, the our 1st finger note (Fret 14, String 3). 
  • Get this lick down and play it several times, finding a way for it to sound interesting with the groove of whatever Am jam track you’re using.
  • What OTHER ways can you play these three notes?



If you find yourself running out of ideas or becoming bored after less than 10 minutes, your list of ideas is way too short. Or you’re giving up too easily. When writing this article, I jammed on these 3 notes for over 30 minutes and felt like I was just getting warmed up!


But EVERYONE will get bored playing these same 3 notes as SOME point. So, use this trick: Move the whole thing down 5 frets.

Now try using just THESE 3 notes:


Tip: don’t be afraid to play the same ideas more than once. Too many guitar students play one idea, then immediately move on. If you listen to your favorite players and solos, you’ll often find there are lots of simple ideas that get repeated. 



"To play all over the guitar in a mindless manner is to play nothing at all."



About the author:

If you or someone you know wants to learn to jam like their blues and classic rock heroes, or who is simply stuck in their guitar playing, contact Nashville’s top notch source for guitar instruction and training, G&R Guitar Academy.