Trying to dig into the use of scales and intervals in soukous guitar I took a short line (from Diblo Dibala) and went all the way from there to the scales and intervals used. Here.

That particular line works for this example because it has a clear and simple melody hidden in the lower voice.

What I did was highlighting that simple melody and then use it as basis to practice the diatonic major scale of C in intervals of 3ds, 4ths, 6ths and 8ths. While Diblo's line uses all those intervals at once and some more, I tried to use them only one at a time.

 Probably I should have taken some time to write that down and practice some more before recording the video but I did not want to make a video that was too long to prepare and to watch. This should be sufficient to give and idea of how I am trying to familiarize myself with this music and create opportunities for practicing. The scales at the end also could have been explained much better. I tried to cover the main string combinations, and yet I left out a few key ones. I also realize that the scales at the end are played too fast and not clean enough to qualify as a decent tutorial, but I was just playing to show them, not to explain how to play them. Probably you can easily find better tutorials on youtube focusing exclusively on those scales. this was not meant to be one of those.

This video was as usual a compromise between what I would have liked to do and what I could reasonably do with the available time and resources. Again, it is not exactly a lesson for a specific student target, it is more of an example of the kind of lessons that I am trying to teach to myself. My goal here is to share, not to teach, even when it's about actual tutorials and demos.

You can definitely make up your own version of this little study. All you have to do is:

  1. Pick a simple single note melody, or make up one, using the diatonic major scale
  2. Find a way to play it using intervals of 3ds, then 4ths, 6ths, 8ths, 10ths
  3. Summarize all the different versions in one that uses the best combination of all those intervals
  4. Complete the line eliminating the interval-playing and using single notes where appropriate

A little caveat.

This video and this type of analysis or approach are not meant to be:

  • a universal "formula" to make up soukous guitar solos. Luckily there is much more than that.
  • a substitute for a specific study of scales
  • a comprehensive tutorial (it would take more time and details to do that)
  • anything new (double stops are widely used on the guitar in any style, even though not many make such a good use of them as Congo's guitarists do)

Note to self: a good follow up video could be letting run a backing track  and play in a sequence all the variations, full speed at first and then at half speed so that they are easier to follow.

If you want to practice and learn some more you can apply this exact same analysis to another line in one of my videos. Try analyzing the intervals used by Roxy Tshimpaka in the Fatou's solo here. Great use of wide intervals, 8ths and 10ths and an interesting call-and-response structure realized using different intervals for the two roles. Very good ideas for your solos.

One last thought: as I get a clearer picture of the melodic (scales, phrases) and harmonic (chords, intervals) approach used in these solos, one element becomes more and more important: the rhythmic invention, which to me comes to be the most distinctive trait of this guitar style.

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