Stop Guessing When You Solo - Use Enclosure

Weekly Newsletter #57

September 9, 2022

When you improvise over a scale, what is your general strategy? 

For many players there isn’t really a strategy, other than running up and down the scale hoping to land upon a good sounding note, or stumble into a decent phrase. 

Many will claim that their ear is guiding them, when in reality they are bound by the repetitions of having run that scale from top to bottom dozens or hundreds of times. 

Their ear is simply reacting to the patterns their fingers are playing. It tells them to “stop” when their finger lands on a note that matches the chord. 

As a result, the licks and solos sound incomplete and as though the player is “searching” instead of confidently stating what they want the listener to hear. 

This all comes from a lack of an attack plan while improvising. 

Instead of running the scale up and down while you practice, a simple and immediate technique you can employ is the use of enclosure. 

What Is Enclosure? 

Simply put, enclosure is an idea that allows you to target a specific note, but get there by using the surrounding notes, instead of approaching in sequential order from above or below. 

Let’s imagine you’re playing over an A minor chord (A-C-E) and you want to target the 3rd of the chord, C. How will you get to that note? 

Many will climb up or down the Am pentatonic scale or the complete Am scale until they reach that C. 

The problem with this approach is that it sounds like what it is…playing a scale. 

There is very little musicality and as a result, almost no meaningful phrasing that comes from this step-wise approach to targeting a note. 

Enclosure allows you to target a note by approaching it from the two notes on either side of it. 

In the example of targeting the C, the use of enclosure would have you approach from either below or above using a three note group: B-C-D. 

If you started below the C you’d begin on the note B and then skip the C and jump to the D before going back and landing on the C. 

The inverse is also possible, beginning on the D, then playing the B and ending on the C. 

This sounds like a simplistic idea, and in a sense it is, however implementing it as a natural way of improvising, without having to force it is a real challenge. 

Practicing Enclosure 

In order for enclosure to be a natural way of improvising, it’s essential that you practice it daily. 

-For some great tips and some awesome licks that use enclosure check out the VIDEO and TAB here- 

1) Decide what scale you’re going to play and, instead of running up and down the scale, begin with the first note, skip to the third note and then go back and get the second note. 

Begin this step again on the second note of the scale, jumping from the second to the fourth and finally the third. 

In this manner, you’ll be able to ascend the scale by enclosing every note. 

You’ll notice immediately that it leads to a more melodic way of playing. 

2) Additionally, you can take any lick you already play and find the target note (likely the last lick of the phrase). This will be the note that resolves the phrase. 

Instead of simply playing the note as part of the lick, add in the two notes surrounding it. 

You may have to adjust the rhythm to accommodate for two extra notes, but that’s actually good practice anyway. 

Try to enclose the target note beginning from the note below as well as the note above. 

Once you can successfully see target notes within a phrase you can much more easily enclose that note by bouncing around on either side of it. 

3) Another great way of practicing enclosure is using arpeggios. 

Pick out a three or four note arpeggio and make sure you can visualize where the notes are on the fretboard, as well as the entire scale from which it’s derived. 

If it’s an Amaj7 arpeggio, you should be able to see the entire A major scale in the position of your arpeggio shape. 

From there, you should attempt to enclose each note of the arpeggio either from above or below. 

In the case of an Amaj7 arpeggio: A-C#-E-G#, approaching each note beginning below the target note would have you playing this series of notes: 

G#-B-A, B-D-C#, D-F#-E, F#-A-G# 

Notice that the last of each three-note group is the target note of the arpeggio. 

There are tons of examples of enclosure in licks that you can find in any genre you like. 

Learning to establish this concept in your improvising, however, will require a combination of the above methods of practice as well as learning to recognize where enclosure occurs in licks you either already know, or ones that you learn in the future. 

It’s such a common tactic, that once you know what to look for you’ll end up seeing it everywhere. 

Learn how to use enclosure, and find yourself playing more melodically and doing a lot less stumbling and searching while you improvise. 

-Max Rich