Guitarist Greg Studley, who plays with the Pink Floyd Tribute band House of Floyd, has published a great new book called "A Guitarist's Guide to Improvising with Knowledge." Although the title is a bit of a mouthful, it's a good book for any player who is looking to go beyond the usual learned riffs to develop a more dynamic style to improvisation.
Studley's approach is a thoughtful one and it's well-suited to anyone who has got stuck in the "Pentatonic rut" of playing same-sounding solos over every song using just one or two Pentatonic scale shapes. Studley has developed a consistent structure and naming approach to make it much easier to learn everything you need to develop interesting and melodic solos. He also ensures that your solos match the underlying chord changes and not just the oveall key of the song. This enables you to build on the natural tension that happens during chord changes to make things flow better with the overall song.
Studley provides a "three step method" and a series of exercises that focus on getting familiar with root notes, then the scales before you dive into the uncharted territories of improvisation. This structure ensures that you learn where to place your hands and you know what scale you're working from at all times and don't end up somewhere you don't want to be. Through the course of the book, the techniques get increasingly sophiticated, incorporating arpeggios, bends, slides, hammer-ons, triplets, vibrato, syncopated rhythms and more.
Here's a video that demonstrates some of Studley's techniques for mixing two different pentatonic scales:
The book weighs in at over 200 pages, so you get a lot more detail with exercises for each chapter. And you can practice along to the backing tracks which can be downloaded from Studley's web site.
And in related news, The House of Floyd will be touring Northern California beginning March through April, so if you're anywhere in the vicinity, be sure to check them out. They've really honed their chops over the years, in no small part to Studley's great guitar playing.