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Scale Application: Guns N’ Roses – Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Guitar Solo (Tab & Scale Diagrams)

In this lesson we’re going to look at the application of the major scale by using the Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door guitar solo by Slash of Guns N’ Roses. This is a great solo for beginner guitar players to learn as there aren’t any fast or particularly tricky licks. It’s also a good, straightforward example of applying the G major scale musically.

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Chords

Before looking at the solo itself, it’s good to know the chords sitting behind the solo. These chords provide the framework for which the solo will work around and influences note selection, mood and dynamics of the solo.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is played in the key of G major. The chords being played over in the solo section are G major, D major and C major. All three chords come straight from the key of G major and make up the I, V, and IV chords of the key respectively.

Key of G Major
Chord diagrams for G major, D major and C major

Scales Used

All of the notes from the Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door guitar solo come straight from the G major scale, the key center of the song.

G major scale intervals and notes
G Major Scale

The solo is played using the 5th, 1st, and 2nd positions of the scale spanning from the 11th fret through the 20th fret. The positions and notes are shown in the diagram below.

Scale positions and notes used for Knockin' on Heaven's door guitar solo
Scale Positions & Notes for Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Guitar Solo

The diagram displays all of the notes of the scale positions, but the unused notes are faded in order to highlight only the notes used in the solo.

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door guitar solo tab

We’re going to break up the solo tab into smaller parts and look at each part by itself. The full guitar tab will be at the end of this section.

For reference, you can listen to the guitar solo here.

Solo: Part 1

The solo starts off in the 5th position of the G major scale, playing primarily the notes of the major pentatonic and coming to rest on the key center note, G.

Knockin' guitar solo section 1 tab
Part 1

Solo: Part 2

The second part of the solo transitions briefly from the 5th position to the 1st position, then back to the 5th position. This part comes to rest on the E note. Notice this note is the 3rd of the C chord (comprised of C-E-G), over which this note is being played. This is a good example of targeting chord tones in a guitar solo.

Knockin' guitar solo section 1 tab
Part 2

Solo: Part 3

The third part of the solo starts with a five-note lick in the 5th position before sliding up to the 1st position. Once again, the solo comes to rest on the key center G note, though this time an octave higher than the previous.

Knockin' guitar solo section 3 tab
Part 3

Solo: Part 4

The last part of the solo starts in the 2nd position with a couple of climactic bends before resting again on the E note from the C chord. It then shifts back to the 5th position for a couple of bends before resolving on G on the 15th fret of the first string.

Knockin' guitar solo section 3 tab
Part 4

Full Guitar Solo Tab

The four parts of the guitar solo from above are combined below for the whole solo tab.

Guitar tab for Knockin' on Heaven's Door guitar solo by Guns N' Roses
Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door – Full guitar solo tab

Wrap Up

Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door is a great solo for the beginner guitar player to learn. From a technical standpoint, it’s very playable and helps develop foundational bending and sliding technique. It’s also a very straightforward example of how to utilize the major scale over a chord progression.

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