Language-Based Soloing (Part 2)

Oct10

Now we’ll add two more words. In terms of language acquisition, maybe you can picture “give,” “me,” and “now.” In terms of musical acquisition, the two notes you’re adding are the ones just above and just below your first note, in whatever scale you’re working with.

Before you start to play, imagine the possibilities: give. Give, give, give. Give me! Give now! Give me now! Now give! There are lots of possibilities. Combine them with the nuance of emotion in your mind: pleading, begging, demanding, asking. Is your musical child curious or angry? Hungering or relatively indifferent?

Now go to it with the backing track and your three word vocabulary. See what you can do. See how it feels. Notice how you’re becoming familiar with what the notes are going to sound like over each chord. Become aware of what you hear when you go from the first note to the second, or the first to the third, or the second to the third. Is it different when you reverse the order? How?

After you’ve got three notes down, add the other scale tones one at a time. In a half hour, you can easily go from using one note to using three or four, maybe even five, and being confident about what they’ll sound like.

When that happens, you’ve started soling deliberately. It’s no longer a “poke and pray” situation. You aresaying something with music!

I’m a big fan of learning music theory. But theory follows function: some composer did something, and theorists created rules to describe what happened. In English (or any other language), grammar follows usage: people learn to speak first, and then learning grammar helps them speak “˜properly’. If they choose, they can speak “˜improperly’ – doing it for effect. It’s their choice.

But the point here is that they learned to speak before there was ever a distinction between proper and improper speech – you start by learning to say something, and then refine as you gain experience and knowledge. And you learn to speak with meaning by starting with one word.

Try it. I’ve heard students make amazing progress in just one or two lessons with this approach (and they’ve heard it too!) Even if you consider yourself pretty expert at soloing, I think you’ll find the exercise pretty eye opening.

Editor’s note: If you’re interested in more on soloing, be sure to check out the Guitar Noise page on Solos. After reading this essay from Tom, you might find our series on “From Scales to Solos,” Part 2 will be particularly helpful in preparing you for the second part of Tom’s series.

Tom (“Noteboat”) Serb is a longtime Guitar Noise contributor and founder of the Midwest Music Academyin Plainfield, Illinois. This advice first appeared in Volume 4 # 12 of Guitar Noise News. Sign-up for our newsletter to receive more free tips like this by email.

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About Tom Serb

Tom Serb is a Chicago area guitarist who has been making music professionally since 1978. Over the course of the past twenty-five years he has managed to amuse himself by teaching, writing, performing, producing and composing. He is the author of Music Theory for Guitarists (NoteBoat, Inc., 2003), and a frequent contributor to the Guitar Noise forums.

Comments [2]

  1. Just wanted to thank Tom for the ideas so well presented in this two part series. I’m putting the exercises into practice to learn how to talk with my guitar.

  2. I am a self taught “guitarist”, been playing for 35 years. Right now, I can play pretty well by ear and figure out just about anything rhythm as long as it is in “regular” tuning. I am most eager to learn how to play some lead guitar and I believe this site will help tremendously! I have been poking around this site and I have gotten excited at some of the stuff on here, so thanks for doing this guys, I REALLY appreciate it! P.S I see the author, Tom is from Plainfield, IL. I am right down the rd. (RT. 80) from you, I am in Oak Lawn, IL.
    Thanks again guys, keep up the great work!
    Dave

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