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structuring a solo


(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

I know there are many many ways to play a solo over a backing track, but thats not really what this question is about.

I am interested in how you actually structure your solo's. do you always follow a set pattern to ensure tension builds nicely throughout? i.e just as an example 1) enter the solo using the melody of the song, 2) play higher up the scale 3) use repeat licks 4) end solo

the reason i ask is that i have made a lot of progress with my arpeggios and chord tone work lately and can target my chord tones well during improvisation - and i feel like there is more colour in my solo's than before, but they just do not go anywhere - i cant seem to build tension or progress the solo at all, and end up getting fed up and restarting all the time.

does anybody here have a fallback method of structuring their solo's to stop them sounding a little lacklustre??

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8308
 

taking my frustrations out on the guitar tends to create interesting solos. wail on the strings like it said something about your mother.


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(@blueline)
Noble Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 1705
 

Solos are an expression of yourself. Because music is a language, you need to be able to speak it well in order to better express yourself. That said, here's a few suggestions. Try breaking things down into different and distinct phrases. Use Call and Answer. You used the word lackluster. Are you really FEELING what you are playing?

Teamwork- A few harmless flakes working together can unleash an avalanche of destruction.


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(@moonrider)
Noble Member
Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 1309
 

You're improvising a melody on the fly. Sing along. Phrasing should be where you would take a breath. Don't forget that when you get excited your breathing becomes faster and choppier, and when you're calm they're slower and more even.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


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(@steve-0)
Noble Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 1165
 

Now I'm not an expert soloist by any means, but I would imagine a good way to get better would be to study solos that you like. There's no one way to structure a guitar solo: some are completely based off of a melody, others might harmonize a chord progression and others might be based off of licks from a scale.

For example, I'm more accomplished as a rhythm player and I think that is because I have spent ALOT of time learning many different chord progressions and riffs. Alot of times when I pick up a guitar I can improvise a progression or riff that I think is pretty decent, and I think it's because of all that time that I've put into practicing. So I think the same applies to soloing.

Steve-0


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(@bradcripps)
New Member
Joined: 11 years ago
Posts: 3
 

When I'm doing a solo, I'll start off by just noodling around, and then when I find a few good licks, I'll wait for the rhythm to go around to the start again and then try them out.

Also, I play those little licks and then listen (or hum) whatever sounds like it should/could come next, that way it's based more on emotion than technical ability, cause every now and then I'll just sit there and shred, not paying attention to what I'm actually playing

But I agree with Moonrider and Steve-O. Phrasing gives people a mental pause for breath, I heard somewhere that people have to process what they're hearing, which takes a small space of time after they've actually heard it, so I guess that means that solos won't make sense to people who hear it if it doesn't have phrasing.

And with Steve-O's comment, I generally take little riffs that sound great (and are pretty common), and use them my own way, and where I can.

"If at first you don't succeed, erase all evidence you tried"


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(@noteboat)
Famed Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 4933
 

Good solos have a beginning, a middle, and an end. They're a story told using pitches and rhythms. And just like any other good story, you want to build tension - get folks on the edge of their seat, anxious for the climax.

When I'm playing improvisationally, I'm not really thinking about the structure. But I might record what I'm doing and analyze it later, looking for ways to improve. The end goal is to internalize what works, so it's a tool at your disposal.

That doesn't happen by magic. And while it can get better with practice (like most things), there are definitely things you can do to speed the process along. My general advice would be:

1. Listen critically. Figure out how your favorite artists and composers kept their story both coherent - all the elements seem to 'belong' - and interesting.

2. Compose instrumental pieces. When you've written something down, you can do it over and over and see where improvements could be made. If you can manage it, compose for OTHER instruments - you can get great ideas from sax lines etc. that are well outside the box guitarists tend to think in.

3. Learn as much as you can about music, and apply it in analyzing masterworks. (Define masterworks however you want)

Now a few specific tips:

1. Your beginning is the theme you're going to work with to keep things coherent. In a composition, you might have more than one theme, with contrast between them. In an improvised solo, that's asking for trouble, unless you're really experienced. Your theme shouldn't be so long that you can't remember it... four bars is generally the limit for a solo theme, and two measures works really well. A theme can be super short (think Beethoven's fifth symphony, with a four-note theme), but if you go that route, the key element will most likely be a distinctive RHYTHM with a very simple melodic idea. If you go with a longer main idea, keep the rhythms fairly simple.

2. Once you're past the beginning, you want to start exploring what you've started with. These are the twists and turns in your story. You might repeat the basic theme starting on a different pitch... transposing it either exactly or modally. You might play the theme at a faster tempo, or a slower one. You might explore just one part of your theme. You might play the theme with an alteration - rising instead of falling, in a minor scale instead of a major one, or imparting some other twist to it. You might also want to play around with the dynamics of it, or the phrasing. You might shift it forward or backward against the beat, playing around with where the accent falls.

See a common thread in these ideas? They all use the THEME as a starting point. This keeps your story a story, rather than a dictionary of melody fragments. You'll hear an immediate difference in your playing as soon as you start applying this.

3. Now you want to wrap things up. Roughly two thirds of the way through the solo you should reach the highest level of tension - rhythmically, melodically (literally your 'high point'), harmonically, or in some combination. But then you need to let your audience come back to earth... start easing back, dropping the pitch of the lines a bit, slowing down the tempo and/or reducing the complexity of the rhythms. It's at this point that you want to start using the stuff you've already gotten down - like the target tones. As you get closer to the finish, your lines should grow closer to the harmony of the song.

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


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(@johnny-lee)
Eminent Member
Joined: 11 years ago
Posts: 48
 

Good solos definitely tell a "story". They're like little mini-adventures (not freebird).

The most important thing is 1) drop the ego 2) use your "ear". If it sounds good, it's a good solo. Bottom line. You just know. If it's crap, don't be afraid to admit it.

My writings on playing guitar => No B.S. Guitar


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(@almann1979)
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Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

i had forgotten i had originally posted this thread, but i am glad to see it has been resurrected, because i do still seem to have the same issues.

i feel like i have arpeggio's and chord tones and scales bursting out of my head, that i have hammered into muscle memory, my fingers are more fluid and i have gained a lot of confidence, but i still seem to lack any sort of real creativity.

i listen to brian may, and slash, and how their gutiar work has real musical quality, and then sometimes i listen to what i do and think i am painting by numbers. I play all the target notes i want, and hit a wide variety of arpeggio's etc, i switch between major scales and blues scales, blah blah blah; but still dont really feel much is being said when improvising.

noteboat, i have read and taken on board what you have said, and maybe i need to actually stop at just improvising, and come up with a composition that takes time to put together. I will make that this weeks project.

thanks,Al

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


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(@rwagn182)
Active Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 10
 

for me when i play my solos, write solos for my songs, etc.. i like to use licks from songs i know, change them up a bit make them my own, and use feeling in my solos


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(@dogbite)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 6353
 

very good thread. I can only add... K I S S.
keep it simple stupid

all kidding aside, soloing is an art. the best part of it is that it be personal.
we borrow licks, it is part of the tradition. we build on them by making them
relevant to our own expression.
unless I am playing a cover I am hardly surprised when I don't play a solo as
I did before.
when gigging the KISS rule does apply.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


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(@gotdablues)
Estimable Member
Joined: 15 years ago
Posts: 129
 

I just think of Rhythm Guitar and Lead Guitar as being the same thing. Actually Lead is submissive to Rhythm, in other words if a player can't hit the rhythm correctly, the Lead ain't gonna be worth spit.
The best Lead guitar players are the best Rhythm guitar players, plain and simple.

I highly recommend reading this article Rob Gravelle
https://www.guitarnoise.com/lessons/recording-wicked-guitar-parts/

Pat


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(@almann1979)
Noble Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 1283
Topic starter  

Hello again :D

Just want to update this thread as the subject of making a guitar solo that i consider good to listen to has bugged me for so long (just check the date i posted the first post on this thread :D )

Anyway, i had a penny drop moment a couple of weeks ago and finally have something that works for me. I remember Brian may saying in an interview that he always knew how the solo's on queen songs would sound, because he came up with them in his head long before he picked his guitar up.

I tried that once, but couldn't get the sounds i could hear in my head to come out of my fingers. But now my knowledge of arpeggios' scales' etc has increased, suddenly i find it far easier.

So, to cut a long story short, this really works for me. I sit down, and as daft as it sounds, i sing, or hum what i really like, and when i find something i thing is cool, i just find the notes. That might sound very simple to a lot of people here, but i just couldn't do this even a few months ago.

It was only when the penny dropped that the notes I am singing must be chord tones (or extensions)' that it all became very simple, and when i combine that with pre rehearsed scale runs, repeat licks etc' i finally have something to work from.

I am still no Brian may, but at long last, i now know that if i have to invent a guitar solo, It will come out musical and pleasant to listen to.

I know this must sound very basic and simple to a lot of people on here, but i wanted to share because to me, it is a huge breakthrough and i finally enjoy listening to what i play.

"I like to play that guitar. I have to stare at it while I'm playing it because I'm not very good at playing it."
Noel Gallagher (who took the words right out of my mouth)


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(@anonymous)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 14 years ago
Posts: 8308
 

try to do the same sort of humming thing, but do it with your guitar.


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