Everyone wants to be in the spotlight. After putting in all of your hard work and dedicating yourself to your instrument, there is no doubt that you want some recognition.
If this sound like you, grab your bag of trusty techniques, warm up your hands, and get ready, because today we are going to teach you, the beginner, how to create that ever popular showcase that is a guitar solo.
First things first; guitar solos are hard to write. Just because you know how to write one, doesn’t mean that ideas will be hopping out into your face every twenty seconds. It takes a lot of time to build a proper guitar solo.
Knowing that, it is best to approach your guitar solo as you would approach learning another guitarist’s solo. Start off slowly, and build your way through it piece by piece.
Just like a painting, a great guitar solo is built of many little things put together, and each should have its place and add to the others. There should be no ‘just because’ notes; guitar solos are built with a purpose in mind, and it is best you establish that purpose right away.
What kind of music are you playing? If you are playing the blues, a sweep pick run with legato notes isn’t going to fit. Analyze your music, and choose which techniques would fit it best. Don’t let yourself fall into the pattern of thoughtless soloing.
The best way to understand what fits and what doesn’t is to listen to your favorite bands, and more importantly, focus on their solos. What makes the solo work? Why does it work? What techniques are being used, and how are they being used? These are questions you should be asking yourself while studying your favorite bands.
Once you understand what works and why, the next step is to discover what doesn’t work, and why it doesn’t. Listen to bands that you don’t like, and analyze their guitarists.
Ask yourself the same set of question; why does this sound so bad? What techniques are they using? Why don’t these techniques work? Once you have these questions answered, you are closer to understanding a guitar solo.
Notice that when guitarists write guitar solos, they don’t throw out all of their techniques at once. You may find yourself listening to one solo and noticing a specific technique that grabs your attention. Then you may find yourself listening to a different solo by the same exact band, yet this solo has a different technique that grabs your attention.
These are the signs of a master guitarist. You want to highlight a specific technique in each solo that will make the listener take notice. The listener won’t be able to take note of a solo if thirty techniques are being displayed in chronological order. The solo will be cluttered, confusing, and displeasing to the ear.
So long as you pick a technique and stick with it, build your lead around it, you will soon find yourself writing some interesting and ear catching guitar solos. Remember not to let yourself get carried away, and above all, have fun with it!
Writing leads isn’t easy. There is no trick, no easy route to creating a guitar solo. Solos take time, patience, and planning. That being said, they aren’t impossible to write. In fact, even the least experienced guitarist can write a guitar solo.
While guitar solos don’t fit in every song, they do fit nicely in some, and when it comes time to write, there are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself.
The first question should be about your goal; what is your goal with this guitar solo? Do you want to just shred and have absolutely no purpose (like most guitarists apparently do) or do you want to write something intricate?
If you want to shred, there isn’t much planning. In fact, shredding is one of the easiest techniques in guitar; learn a scale and play it as fast as you can. Not much to it. It doesn’t add much to your music either.
Shredding has fallen further and further from music due to this. Playing extremely fast isn’t what makes great music. While there is a time and place for everything, the traditional style of shredding has become almost completely extinct in favor for legato, sweep picking, and tapping.
They are more fluid. Shredding died out when people started to realize that making a solo flow sounded better than hitting a thousand and one notes as fast as you can pick them.
If you want to shred, keep your usage to a limit. There are a ton of great guitarists who still add a little bit of shred to their solos, but the vast majority keeps it to that small percentage. When you are approaching a guitar solo, decide what you want to do.
When writing a solo, never use all of your techniques at once. If you have an alternate picking section, don’t feel it necessary to then showcase your tapping, your legato, your sweeping, your string skipping, and your economy picking.
If you waste all of your techniques on one solo, listeners will lose all reason to hear your leads. They will become repetitive and boring. Be subtle when possible. Make techniques sound like more than they are. This doesn’t mean that you can only use one technique per solo, but make sure that you only highlight one technique per solo.
It is important that you follow the progression. Too many guitarists fall into the habit of thinking that guitar solos are a free reign. They aren’t. When you are playing a guitar solo, you are still a part of the song. This means you will need to play according to the song. If the song is in the key of C Major, don’t go playing a solo in Gb Major.
Finally, never write a song to a solo. The solo comes after the song each and every time. Constructing a song around a solo is a sure way to write a boring song. This is because all the while you will be more focused on getting to the solo than on the song itself.
Keep these things in mind and you will be on your way to creating a great guitar solo.
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