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10 Quick Tips for Soloing

Saturday, April 26, 2014
Ever notice how some solos just stick with you and others are quickly forgotten? Don’t you wish there were some cliff notes for creating a more memorable and creative solo? Here are ten quick tips for creating incredible and memorable solos.

Tips for Soloing...

1) Start Low, End High. For most soloing, a good rule of thumb is to start lower in pitch, volume and intensity. Then, as the solo develops, gradually move up the neck to higher notes with a greater sense of speed and intensity.

2) Take Us On a Journey. Craft your solo so that it takes the listener on a musical journey – introducing and developing various musical ideas along the way. See the solo as a musical journey and less as a series of chords with licks played over them.

3) Avoid Musically Mumbling. Avoid approaching a solo with nothing to say, musically. Envision beforehand how you want the solo to start and how you would like it to develop along the way. This will help you avoid simply musically mumbling over the chord changes. Don’t mumble - say something.

4) Patterns are Memorable. Rivers of Notes are Forgettable. The ear is drawn to musical patterns, no matter how simple they are. A rhythmic or melodic idea that is carried through a solo for a while will help the listener engage with the solo. Rivers of unending, unrelated notes are doomed to be forgotten the minute they happen – no matter how fast or flashy they are played.

5) Put Your Ear in the Drivers Seat, Not Your Fingers. Guitarists love finger patterns – they’re a blessing and, when soloing, a curse. When the average guitarist sees a certain chord they immediately go to their favorite lick over that chord. Approaching soloing this way will doom you to playing the same licks on every solo. Instead, slow down and let your ear guide you as you play. Get better at hearing an idea in your head then trying to make it come out your fingers – as opposed to letting your favorite licks keep giving you the same solo every time.

6) The Evolution of Musical Ideas. Find a musical idea – a little rhythm or musical sequence – and work on developing it throughout your solo. Play it in one place – then another. Play the idea over one chord then adjust it to work over a different chord. These are the things that make a solo interesting and memorable.

7) The Element of Surprise – Surprise Me. The element of surprise is what keeps the mind engaged and the musical ear tickled. Try playing a lick two times then vary it for the third time. It’s the "surprise" that makes the musical idea work.

8) Relax, Breathe, and Take Your Time. Unlike singers or horn players, guitarists don’t have to stop to breathe while playing. The human ear likes occasional breaks between musical ideas. Think of it like a "period" at the end of a sentence. Without periods, your solo sounds like one long run-on sentence. So, relax, take your time and remember to breathe between musical phrases.

9) Don’t Forget About Rhythm. Guitarists tend to focus more on the notes, the scales, the licks than the rhythm. But rhythm and melody go together. Sometimes a rhythmic idea carried through a solo can make the phrases more memorable. Don’t think about just the notes – think about the rhythms as well.

10) Don’t Just Play Over the Chords - Play Through The Chords. A solo is not simple a series of chords with melodic patterns played over each one – this approach makes lousy solos. Think of chords, and the chord tones within them, like stepping stones you use to get across a musical stream. The idea is not to do a musical dance on each stone but to move across the stream to a new musical place through the solo while stepping on the right note at the right time.

I hope these simple tips will help you as you solo to create something memorable and incredible! Keep Learning & Growing! – Steve
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