Composing or improvising a great guitar solo requires a lot more than just excellent technical playing skill. To play great solos, guitar players need to explore several directions. This lesson on “Composing Memorable Solos” will break down the key areas associated to performing a great solo
Watch the two preceding videos of this series:
THE GUITAR SOLO:
Guitar solos can be a killer part of any well written song. However, getting a strong melodic solo that fits extremely well with the rest of the piece can sometimes be as much work as writing the song itself.
It is extremely important is to take a number of different writing approaches while crafting your song’s guitar solo. In this video we will look closely at effective methods that can be used to approach composing a guitar solo during the writing process.
CHORD TONE TARGETING:
Our first idea will be based around a concept known of as; Chord Tone Targeting. With this technique, the player considers the notes found in the chord being played and then highlights the specific tones that exist in the chords structure. For example, if we look at our first chord of Bmi, it has the notes of; B, D and F♯.
Of these chord tones, the most common target tones for soloing are based off of the 3rd and the 5th, (D and F♯). The root may also work as a target tone, however since it is the root it can sound rather generic.
With root note targeting there tends to be very little color that is gained from targeting into it during the construction of a melody line.
Instead of targeting the root, we can get more color by trying to play into the chord’s 3rd and the 5th chord tones. If this type of playing is new to you, the best way to start working on it is by creating an exercise.
“Chord Tone Targeting” exercises work well, but keep in mind that doing this type of practice will require gaining a solid working knowledge of all of the notes across the guitar’s entire fingerboard. This type of work will take time (and plenty of practice) to develop up to a high skill, but the work is well worth it.
RHYTHMIC LINE BUILDING:
Another guitar solo writing technique has to do with thinking more rhythmically, (instead of focusing so much on only the melody). The idea of thinking more about the rhythm centers on feeling the beat and feeling groups of rhythmic meter.
By shifting the focus onto rhythm – as the main line of thought during the writing process – we explore our music from a new angle. The rhythm thought process can be done using a little as a few single notes, or it can be done using longer scale passages, or with arpeggio lines.
However the rhythm process is utilized, the results from doing it can be very captivating when we make rhythm our primary focus for the construction of any musical statement, (whether writing guitar solos or a principle melody).
COMPOSING A MELODY LINE:
One of the most difficult soloing concepts can be that of creating a distinctive /captivating melody during a guitar solo.
Because developing a unique melody takes great skill, a lot of talent and plenty of time to craft, the ability to do this obviously gets better, (and easier) as the guitar player matures.
Also keep in mind that this skill has quite a lot to do with a guitarists level of playing experience. Once the scales and arpeggios are mastered, there still remains a long period where the guitarist needs to develop their phrasing and their writing ability.
REPETITIVE MELODIC STATEMENTS:
A powerful, (and simple) writing concept that can occur within a guitar solo involves using repetitive melodic statements.
These repetitive statements can be as little as only one measure in length. However, by repeating that phrase over and over again, (sometimes with slight modification), the melody will embed itself in the listeners memory.
This effect is often jokingly referred to as an, “ear worm” by many music journalists. But, it should be made clear that the use of repetitive technique is a powerful songwriting device and it is certainly no joke.
When applied in creative ways, these repetitive phrases can be highly effective in helping to build memorable melody lines that will stick with the listener long after the song is over.
Thank you for participating in this 3-part songwriting mini-lesson!
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