Learning how to perform killer solos in the style of rock requires a mix of decent technique, good scale knowledge and some basic understanding of key signature theory. This lesson is a two-part series that explores the concepts that are involved with playing rock lead guitar…
ROCK LEAD GUITAR:
When it comes to performing rock guitar solos, the most common question that I receive has to do with, “which” scales (and /or arpeggios), would be the best ones to use in order to get good sounding rock licks.
That’s a tough question, because it’s difficult to say what kinds of licks a rock guitar soloist is after in every situation. Most rock guitar soloing situations are entirely dependent upon the style of the rhythm riff being played in the background.
This means that some of the very best licks and the coolest sounding runs might end up coming out of pure intuition. And, anytime that your intuition makes a choice, it will be a judgement based upon the context of the song, or upon the style and sound of the guitar solo’s backing riff.
Even though most rock guitar solos will tend to use a few common lick ideas, we can still take a theoretical approach and come up with a “format” for developing rock lead guitar principles.
SCALES and ARPEGGIOS:
The first step toward developing an ability to play great rock solos involves establishing an excellent awareness of the fingerboard. This includes both seven tone diatonic scales, along with the 5-tone pentatonic scales. Additionally, arpeggios of both the triad and the 7th chord types are also valuable.
The job of the guitar soloist is to work at learning how to mix and match the sound of various geometrical patterns using scales and arpeggios.
A good soloist will strive for a smooth and interesting sound. And, they will go all out for achieving interesting starting and ending phrases. Phrases that are related to the chord of the moment and to intervals of the underlying backing riff.
HARMONY / CHORD CHANGES:
Many intermediate guitar students bypass the importance of understanding harmony. This is vital and should never be marginalized.
A strong awareness for how chords fit together inside of a key center can aide guitar players in many ways.
Whether that’s through the use of scales or arpeggios, or by way of phrasing ideas that the soloist knows in advance. A good rock lead player understands how everything fits together.
Plus, a good rock soloist is very clear about how musical ideas can be interchanged within a key. If the guitarist understands both basic (and higher level), key signature theory, they can use that knowledge to their advantage.
For example, the guitar solo that is included in this lesson just so happens to be in the key center of “E Minor.”
But, this does not mean that we have to only focus upon and stick to the sound of the “E Minor,” scales and arpeggios through the changes.
Any other arpeggio from within the keys harmony will also work quite well. The application just depends upon “where” and “when” those sounds are applied during the guitar solo.
As a lead player, you could try using the, “B Minor,” or the, “D Major,” arpeggios for more variety. They will function nicely if phrased in an appropriate manner.
Other diatonic arpeggios can also end up operating quite nicely as well. And, this means that it is critical for the soloist to keep an open mind and to never limit their choices to only a few sounds.
The key center of “E Minor” has several diatonic arpeggios in it’s structure. Learn them all and develop the skill to test different sounds as you perform your solos across a backing riff.
An outline of the key of “E Minor” diatonic chords is provided below. The second chord (diminished), is very unique /dissonant. Due to its unstable nature, if you use it, be mindful about how you incorporate it’s sound throughout your guitar solos.
• The Harmony of the Key Center of E Minor:
ROCK LEAD GUITAR – PART TWO:
Part Two of this lesson will cover the topic of mixing scales with various key center arpeggios, as well as, how to integrate the use of embellishments to enhance rock lead improvisation.
You can purchase part two of this lesson in the shop.
Download this lessons handout and jam-track…
- Click the button below to download the lesson handout
(access to lesson material will require a FREE membership)