The study of popular guitar solos is one of the most important elements of developing higher level playing skill. This lesson provides an overview of more than just technique and music theory, it also explores playing philosophy, phrasing and tone…
Q: I’m an Intermediate guitarist with a decent ear, but a poor understanding of music theory. My 14 year old son keeps asking if I can learn this riff or that lick off of his favorite songs. And, after I learn the parts for him I’m left feeling at a slight loss as what to do with what I’ve just learned – mostly in regard to the actual musical side of things.
Can you explain what players need to know about, and especially what to look for, when studying recorded solos?
Cory – Phoenix, AZ.
A: Studying recorded solos is a vital part of learning the instrument because it allows a guitar player to understand how lines are applied within well-known musical situations.
Practicing scales, arpeggios and modes is one thing, but taking the information and applying it so that it can operate in other musical situations will help a guitarist learn which notes and techniques are the most musically interesting.
After learning any part of a song, the next step is to take the learned phrase and then re-use the idea as a statement within another musical situation.
For this video, I’ve composed a basic guitar solo that covers a group of chord changes from the key signature of, “C Minor.”
Throughout this lesson, I will break-down how the notes of the, “C Minor” scale get applied and I will discuss various playing approaches, theory and techniques.
START BY LEARNING FROM THE PROS:
How should a guitarist begin their guitar solo? How does a player create a strong hook? What notes of the scale are the best to begin and end guitar solos with?
When it comes to understanding how to get started performing a solo, it can quickly become overwhelming if you do not have a ‘clear-cut’ method.
The bottom line is, if you are searching for the fastest method to nailing down the foundation for your own personal guitar soloing ideas it will come from learning famous solos.
Certain guitar solos have become popular, (as well as, legendary), because of how they flow from start to finish. Famous players like; Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Slash, Angus Young, Eddie Van Halen and Jimi Page have recorded an incredible number of licks and scale runs that every guitar player can learn from.
INTRO’S, MELODIC THEMES and TECHNIQUES:
The beginning of a guitar solo is one of the most important sections. On page 2, section two, example one of the handout, I’ve organized one of my favorite ways to begin a solo.
In that example, I’ve used a smooth bend idea that sustains and moves along the neck through a series of chord changes. Learn to play that line.
Example two focuses on the use of recurring melodic ideas. Learn the melodic idea that I’ve provided in the exercise.
The theme develops as the chords change. Take notice of how the melody wraps up with a simple resolution into the final two measures.
HARMONY & THEORY PRINCIPLES:
Have you ever learned a guitar solo and wondered why it seemed to connect so well with the underlying chords? When this happens, it is generally due to the relationship of something that is often called, “shared tones.”
Shared tones, (also commonly refereed to as “target tones”), are the notes that line up to the chords that are being performed underneath the solos melodic path.
When the “shared notes,” blend nicely we achieve a strong musical connection (continuity), across the melodic line.
On page 3, section three, I’ve provided a detailed overview of how the concept of note sharing operates between melody lines and the underlying chords. Study the examples of connections and how chords can share tones.
TIP: Understanding this principle of “shared tones,” will help you choose the best notes for every chord that is being performed underneath your solo.
STRIVE FOR HIGHLY CONNECTED PLAYING:
After you have spent time learning a lot of different guitar solos, by several different players across many different music styles you will start noticing a common thread.
Great guitar playing requires the ability to totally control what we have come out of our guitars.
This means that our study of famous guitar solos needs to be backed up by the ability to competently play what we hear in our head. After we learn another players guitar lines, we’ll need to be able to take what we have learned and apply it in our own unique way (our voice).
When we reach a place of more skillful musical ability and we can start to play what we hear in our head, then we’ve connected with music on a whole other level.
Technique, rhythm, even the sound (tone) from the guitar and our amplifier all have a role in creation of our music. And, if things are really working in perfect harmony, we get into that sweet spot of our playing.
On page 4, section four, there are two examples in the handout that cover arpeggios, sixth intervals and pentatonic licks.
These are a few of the most popular ways that are used by famous guitar players to be able to create highly connected guitar parts. Learn each example.
In order to have success with the study of recorded guitar solos you will need to work on three main skill areas within the subject of Ear Training.
Each one of these areas requires a strong ability for melody, phrasing and tone. Luckily, working on each area will also provide ear training improvement along the way.
These ear training skill areas include;
- transcribing famous /popular guitar solos
- learning how a successful solo is composed from beginning to end
- understand how harmony and theory principles blend with ability
Once these areas are developed, you will notice a definitive shift in your ear’s ability to discern musical parts and ultimately perform music at a much higher level of skill.
- Click the button below to download the lesson handout
(access to lesson material will require a FREE membership)