Courtesy of Anthony Cerullo...
Can you guess the top tricks for performing an amazing guitar solo?
A day in the life of a practicing musician involves a lot of repetition. Whether it's playing the same city over and over again, promoting your music to your fans every night, or playing the same songs every day in practice, it's pretty much impossible to shake repetition.
When one thinks of repetition, a feeling of pleasure isn't usually associated with the word. Instead, we tend to often think of painstaking boredom. But, guess what... it's one of the top tricks for performing an amazing guitar solo. Repeat that solo format over and over and over. Eventually, after enough keys, harmonies, chord coverage's and time you're a great improvisor on the guitar.
It goes without saying that we all need it to sharpen our skills, nail-down our compositions, and become a better performer in general. These all lead to better musical skills and eventually better soloing.
Musicians have to wade through the grind of rehearsing over hours of jam-tracks and the study of their scales and harmony to play great lead. Yet, to really nail being artistic comes down to rolling in several other factors as well. Fortunately, dedicated work, great solos and artistry can coexist, and there are ways to make the process much more tolerable.
Strive for excellence
Striving for excellence all the time sounds like something your high school basketball coach would say, but it rings true for playing great solos as well. By striving for excellence, all the study won't be a chore, but something to cherish and look forward to.Especially as your skills become better and better.
Constantly striving for excellence will eventually create who you are as a lead guitarist. It will build the bed-rock of your style and your sound. If you repeatedly practice poorly, with a "that's good enough" attitude, you're going to be a poor musician (in more ways than one).
However, by making excellence a practice habit, you'll eventually become a living example of that excellence. To do this, you want to try to strive for the best in all possible aspects of music. Whether it's accuracy, rhythm, tone, artistic expression, or just staying focused, you should put equal amounts of excellence into it all.
At first, it might seem challenging and mentally draining. But over time, through the work toward excellence, you'll eventually embody those traits. Soon, excellence won't be a forced habit, but a natural quality.One day you'll be live on stage and it'll just hit you! All that work is finally paying off while ripping out a perfect solo.
Forget mindless repetition
Sometimes playing effortlessly can be confused with playing mindlessly. When you see someone who's in "the zone" and playing some difficult piece perfectly, he or she may look "tuned out," but that's hardly the case. You can't just tune out and expect to become a master musician. This takes a little effort in the art of mindful practice.
This isn't the mindfulness of the pseudo-spiritual variety per se, but more so just staying focused. You want every note that squeaks and leaks out of your instrument to drip with accuracy and artistry. To do this, you must start the journey off correctly in the practice room. You need a map – an intricate map that will help you approach a new piece efficiently. This way, you're not just picking up the music and sight-reading off the bat. Sure, you may learn it eventually, but you'll waste far less time with an organized approach to learning.
Take a moment to look ahead at the music and try to get a feel for the piece before even playing it. If you see certain areas that might be confusing to you, sort them out first. Solve any problems as they arise instead of casting them aside for later. Just like in life outside of the practice room, working your way through problems mean a chance to improve.
Like good habits, repeating a bad habit will help them stick in your head, thus making them harder to remove, (that's bad). Embrace your mistakes, fix them, learn from them, don't repeat them, and plan your practice sessions accordingly.
Overtime, you'll get into a solid routine that woks extremely well at developing your skills for technique, music theory and fingerboard awareness. These lead you to be able to control how and where you want to perform the scale and arpeggio tones on the neck. It all slowly becomes very automatic, and you'll hear everything you want to play before playing it!
Aim for growth and constantly evaluate
If you really want to get "in the zone" as a lead player, you need to see it as a tool to grow into, not as something you'll reach "at some point" and just to maintain. Growth must be a level that you can attain. Once growth is reached, you then extend it further.
Practice is all about growing as a musician. Yes, a great deal of reinforcement is involved with repetition at home in the practice room, but you shouldn't just strive for reinforcement. "Shoot for the moon," as they say, and once you get there, go somewhere further. Each repetition of a lead over a jam-track should see some sort of improvement or exploration.If you're getting dry and burning out, then stop. Come back later when your mind is fresh again.
Even if you nailed the solo technically perfect, there's always something you could be better at. Perhaps you want to perfect your tone the next time around or make sure your limbs are more relaxed. Maybe its more mental, and you want to be a lot more into the solo. Whatever it may be, make sure each repetition of the practiced solo has significance for you. If it doesn't, then stop and take a break. Come back later on. This will help you avoid mindless repetition that becomes such a burden for so many musicians who study improvisation.
Aside from aiming for constant growth, you should make sure to evaluate constantly. Evaluating your music will bring a new level of passion to it. This passion will turn boring repetition into a powerful and inspirational piece of music.
Evaluation is best done by recording yourself and then listening to what you did in another environment. Take the track to your living room, put it on your phone and listen to it out on a walk. Listen in your car, or on the bus or subway. Listen the next day, and then a week later. How do you sound? What can be improved?
You'll find something new to appreciate and to dislike on each listen. And, in the same solo, every time you listen to it something will jump out at you. If you're honest with yourself during these periods of evaluation, you'll find what you don't want with ease, and you'll have a clear path to becoming a true artist and down the road, an amazing soloist.
Anthony Cerullo is a nomadic freelance writer and keyboard player. In his spare time, he can be found reading, hiking mountains, and lying in hammocks for extended periods of time.
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