Stop Doing Solos Like This!

I’ve been saying it for some time now, and it’s still 100% true, “You need to do your homework when it comes to soloing”! Practicing guitar solos is one of the best exercises to help offset poor knowledge of; the neck, of scales, as well as, dysfunction with applying theory, and a host of other issues you'll likely face when learning the guitar...

While learning to play a solo is simple enough to do, I’ve seen a lot of examples of people practicing improvisation incorrectly. Doing this wrong will diminish the results you could be getting out of your practice time.


Today we’re talking about how important it is to stop practicing your guitar solos using ineffective methods. 

This topic is one of those areas that guitar players struggle with a lot, and the reasons behind why players have so many problems learning to solo are almost always the same ones.

In this post, we’re going to focus on getting you to stop approaching guitar soloing in ways that will slow you down. 

The topics I’ll touch on will help give you solid examples of where 90% of guitar students get it wrong.

We’re going to start things off by learning one of the biggest problems facing students who are new to soloing. And, that is to stop trying to learn soloing all on your own.

Instead, learn to play a number solos by other guitarists. It really doesn’t matter who the guitarist is, or what the guitar solo’s like. You just need to experience a few real examples of an already established solo.

This is really important, because you need to learn what other guitar players do, and then select what seems to work best for you in your own playing. 

Think of it like starting out with some lead guitar foundation, so that you can have some direction, and you’re not wasting your time trying to figure all this out from scratch. 

What’s really great, is you don’t have to learn solos from start to finish when you do this. You can learn a piece of one solo and a piece of another (combine them). 

Each new idea that you try will lead you to another idea, working toward eventually developing your own original solos and soloing style.

For example, here’s a piece of Tony Iommi’s solo from the Black Sabbath song "Paranoid." It contains a great scale idea for soloing called the, “Along the Neck Pentatonic.”

Guitar Solo Example:

Click to enlarge full-screen

Once you start learning solos by other guitarists, you’ll begin noticing a number of repetitive techniques that seem to come along over and over again in lead guitar.

One of these, (that I’d feel comfortable saying is actually one of the most popular), is the along the neck pentatonic scale.

I made an in-depth video about this concept - that was called, “Guitar’s Most Important Pattern.”

If you haven’t studied that guitar lesson, absolutely check into that one. Because you need to understand all this 'along the neck,' stuff if you ever want to get good at soloing!

So, with stopping yourself from trying to go at soloing all on your own, and stopping the random learning of in-position scales, the next step in helping yourself to solo better and easier and faster will be developing an understanding of what the general theory is.

Know the basics...
Knowing even the basics about the music theory for a riff will allow you have a lot more flexibility and a lot more choices when you start to plan out your guitar solo.

If you’re clueless about what key you’re in and if you have no clear-cut idea about major or minor, you will need to stop right there and get some education for this stuff – right away!

The chords that you’re jamming on are pretty much the tell-tale sign of what kind of key you’re in and whether your parts are going to be playing in either a major or minor sound. This knowledge tells you which scale to use.

Below are two examples of how you can determine this information and get it correct in over 90% (or more) of the cases where you need to create a guitar solo. The remaining 10% of cases will very likely be something more modal.

1). Your First Chord "Might" be the Key:
The first chord is the 'starting chord, and therefore could very well be your key. Check out this example riff below, it begins on an “A Major” chord and it ends on the “E Major” chord.

The riff above is in the key of, “A Major.” 

This means you'll need to play your solo by using the sounds of the "A Major" scale.

At least 80% of the time; the starting chord is the key of a chord progression.

But, there's something else to consider. If we finish on a chord that’s five degrees away, we create something called a cadence, which absolutely locks down the sound of that first chord to act and behave as our root.

2). Your Last Chord "Might" be the Key:
There is another concept that we need to know about as well. It is based upon the key of a jam progression being the final chord after playing through a progression. Play through the progression below...

In the case of this progression (above), the last chord is our root of the progression (the key is "A Minor"). 

The “A Minor” is approached and built-up to lock down into the “A Minor” sound, and the other chords flow /lead us there!

In this case, we'd perform our solos by way of using the focus on the last chord of the progression, (Am). So, in other words, we'd be using the, "A Minor" scale types.

If you’re trying to learn how to play solos all on your own, if you’ve never tried to compose a guitar solo, if you’ve never transcribed a solo, if you don’t understand “along the neck” scales, and if you’re clueless when it comes down to basic music theory, but yet, you’re still trying to make up guitar solos, well - you're going to have problems.

You need to stop this lack of "bothering to study the fundamentals," because it’s holding you back in a serious way. In other words, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel.

Save yourself the frustration, develop these areas, and you’ll find that your ability to play a solo (and your understanding of the guitar, as well as, music theory), will go the roof.

You’ll be able to start soloing easier, you’ll understand what you’re doing better and you’ll have a lot more fun playing the guitar!

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