Many guitar players think that having great technical playing skills is crucial to writing incredible guitar solos. In reality, there exist tons of great guitarists who play truly inspiring guitar phrases without playing in a very ‚Äòtechnical' manner... and you can do this to when you follow the steps in this article.
To create killer guitar solo ideas that simply ‚Äòcan't be ignored' by your listeners, you will need to do two things: 1. Establish a familiar pattern to create a ‚Äòmusical expectation' and 2. Go against this expectation to surprise your listener. Fact is, this is ‚Äònot' hard and there are countless ways to accomplish this in your lead guitar phrasing. For the rest of this article, I will show you an effective step by step approach to creating attention-grabbing guitar solos.
Before I continue, it is essential for you watch the video below to see the demonstration of this guitar soloing method. When I say it is essential, I mean it - If you do not do this first, you will not get the maximum benefit from the information in the rest of this article. Once you have watched the full video, come back and I will take you through the steps to writing your own killer guitar solo phrases.
Okay, assuming you have already watched the video above, you are ready to continue reading this article. Follow these steps to write guitar solos with phrasing that ‚Äòdemands' the attention of your listeners:
Step Number One: Begin by writing a guitar phrase in common time (4/4) that uses one of the following choices: a group of eighth notes or a group of sixteenth notes. The phrase should be a repeating pattern that can be easily played over and over (starting over every 8 or 16 notes), so it's important to use the same note values here. After making your selection, play the phrase you created over a backing track. After making your selection, play the phrase you created over a backing track. Play your melody over this 4/4 track with drums now.
Hint: By using pedal point phrasing (as demonstrated in the video above) you will make the following steps easier to do. Additionally, you can use a similar idea to the one seen below, where every note is picked two times:
Step Number Two: Play the short guitar phrase you created over the 4/4 track with drums and repeat it several times in a row. This step is important because:
A. By repeating your guitar phrase over and over, you are solidifying the expectation for your listeners that: the pattern itself and the 4/4 beat will continue (as you saw in the video).
B. It helps make the next step even more surprising and powerful.
Step Number Three: It's time to really surprise the listener by doing something totally unexpected. You are going to create the feel of ‚Äòthree against four' with your guitar phrase (as you heard in the video). A very easy way to accomplish this feel is to shorten the phrase you came up with so that it can fit into a meter that uses three beats per measure while you keep playing over the backing track that uses FOUR beats per measure. Compare the image below to the first one from above to see how you can change your guitar phrase to give it the feel of three against four:
Pay close attention to the fact that the rhythm of the notes remains unchanged (as you noticed in the video). By following this example, the music will play in 4/4 while your shorter guitar phrase will play against it - beginning again on a different pulse than the music itself. This creates a sense of strong musical tension that will be unavoidable to anyone who listens to your guitar solo. This will absolutely demand their attention!
Step Number Four: At some point, the new guitar phrase will eventually line up with the beat of the backing track (remember the value of each note remained the same). Once this happens, you will need to decide on what to do next. You can choose between any of the following actions:
A. Keep playing the altered guitar phrase in order to maintain the feel of three against four.
B. Revert back to your original phrase and play in perfect time with the backing track.
C. Start over by creating a new guitar solo phrase.
Notice: Although playing guitar in this manner will certainly create unexpected results for your listeners (in a good way), if you play the same idea over many times it will create new expectations for them. In other words, you must ‚Äòbalance' the process of introducing new ideas and ‚Äòdeveloping' them in order to keep your playing interesting for your audience. The longer you repeat an idea, the less ‚Äònovel' it feels to the listener (even if it is a really cool idea).
Additionally, do not limit yourself to using this three against four approach only in lead guitar playing scenarios. All of the steps in this article can be followed to create cool riffs for rhythm guitar as well. There are countless ways to creatively integrate this idea into your music and many more basic examples than I can get into in a single article.
Now that you have learned the unique guitar phrasing approach discussed in this article, apply it into your guitar solos to unlock endless musical possibilities for your guitar playing!
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Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.