By: Josh Lucas
Are you already pretty good at lead guitar? You know the notes and patterns, but have trouble creating “meaningful” solos that showcase your skills while at the same time showcasing the song? I think at some point we’ve all run into this rut, so I’m going to show you some quick tricks that I use. Just doing these few things can help you develop your “voice” on lead guitar.
Which Part of the Song Are You Soloing Over?
Here’s the easy part to figure out. Does this “solo” or “lead break” come at the beginning, middle, or end of the song? And do you have more than one solo in the song?
This is important, because few things are more anti-climactic than blasting out a ripping guitar solo early on in the song, and then to have to top it later in the song. If it’s early on, you might want to dial it back a little bit on the solo. You’ll want to save the flash for a solo later on in the song.
Find Your Tone for the Part
What’s going on in the song? What’s the instrumentation and how loud is your band playing? There are always exceptions, but let’s say you’re playing electric guitar–seldom do we want to blast our high gain channel over a clean, jazzy part that comes early on in the song. The opposite is also true.
The same applies to acoustic guitar. You don’t want to pick the notes as hard and as brash as you can over a soft part–at least not the whole time. For good acoustic guitar tone, pick and choose where you’ll stand out dynamically.
Try Playing as Many Notes as Possible
Our favorite, right? I like to create a “jam track” out of my solo section. You don’t need to be a recording engineer–your phone will do for this exercise. Press record, and play the chord progression for the guitar solo as many times as it repeats. Now, press play. See if you can pull off running 16th notes throughout the whole solo. Probably at first you won’t be able to, but keep trying. Repeat this step several times in a row.
Try Playing as Few Notes as Possible
This one’s going to feel weird. Start out with whole notes. Sustain one whole note over every bar, and listen to it against the music. Start again, and try to hold each note for two whole notes. Take your time, deal with the ugly notes, and carve a little niche out in the fretboard where you have found the “good” notes over each chord (or two)
Rests Are Part of Music, Too
Just keep this in mind for the next part!
Try These Combination Exercises
Try approaching the solo alternating between one measure of very dense playing, and one measure of sparse playing. This call-and-response method is effective both musically, and as an exercise. You may find that this is your go-to formula!
Do some more experimentation, though–two sparse measures, one dense measure. So on and so forth. This simple approach to soloing can help you create some seriously nasty solos on the fly, and help to give you a framework to let loose your creativity. Check back for more lead guitar tips!