Want to go lone wolf, solo shredding pitch-bending notes, flexing those fingers across your favorite scales. Nothing sounds as good as a very cool guitar solo, and learning to write one is not as tasking as it might seem.
When writing a guitar solo, have you ever thought your solo is good, but it sounds like many other lead guitar riff solos that you have heard? Is it because you’ve somehow subconsciously plagiarized your idols’ lead guitar licks and phrases? Perhaps, but most likely not.
The goal is to sound good, and how you get to do that is your thing. Still, soloing is an art. Sometimes you might get bored of your licks as they may sound repetitive, but here’s a quick fix—writing a guitar solo and drafting out your licks could take you a step up.
To write a guitar solo, all you need is fingers that can wield a pen just as much as they crawl down the neck of your guitar. Some zest and perseverance will be needed as well. Scribbling down solos on your notepad will not come easy, but you’ll get the job done with practice and a lot of improvisation.
In this article, I’ll take your hands in mine and lead you down Riff avenue (pun intended) to teach you how to write your first guitar solo.
1. Improvisation is Key
Yes, improvise. Beethoven didn’t write his symphony in one sitting, and you don’t have to either. Improvisation is the first step when you decide to be a shredder.
The significant distinction between an improvised and a prepared guitar solo is that the former is created on the fly, while the latter is meticulously cooked up in advance.
The difficulty of creating a planned guitar solo is exacerbated by the fact that most of the time, a planned solo is supposed to be played note for note on either a recording or in a performance. There will be an increased demand for precision in this case.
I like to improvise my guitar solos with my bandmates, but when it comes time to record my solos, I plan them out well.
Obviously, you can pick up your guitar and start slamming fingertips on the fretboard, but you’d have to know what you are supposed to be doing. Here are the steps you need to take to write a guitar solo.
2. Find The Key
I know I said improvisation was key; well, it is, but it isn’t. Let me explain.
So there’s a beautiful song jamming away in the key of Bb (B-flat), and oh, there’s your cue.
It’s time to chime in with your shredding and show them who’s boss. You think “improvisation is key,” and you are jamming away in the F# (F-sharp) key. My God, the horror that you’d have introduced to that piece of music is beyond the beyond.
Note to self: Always find the key of the song.
Based on this, you need to know what key you’re playing in to choose a scale for your guitar solo.
You must listen to the music that is accompanying you to do this.
The guitar solo is your chance to shine, but this does not mean you should neglect the rest of the music and focus solely on your part of the song.
You must not only perform on time, but you must also play in the correct key, and the guitar or bass riff that will accompany your solo will offer you hints as to what key the music is played in.
To learn the key of a song you’re performing along to, simply ask the composer what key it’s written in.
And if you’re like me and have an excellent sense of pitch, you can identify the key of a piece of music simply by listening to it and playing random notes on your guitar until you find that sweet spot.
A guitar riff written by you should be written in a specific key and with chord progressions that your solo will be played to.
Now we get down to business, my friend. Scales are like roadmaps. They tell you where you need to go and how to get there.
Although there are an innumerable amount of guitar riff scales out there for specific musical genres, you only have to learn a few to start writing your solos.
After finding the key, decide on the scale you’ll be using. A wide variety of scales are available, yet none of them is strictly “correct.”
For beginners, it’s best to learn one scale first before moving on to more advanced soloing techniques that use more than one scale at a time.
If you’re not familiar with any of the following scales, you can brush up on your knowledge of guitar scales and modes here.
It’s a good idea to learn two essential scales that can be used in any song when you’re just beginning to play guitar, and there are the Major and Minor Pentatonic scales.
4. The Framework of Your Solo
If you’re stuck, use other parts of the song’s melody.
Even if you don’t know how to play a scale or have no idea what notes to play, playing the singer’s notes might give your solo structure.
Get your feet wet by playing a four-to-five-note lick similar to the song’s primary theme or a lick you previously played.
Play it once more, but this time with 1-2 notes differently.
Write a beautiful, easy solo that blends in perfectly with the rest of the song by adjusting this lick 2-3 times and finishing on something entirely distinct from your first lick.
Consider a solo as a short story that builds suspense from beginning to end. All solos have structure, from Clapton’s piercing blues in “Layla” to the best-composed solos.
They don’t just show off their technical prowess; they build gently, building intricacy over time to keep the listener engaged.
5. Looping Back to One, Improvisation is Still Key
Always try new things while improvising and see what happens. Occasionally, you’ll discover the solo right away, but more often than not, you’ll have to play it repeatedly before you’ve whittled it down to an entire solo worth playing.
Try new things and keep your mind open. Once you’ve got your notes down, you may begin to add flair and fun to the solo.
Add little embellishments like bending some notes that hold for a long time to make them really sing and hit that beautiful sweet spot.
The ability to glide into notes is an important skill. Pull-off or hammer-on the strings? Master them and incorporate them into your solo. They’ll help you sound less bland and more fun to listen to.
Can you improve the tempo and tension by cutting or adding notes? Is there a distinctive flavor to the music that comes from notes that aren’t in the scale? Explore your options, my friend. The neck is your oyster.
Writing a guitar solo shouldn’t be so hard if you read this article.
I hope you have followed through every paragraph and are set to be the next Jimi Hendrix and possibly, from here on out, go out there and bless the world with licks only people who have gone to the crossroads can manage.