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Do you wing every lead or do you create something in advance?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Wrong-Note Rod, Oct 12, 2018 at 9:49 AM.

  1. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2009
    Just curious as how you fine fellows approach your lead breaks in songs, for live performance... or recording... with or without a band.

    Some I will wing, if its a simple 3 chord song or something.... but often I write a solo for a song.

    What I try to do is put a few phrases that are new to me, not in my usual vocabulary... and playing them over and over, tends to help me remember them and hopefully work their way into my usual vocabulary.

    Sometimes its something I learned from a youtube video but often its something I stumbled onto myself, just noodling around.,,, a new way to phrase what I already sort of know.

    the downside to this is that sometimes these phrases or ideas never truly make it into the usual vocabulary and I find I cannot play them out of context ... that is, I never use them unless I'm playing THAT song that I wrote the lead for.

    But sometimes I succeed and they do.

    How do you guys do this? total improv or compose something in advance or a mix?

  2. ddewerd

    ddewerd Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    It's a mix for me.

    If it's a cover song, I'll try to capture the essence of the original. Although depending on the song, sometimes you really need to do it 100% copy, other times it's not as important and I'll pick up on the vibe and then do my own thing.

    For original tunes or jams, it's mostly improv. A lot of times I will try to mimic the melody, but not too closely - play a few bars and then go off into whatever comes to me.

    There's a few where I work out the basics of the solo, mainly so I have a comfortable launching point.

    So for me, it just depends...


  3. NJ Deadhead

    NJ Deadhead Tele-Meister

    Jan 25, 2017
    Greenville, SC
    Improv...that's where I get all the joy out of playing guitar. That feeling of being on the edge, one false move away from disaster or pure joy is where I get off.

  4. cntry666

    cntry666 Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 16, 2010
    decatur, ga
    I’m fairly written out, they are improvised when I’m demoing the song but then I try and play that particular solo. I like how Brian May kinda has that singable solo to every song. I will improv a bit though during some outro or something
    nojazzhere likes this.

  5. schmee

    schmee Friend of Leo's

    Jun 2, 2003
    If there is a "hook" in the original song lead, or melody like the vocal, I simulate it. If not I often wing it. The latter may not be a good thing if you aren't that inventive... like me!

  6. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    Mix of both....if the song has been rehearsed, I usually have something down before a performance. And like ddewerd said, if it's an accurate cover, I try to nail the original. If we're just pulling something out of a hat (usually by request) I'll just wing it as best I can.

  7. JL_LI

    JL_LI Tele-Afflicted

    May 20, 2017
    Long Island, NY
    I like to create a solo that sounds like it's been improvised and then practice and refine it until I have what I'm looking for. Fewer mistakes that way and no one listening cares if it's practiced or improvised as long as it sounds good. The solo I play when I play Let Me Down Easy is the result of an improvisation. The vocal is a 4/4 love ballad that transitions into a 3/4 time swing solo and back again. It's almost like a bridge. I have no idea where the inspiration comes from when I'm working on something but I like a refined product for presentation.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018 at 5:19 PM
    RLee77 likes this.

  8. Blue Bill

    Blue Bill Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 15, 2014
    If the solo is iconic, I try to learn it note for note, otherwise, as others said, at least try to get the feel of the original. The more times I play a song, the more repetitive the solo gets, as I find things that fit the song well.
    awasson and alnico357 like this.

  9. Bob M

    Bob M Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    May 11, 2011
    North of Boston
    I try and have an idea as to where I'm going. I'll vary it from time to time but the way I'm wired I need a plan!

  10. hotpot

    hotpot Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 15, 2013
    Lancashire UK
    I gotta do it note for note, I play with guys from around the world in a virtual band scenario, You get sent a backing track to record to and it's hard (for me anyways) to deviate from the track otherwise the synch goes out the window.
    You record your audio track with Reaper in my case & video record your playing at the same time.
    Tommy Biggs likes this.

  11. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg TDPRI Member

    Mar 13, 2018
    It's been a while since I recorded and gigged regularly, but I have always preferred composed solos. To be fair the question is fairly genre-dependent as some styles, such as jazz, almost mandate improvisation.

    My general MO would be to essentially compose lead breaks/solos as part of my songwriting process, although many times the ideas for these would come from jam sessions. Once finalized and recorded, I would use the 'final solo' as a something of a script for live performance meaning I would follow the outline and substance of the solo but would freely improvise and tweak as the mood struck.

    Lastly, I really think this is very much a personality driven exercise. I tend to be a very process-oriented thinker, so for me I am far more creative when I take the time to compose my lines. I know a lot of players who are the exact opposite, and need the live interaction to spur their creativity. Bottom line is to find what works for you and play to your strengths.

  12. sax4blues

    sax4blues Friend of Leo's

    For something truly improvised live, like a standard blues not a cover song with recognizable solo, I have an idea in my head of how I want to start and what the overall feel may be.

    An example would be I want to come in fast and loud and up register, make a statement, probably repeat that, them maybe half time that out to a sustain. Next 12 go lower, slower, and grind, probably double stops with power and keeping energy. Last 12 build back up the register and finish with a flurry.

    OK, that is what's in my head when I start. If the actual performance is great, mediocre, or just stumbles through is up in the air. I could follow that form a hundred times and have a 100 different outcomes.

    John 5 said that for recordings he creates and writes everything out ahead of time. His reason is we all have our pet licks and phrases which are safe take off/connector/landing spots, and in the live improvised situation we will unconsciously return to those, which limits creativity.
    RLee77 likes this.

  13. BopT

    BopT Tele-Afflicted

    Feb 6, 2011
    I am a mess I wing everything all the time?
    Tommy Biggs and ce24 like this.

  14. ce24

    ce24 Friend of Leo's

    Jan 26, 2008
    Victor wootens book taught me one thing... You are only one fret away from a correct note at any point.... So a one fret slide up or down makes it sound intentional. Most of my soloing is spontaneous.... But I will use the original as a launching point.
    Tommy Biggs likes this.

  15. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 23, 2003
    when I last played in a band which played original numbers, I told the songwriter/leader to stop putting a guitar solo in every song. It just seemed to be a pattern - every song had a guitar solo.

    Anyway, at rehearsal I never ever played the same solo twice. Even songs we had recorded- I never played the solo as it was on the recording. I played a lot of bad solos, I played a lot of good solos, I would just start on a random note and see where it got me... I had a lot of fun. Sometimes I think my bandmates worried about my skills and abilities!

    Most of the time when we played live, I would work around with what had been recorded, or with something that had seemed to work in rehearsal.

    To be honest, I never worried much about it, because I think the audience doesn't even notice much about guitar solos. Look good, play a good-looking guitar, act like you know what you're doing, and they are fine with it.

    The last group I played with did classic-rock covers. I played second guitar, and bass. So I didn't need to do solos. But I have watched, on several occasions, our guitar player (who has quite a local rep) play a solo in the wrong key! Or get totally lost. But the audience never even seemed to notice.

  16. jhundt

    jhundt Doctor of Teleocity

    Mar 23, 2003
    ha ha - that is exactly the opposite of my own approach! I would generally go for a big grab in the middle of the guitar, some Keith Richards moves, throw in a quick burst of Neil Young high notes, then end on a descending thing to get to the lowest possible note I could find. Why? because every other guitar player in town went higher and higher all the time. Did anyone notice? NO!
    Tommy Biggs likes this.

  17. chris m.

    chris m. Poster Extraordinaire

    I have always admired David Gilmour for his beautiful, melodic solos in Pink Floyd. I really try to have that mindset when I solo-- less notes, more melodic, more musical. I also
    usually try to use the song melody as a jumping off point, rephrasing it in various ways. For the most part my solos are improvised and somewhat different every time, but
    I'm always striving to make them sound very musical and that they truly belong in the song, rather than just being a random bag of licks. As far as covers go, none of the covers we
    play have super memorable, distinctive solos, so I don't concern myself with trying to play them in a manner similar to the originals. But I'm in a funk band, so that works for
    our kind of music.

    I've been delving into music theory again and adding to my vocabulary. It's one thing to understand theoretically what works, but it's another to get useful lines under your fingers
    that you can actually play in real time. I've been trying to add bits and pieces here and there and it's coming along slowly. Another thing that helps me is to hear a really cool lick,
    maybe something with an outside, jazzy turn of phrase, and to just figure it out.
    awasson and Macrogats like this.

  18. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's

    Oct 14, 2015
    IL, USA
    I have a few different ways to handle it.

    1) Note for note when I must. Or at least the important bits.

    2) A few predetermined core ideas specific to the song that I use and connect with true improv.

    3) Make it up on the spot, but even then we’re usually just rehashing what we already know.

    4) For songs that invite a melodic epic solo I’ll often compose one at home and the compose a new one for every next gig if I have time. Just something fresh to keep it interesting.
    richiek65 likes this.

  19. Wrong-Note Rod

    Wrong-Note Rod Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Mar 4, 2009
    I do this a lot. Change the composed solo, after awhile, like you said, if there is time for before a gig.

    Often I change it, to keep the good bits, and switch out something that either musically didnt work, or I had trouble pulling it off at the last gig for whatever reasons... or sometimes because I felt like I had that one down now and wanted something new

  20. picknfool

    picknfool Tele-Holic

    Jun 4, 2003
    Oakland, Ca.
    Wing every one- that's where the fun is!

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