How to Develop Cool Solos

loopfinding

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learning other people's solos is good because it embeds all these little 4-8 note cells subconsciously into your playing. i think it's actually kind of advantageous for originality's sake that you forget large parts of it after moving on to other material.

usually for my own playing, i get licks or melodies that i've heard "somewhere" stuck in my head. so when i'm practicing, i try to actually play them, and then i run them a ton of times and change them to fit/work out as necessary. that way i can just work easily from my own pool in the heat of battle.

also if you work on lines that go over the barline, even if you fail, it makes stuff that has less chords (or just modal) much easier by comparison to be fluid over. if it's a modal or one chord thing, it also spices things up to start making it sound like you're playing over a different but related chord (e.g. playing G7 stuff over a Dmin7), and that just comes sort of automatically by doing that.
 
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ndcaster

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I had to solo over Wagon Wheel a couple weeks ago (yeah yeah) and was working my way through triads building little phrases (4, then 3) when I thought wait a sec this progression doesn't GO anywhere, so my solo was just a bunch of decorations on a tree

maybe I just suck

but I think the era of cool guitar solos may have come out of a harmonic era that really emphasized the arch and climax of music

this is the era of loops and vamps, so the musical harmonic affect remains really flat

nevermind
 

PhoenixBill

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There’s a guy on YouTube named Carl Baldassarre who clearly has spent decades studying the Led Zep solos. His breakdowns are eye-opening: he doesn’t show you fret-by-fret how to play it, but he goes into the details of the theory behind each solo. Page isn’t just noodling over a blues pentatonic; he throws in intervals and chord substitutions well beyond the usual blues guitarist themes and he structures them so that they work (not just blindly subbing in a m7th for example). Page may have been sloppy drunk in some live performances but there’s clearly some unique timings and voicings that make the solos work so well.
 

bowman

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I’m the singer/rhythm player in our band, so I’m always thinking chords, chords, chords. I sing around them and play around them. But at home I love to write and record my own stuff, which means I have to play leads here and there. When I do, I always base it on the melody the chords imply, or the vocal melody. I’m not really a lead player, but I find it easier doing it the way I do. There’s lots of possibilities in between changes and I drop little things into those spaces, connected in a logical way by the notes in the chords. And it helps that it’s my own song, so there are no expectations or comparisons to another player or song we all know. Even so, it’s not at all unusual for me to erase a lead track 30 times or more until I have something acceptable.
 

Patshep

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First, I very much agree with Sconnie that playing the changes is critical.

I remember when I had been playing for a year or two and was very facile with the blues scale, but I just noodled in it. After sitting in for a set, my Uncle leans over and says, "Have you ever thought about soloing with the chords instead of just playing a scale?" 30 years later, I recently reminded him of this, and he was mortified because he thought he was being rude. I told him it changed everything for me because I realized you have to play the changes. Scales are an illusion; the changes are everything.

Second, a recent "A HA!" moment for me was recently hearing Pat Metheny talk to Rick Beato talk about playing motifs. I think the idea that you establish a theme in your solo and then play around with it is mind expanding, and frankly is something I need to work on. I tend to just GO when I am soloing, but I think the idea of playing with a theme is next level.

Third, I think it's critical to simply build a solo. Start quiet, low, and slow, and then build in dynamics, pitch, and speed to create excitement.
Chords are made of scales. Chicken vs egg
 

John_B

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Been working on this seriously for all most a year. I am having a lot of "Ah Ha" moments along the way and each one makes me push on harder. My problem/blessing is I only understand 1/2 of a solo I study. The rest goes over my head. Out of frustration I started to improvise and I have done this so much that it is all I want to do. I will listen how the song starts (on the I, IV or V) and the melody of the chorus then off I go. Using double/triple stops, bending, sliding, a tasteful pull off or hammer on- I piece together my "sentence" as I call it. Loosely a beginning, middle and end. Connecting the dots is easier and easier and this comes to me from decades of playing.

I turned a lemon into lemon aide. Total improvisation to me is so interesting, I have never learned so much so fast. Nor have I had so much fun.

I also separate playing from practicing. Practicing is where I work, learn and construct Playing is when I flat out enjoy myself with what I have created and whatever else I love to play. What also has helped me incredibly is having a bad a$$ Telecaster that I love almost as much as life itself.
 

Patshep

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Nope.

Chords are made of notes. A single chord can imply multiple scales.
As somebody who understands theory quite well, a chord is built from a scale. As someone improvising over changes, you can take liberties, of course. But chords function within keys. Keys are based on scales. Keys can modulate and do other things. However melody implies chords, also as you extend chords into upper voicing a, you further detail the scale
 

Hodgo88

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try singing it. Best solos should sound singable to me.
This works for melodic solos, but going back to OPs point, Brad Paisley sure as heck ain't humming all those chicken pickin licks. Derek Trucks on the other hand can probably put words to his solos.

There's so much great advice on this forum, the only thing I can add is -whatever- area you decide to focus on, thats what's going to show up in your playing. If you focus on learning other players notes, you're going to sound like them. If you spend a week shopping arpeggios, you're going to start including them. The only antidote to this is, at least for me, two things:

1. You must practice a variety of things. If you have an hour of practice time a week, it should be broken into smaller concepts. 5 minutes of warmups/picking exercise, 10 minutes of ear training, 10 minutes of sight reading, etc. To your point about being more fluid when you were younger... I bet you had more time to practice too.

2. You must prioritize your ears over every other possible input. Music is feeling conveyed through sound. Learning to hear yourself honestly is a crucial skill, and one many players underdevelop. Record yourself and play it back with no guitar in your hands to distract you.

After that, it's all about being in the pocket and playing interesting notes set against the chord changes.

Oh, and don't practice easy things if they're easy to you. It's a total waste of your time.
 

ElJay370

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To me, a good guitar solo is a strong melodic statement that serves the song well and has a definite beginning, middle, and end.

Here’s a perfect example from an unlikely source..

 

nojazzhere

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I've spent the last few weeks trying to learn about 15 seconds of this.
Hopefully by the time I pop my clogs the technology will allow me to upload to my grandson's brain, the 20-30 seconds of it that I'll have learned.
Possibly in a few generations somebody from my gene pool with be able to play it.

Django's deformed left hand always gets the attention, (as largely it deserves) but his right hand, picking technique rarely gets the scrutiny IT merits. I wish more of the videos demonstrating his solos (of course, by other players) would focus on the picking.....except the picking might just be too blurred. Yes, his left hand, with basically only two functioning fingers, was amazing......but his picking was often "scary"-fast as well. ;)
 

drmordo

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As somebody who understands theory quite well, a chord is built from a scale. As someone improvising over changes, you can take liberties, of course. But chords function within keys. Keys are based on scales. Keys can modulate and do other things. However melody implies chords, also as you extend chords into upper voicing a, you further detail the scale

I could pick apart your post on a few levels, but I will instead agree to disagree.
 

Slap Axe

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As somebody who understands theory quite well, a chord is built from a scale. As someone improvising over changes, you can take liberties, of course. But chords function within keys. Keys are based on scales. Keys can modulate and do other things. However melody implies chords, also as you extend chords into upper voicing a, you further detail the scale
I think some of you guys over-think this stuff sometimes. I have a friend who knows music theory well, he's also an accountant. His brain works on numbers. When we play guitars together, he needs to know exactly where he's at on the fretboard in order to know if what he's doing will fit into the boxes that he's confined to because he doesn't play by ear very well.

I'll improvise a solo by ear and when I give him the nod to take one, sometimes he'll shake his head and wave it off because he struggles to improvise by ear. He has to use theory in order to know what he can and can't do and whether it's going to work or not. I can't play leads that way, I just listen and then play, which can have it's limitations at times too. I guess here's where I say "thanks mom!" because she's a multi-instrumentalist and singer with a great ear. I do wish I knew more theory because I think some of the best guitarists have both the ear and know theory and that makes them very dangerous.
 
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ndcaster

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Django's deformed left hand always gets the attention, (as largely it deserves) but his right hand, picking technique rarely gets the scrutiny IT merits. I wish more of the videos demonstrating his solos (of course, by other players) would focus on the picking.....except the picking might just be too blurred. Yes, his left hand, with basically only two functioning fingers, was amazing......but his picking was often "scary"-fast as well. ;)
the gypsies are all about the right hand

they will laugh at you if you try to fake it

look for Dennis Chang and the DC Music School and Stephane Wrembel among others

bluegrass and gypsy jazz are picker kings, Gondor and Rohan
 

Patshep

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I think some of you guys over-think this stuff sometimes. I have a friend who knows music theory well, he's also an accountant. His brain works on numbers. When we play guitars together, he needs to know exactly where he's at on the fretboard in order to know if what he's doing will fit into the boxes that he's confined to because he doesn't play by ear very well.

I'll improvise a solo by ear and when I give him the nod to take one, sometimes he'll shake his head and wave it off because he struggles to improvise by ear. He has to use theory in order to know what he can and can't do and whether it's going to work or not. I can't play leads that way, I just listen and then play, which can have it's limitations at times too. I guess here's where I say "thanks mom!" because she's a multi-instrumentalist and singer with a great ear. I do wish I knew more theory because I think some of the best guitarists have both the ear and know theory and that makes them very dangerous.
So you don’t know theory but you are an expert on it at the same time. Lol. Welcome to the internet
 

DekeDog

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Play the changes! That's the key, and the toughest part.

I can hear and play the changes, no sweat, but I'm not great at developing the melody. Working on it.

Developing rhythms within the ones in the melodies can be important in an improvisation, also. And dynamics...
 
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11 Gauge

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Learned a few solos by other people when I was a kid, but the closer I nailed 'em, the less I liked 'em.
I'm a lefty who plays right-handed, and trying to copy the solos of others always felt weird to me (specifically the fretted stuff), and usually left me feeling like it wasn't worth the effort.

At some point, I realized that my note choices tended to be different because my dominant hand was on the fretboard. I also tend to leverage hammer-ons and -offs a lot, especially since my picking hand isn't very precise.

Long story short is my 'approach' to solos is really quite personal, mostly out of necessity.
 




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