Solos - stuck at a barrier... suggestions?

spenno

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Hey folks. Very long time player here... but with one major caveat. I've been one of two guitarists in bands, as well as the only one, so have tackled plenty of solos and done a decent job I feel. But I've never been able to get a grip on the longer more technical stuff, let alone where improvisation might be required. My mind goes blank and I can't begin to come up with something. I guess impro comes with time and scales, so usually I'm happier learning the solo note for note (even taking inspiration from live versions where they differ). This is vastly different to my rhythm playing where I feel I can be pretty melodic and come up with some nice patterns. But as soon as the spotlight's on and I'm trying to do a solo, I kinda feel stuck at a certain level. So I'm looking for a short list of tasteful solos that are considered reasonably technical that I could work on and see if I can overcome the barrier. Where I'm at: songs with solos in the 60s band I'm include You Really Got Me, anything Beatles (ie All My Loving, Saw Her Standing There etc) and those are fine. But stuff I've skipped and the keyboard player jumps in for might be Light My Fire, Sunshine of Your Love.
Can you help with a few suggestions for trickier satisfying solos that are the next level up without going into 'Jump' territory? I'm all ears. Thanks!
 

Larry F

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I hope I'm the first to point out that Sunshine of Your Love is a slowed down version of Blue Moon.

Anyway, consider how many solos are based on a single pattern. You can take that motive and play it at different times. Each time, it might sound a little different. Ronnie Earl has recommended working an idea to death. He has a neat way of saying this, but I can't remember it. Worrying it?

At times, you might drop the idea of scales. Just grab onto a pattern and be like a dog with a bone.

I've never actually done this, but some lesser guitarists could try making short lists of things to include, an agenda, so to speak. For example:

long notes
repeating a short idea over and over, as fast as you can.
really high bends
short descending runs of 3-5 notes

This is a lot to remember, so maybe try one thing first.
 

klasaine

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1) What Larry mentions.
2) If you want to learn to and get better at improvising, you have to improvise.

You note that you're already learning solos note for note. That's great! Learning any solo helps. Now, you have to practice throwing those already learned licks into different situations. That's how ALL good soloists learn to do it.

If you want a suggestion ...
Cop all the licks from "Strange Brew" and "Black Magic Woman". After you nail those. Play the Strange Brew licks in a different blues song and try the Santana licks in a different minor key song.
 

SRHmusic

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A few quick thoughts (and things I need to do more often, too)-

For a song you want to work on:
If there are lyrics or at least a melody, work out and learn it on your instrument, and pay attention to how the notes change with the chords. Play the melody in different positions on the guitar.

Get the chord changes for the song stuck in your head for a day (or a few days). (Start by playing through the song just on the chord changes a bunch of times.) Then go for a walk or whatever, hum the tune and come up with some vocal lines. Then figure them out on guitar.

Learn the major and minor triads everywhere, and try soloing only using triad notes for a few days.

This stuff pays off but it takes a while

Edit- Try the solo to Santana's Black Magic Woman. It follows the changes. Another good one is Warren Haynes solos in Soulshine. Also the solo in Take it Easy (Eagles) is very triad based. One more- Sultans of Swing closely follows the changes, too.
 
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jrblue

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I think the OP was looking for specific songs with varied types of "technical" and stylistic soloS, though the genera tips about building a solo, though abstract, are sort of helpful. Steely Dan employed a whole group of ace soloists to develop distinctive solos, so stuff like "Peg" (or, of course, "Reelin' in the Years) has incredibly tight, gorgeous solos that impress with musicality, not gymnastic prowess. I like the Yardbirds for riffs and hooks as well as a few epic solos. I think Cream is a great suggestion, particularly the first album where everything is much tighter than it became. Hendrix gets looked at as Mr. Impossible, but the solos on his first two albums, back when he had a true band, the Experience, and back when he played songs, have some beautiful solos that are readily playable and worth learning.
 

teletail

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Probably not what you want to hear, but I’d suggest lessons with a GOOD teacher. Find one with referrals from people you know. This will speed up the learning process exponentially. The thing that videos and books don’t provide is feedback, and that’s what you need.

Second I’d recommend learning your pentatonic scales. They are the basis for a lot, if not most rock and country solos. Learning your pentatonics will make learning solos much easier. They’ll also help you improvise.

As someone else said, if you want to improvise, you have to practice improvising. I’d concentrate on that until you have some basic improv skill, then start learning solos and incorporating them into your improvisation.
 

Jeremy_Green

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A couple of thoughts, Firstly... I think sometimes we get too caught up in the "trying" part. There's a saying I learned from somewhere:

"Don't try hard, try easy."

Honestly I think this applies here. We are so busy trying to be mind blowing that you have put your head into creative lockdown. Just play man! It's only music, it goes by and new notes arrive. Just have fun sounding like sh*t and before long you won't.

Secondly, I think far too many of us get caught up in scales, modes, patterns, essentially finger line dancing - where we do a series of 'known moves'. This isn't AT ALL where the good stuff lives. These great players move you, because they are expressing what's inside their mind. If they are cutting and pasting a line in there, it's because they meant to. It's all about intent. You dont just learn a bunch of stuff and all of a sudden you are amazing. It truly starts when you learn to listen harder and react with confidence. To begin: Don't play something, until you hear it - even if it is just one single note - hear it and OWN IT. Put it in time and slap a little 'english on it' (aka vibrato, slides, wiggles, warbles, light touch, hard touch etc). Sing with your instrument and throw away the worry about wrong notes - just play, listen, react, play some more.

It won't sound good at first, but stay with it. Be nicer to yourself and stop worrying about where you think you should be or where other people are.

I look at it like this: we are all on the same road. Some of us are further down the road, some of us nearer the beginning - but IT'S THE SAME ROAD. We ALL started with one foot in front of the other. Just keep walking as much as you can and enjoy the journey.

All the best
 

klasaine

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A couple of thoughts, Firstly... I think sometimes we get too caught up in the "trying" part. There's a saying I learned from somewhere:

"Don't try hard, try easy."

Honestly I think this applies here. We are so busy trying to be mind blowing that you have put your head into creative lockdown. Just play man! It's only music, it goes by and new notes arrive. Just have fun sounding like sh*t and before long you won't.
This is a great point.
Something I've noticed consistently when teaching improvisation to all ages (and skill levels) is that younger kids catch on quicker. My admittedly unscientific hypothesis is that it's because they aren't psyched out by failure. Young adults on up generally sorta kinda know what sounds 'good' and hearing themselves suck is really disconcerting. The first reaction is "ughh, I can't do this, nevermind". Novice kids - they don't know any better. Think about the toddler that will try 40 times to shove the square block into the triangle hole. They don't trip. They just keep going until they get it.
No one's gonna bleed out when you hit a bum note.
 

blowtorch

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quote a bit of the melody is ALWAYS a great place to start.
so is scatting over the lead section, and then transposing that to guitar
 

Peegoo

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I'm looking for a short list of tasteful solos that are considered reasonably technical that I could work on and see if I can overcome the barrier.

I think ^^^this approach^^^ may just continue your frustration because you're learning and regurgitating something already committed to a recording.

You certainly can learn challenging solos and chop them up and incorporate those licks into your playing. Many players solo this way: they link licks together like train cars on a track. But to advance to the next level, the thing to do is learn chord theory--even at a basic level. Check out the CAGED system and apply some actual practice (this is work) to learn the basics of the system. As you do, you will begin to 'see' where the notes are on the fretboard as they apply to the chords in the tune.

Playing solos and fills from within the chord is the core approach used by all of the truly great players that dare to venture outside the pentatonic box, e.g., Robben Ford, Albert Lee, Eric Johnson, Dave Gilmour, etc. You do not have to play fast to play tastefully and play "great."

Start easy: use only the triads as you work through a few familiar tunes. Try to come up with a little song within a song: a new melody that works over the changes. This process takes at least two weeks to get your head and fingers around. The more you practice it, the better you'll get.

There are no secrets and no shortcuts.
 

tomasz

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You can also approach it from the melodic side of things. I guess I recommended Andy Timmons' Creative Muse course on TrueFire in a different thread. This made me rethink my soloing a lot and turned me towards looking more for melodic patterns, repetitions and useful notes. Less is sometimes so much more :)

Another cool thing, when you are improvising, which also boils down to melodies really is, try humming/singing the melody you want and play it. It's awkward at the beginning. But it's not your fingers, where the melody or solo starts. It's your brain. If you practice translating that brain voice, by using fingers, over time your playing will change. You will be more confident about what you are saying with the solo and more confident, that you can actually pull it off.

Singing has another benefit, voice modulates and articulates different, than how you usually play. Listen to those nuances and try to translate them into your articulation. That adds a lot of flavour and taste.
 

ASATKat

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If you like electric blues find a local blues jam in a club near you, with luck there could be one out there. Playing with people makes it real.

Join the Twanger Central music backing track challenge. Get into production. These backers come at us 1 to 3 times a week.

These activities will do wonders for your overall sense of playing and creating, and posting and putting it out there for the community to listen to.
No ah*le people here that tear people down, these are the salt of guitar players.

Come on over, one year of this and you will be a whole new player. And it's free
 
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klasaine

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Join the Twanger Central music backing track challenge. Get into production. These backers come at us 1 to 3 times a week.

These activities will do wonders for your overall sense of playing and creating, and posting and putting it out there for the community to listen to.
No ah*le people here that tear people down, these are the salt of guitar players.

Come on over, one year of this and you will be a whole new player. And it's free
I highly recommend this!
As I and so many others here noted, you learn to improvise by doing it. There really is no other way.
 

Harry Styron

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A tip that I picked up somewhere is to focus on the 3 and 7 (natural or flat) of each chord. If the song is in the key of C, for the I chord you might end on Bb, then slide to A which is the third of the IV chord, and so on, which gives your solo a melodic line through voice leading. At times, you’ll want to make large leaps for variety and drama. You can also use this technique as stair steps to work up the fretboard to a climax on the first and second strings on the fourteenth or fifteenth frets.
 

rand z

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Practice playing the basic melody of the song.

And, take it from there... adding or subtracting notes to/from the melody.

Good Luck!

imo.
 

Beachbum

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Learning theory in all of its facets is of course essential but when it comes to creating solos I do what an excellent musician told me years ago when I was young. "It doesn't have to be as complicated as you think. Hear it in your head then go find the notes and just play them.
 
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tomasz

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Learning theory in all of its facets is of course essential but when it comes to improvising solos I do what an excellent musician told me years ago when I was young. "Hear it in your head, forget all that you've studied, go find the notes and just play them.
Agreed! Took me years to forget theory, but I'm glad I did. Listening is so much more important in music!
 

RadioFM74

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You're going after two very different goals, each requiring its own specific training and skill set: playing "technical" and improvising tastefully. Each one is a difficult, worthy objective in its own right and I'd really suggest you focus on one or the other.

Me, I'd much rather be a tasteful improviser and so I'd start from that, and only think about "spicing it up" with some flashy licks or "out there" harmonies later. (BTW: I love flashy licks, so I'm not at all disparaging the idea of playing more technically).

To start improvising, as many have said, you have to do just that. Now this does not mean putting on a backing track and blowing. If you blank out, this is likely to lead you nowhere.

"Playing by ear" is a trainable skill and as always to train a skill you have to isolate the difficulties.

In essence, improvising is thinking of a melody and playing in real time (against a given harmony and rhythm). Barney Kessel, one of the great improvisers of our time, suggested an exercice: "Play What you Hear". Strike a chord - any chord - and come up with a short melody (6-9 notes). It has to be a good one, one that's memorable enough you could repeat. Sing it. Whistle it. Then play it on the guitar. If coming up with melodies freezes you (and it might at the beginning), "Play What You Know". Think of "Oh Susannah" or "Take me out to the ball game" or whatever jingle comes to your mind, and play it. Do this consistently and you'll slowly acquire the ability to "come up with melodies on guitar" (… improvising).

This alone should help you to start improvising without mechanically running up and down scales. Of course, studying a little harmony later on will help with note selection, etc. etc. But: each thing in its own time.

A couple of thoughts, Firstly... I think sometimes we get too caught up in the "trying" part. There's a saying I learned from somewhere:

"Don't try hard, try easy."

Honestly I think this applies here. We are so busy trying to be mind blowing that you have put your head into creative lockdown. Just play man! It's only music, it goes by and new notes arrive. Just have fun sounding like sh*t and before long you won't.

Secondly, I think far too many of us get caught up in scales, modes, patterns, essentially finger line dancing - where we do a series of 'known moves'. This isn't AT ALL where the good stuff lives. These great players move you, because they are expressing what's inside their mind. If they are cutting and pasting a line in there, it's because they meant to. It's all about intent. You dont just learn a bunch of stuff and all of a sudden you are amazing. It truly starts when you learn to listen harder and react with confidence. To begin: Don't play something, until you hear it - even if it is just one single note - hear it and OWN IT. Put it in time and slap a little 'english on it' (aka vibrato, slides, wiggles, warbles, light touch, hard touch etc). Sing with your instrument and throw away the worry about wrong notes - just play, listen, react, play some more.

It won't sound good at first, but stay with it. Be nicer to yourself and stop worrying about where you think you should be or where other people are.

I look at it like this: we are all on the same road. Some of us are further down the road, some of us nearer the beginning - but IT'S THE SAME ROAD. We ALL started with one foot in front of the other. Just keep walking as much as you can and enjoy the journey.

All the best
^Pure gold
Learning theory in all of its facets is of course essential but when it comes to creating solos I do what an excellent musician told me years ago when I was young. "It doesn't have to be as complicated as you think. Hear it in your head then go find the notes and just play them.
^Ditto
 




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