Play Better Guitar Solos Right Now – Part 1: Developing Killer Vibrato Technique

Author: Ed Cupler

Your guitar solos currently do not sound the way you want them to… however, this is a good thing. Why? The fact that you are unhappy with your solos is what drove you to take action to get better (this is why you are reading this article).

There are LOTS of mistakes that can keep your solos from sounding awesome, here are the most common ones:

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  1. Not using ‘any’ vibrato during your solos (or using out of tune vibrato)
  2. Using very narrow (or no) vibrato to begin your solos – causing them to feel ‘weak’ and uninspiring
  3. Adding vibrato to every note you play in the exact same manner

Before you find out how to use vibrato in a highly expressive manner to make your guitar solos sound awesome, check out the video below to observe how any solo can be massively improved by using this technique in a more creative manner:

Use the points below to build a solid foundation for great vibrato technique and use it to enhance your solos:

1. Make Sure Your Vibrato Is Consistently In-Tune

You must ALWAYS keep your vibrato in tune! Many guitarists play their guitar licks with out of tune vibrato, ruining potentially great sounding solos. To keep your vibrato in tune, make sure you consistently bend the string up to the desired pitch and return it back to the original pitch where you started. In other words, if you are applying vibrato to a note that is a width of a half step, the string needs to be bent up to match the pitch 1 fret above the note you started on. Next, the string must be returned back down and released to match exactly the original pitch you started on.

Hear what out of tune vibrato sounds like compared to perfect vibrato by listening to the examples below:

Example 1 – Perfect Vibrato: Hear It

Example 2 – Out Of Tune Vibrato: Hear It

How To Make Your Guitar Solos Better Right Now Using This Information:

Determine how wide you want to make your vibrato (less than a half step, one half step, one whole step, etc.). The begin perfecting your vibrato by applying it to different notes on various strings and frets while keeping it in tune. To make sure you are constantly improving, record yourself so you can listen back to hear which notes were in tune and which weren’t.

2. Adjust The Depth Of Your Vibrato To Make It Appropriate For Any Musical Context

If you always begin the first note of your guitar solos with narrow vibrato (of a depth that is less than 1/2 step) your playing will sound soft. This sound is ‘sometimes’ appropriate, but sometimes it simply makes your playing sound ‘weak’. To have more expressive options in your soloing, learn to use wide vibrato on the very first note to add a powerful punch to the phrase! To do this, use vibrato that is at least a width of 1/2 step or one whole step (while keeping it in tune). This is not ‘required’ for all solos of course, but you should make sure you are not always beginning your solos with narrow/no vibrato.

Check out the audio samples below to compare the difference between wide and narrow vibrato:

Example 1 – Narrow Vibrato (less than a 1/2 step): Hear It

Note: Remember that narrow vibrato can sound good when used in the right situation, you just want to avoid ‘always’ using this type of vibrato as a crutch if you are unable to play wider vibrato. Work on becoming proficient with both types.

Example 2 – Wide Vibrato (1/2 step): Hear It

Example 3 – Very Wide Vibrato (whole step): Hear It

Note: Using vibrato wider than 1/2 step isn’t always the best choice over a more narrow vibrato. When you use vibrato in your solos, focus on matching the width and intensity of your vibrato to match the musical context. Being able to play wide vibrato gives you the option to add ‘intensity’ in musical situations that require more tension (this cannot be achieved by using narrow vibrato which is much more subtle). By mastering both narrow and wide vibrato, you will gain the ability to freely express yourself with the technique under any musical circumstance.

How To Make Your Guitar Solos Better Right Now Using This Information:

Step 1: Think of two to three small guitar licks. For each lick, make the first note ‘longer’ in terms of duration (such as a half note or longer).

Step 2: Apply 1/2 or whole step vibrato to the first note.

Step 3: Repeat the previous step for several minutes. Practice this for a couple of weeks until you have developed your vibrato technique to a high level. Once you’ve done this, you will be able to effortlessly apply this idea during any guitar solo.

3. Use Vibrato In Different Ways Throughout Your Guitar Solos

Vibrato technique is built from two distinct variables:

1. The way the vibrato sounds (based on its width and the rate of speed at which its pulses occur)

2. How long it takes for vibrato to be applied to a note after the note is played.

In most cases, guitar players apply ‘narrow’ vibrato to a note ‘immediately’ after they play it (every time). If you use vibrato in this manner every time you play a note, it will quickly become less interesting (achieving the opposite of what you want).

To easily make your guitar solos sound much more interesting, use vibrato in a variety of different ways. For example, rather than instantly applying it to a note, ‘delay’ its application for a moment or two. This approach is not common, and will make your playing sound much more unique and interesting. Additionally, it will make the note sound much more intense while helping to sustain it longer.

Listen to the difference between vibrato that is ‘immediately applied’ vs. ‘delayed’:

Example 1 – Immediate Vibrato: Hear It

Example 2 – Delayed Vibrato: Hear It

To make your soloing sound even more unique, after delaying the vibrato, pick the string again (with a lot of power) to emphasize/re-articulate the note. Here is what this sounds like:

Example 3 – Delayed Vibrato + Extra Pick Attack: Hear It

Example 4 – A short guitar lick that uses all 3 vibrato types mentioned above while varying the types of vibrato being used (ranging from heavy/fast to narrow/slow). Hear It

How To Make Your Guitar Solos Better Right Now Using This Information:

Select a guitar lick from a guitar solo that you like to play and identify the notes that are sustained longer. Next, record yourself playing this lick for several minutes while using vibrato that is applied immediately after the note is played, delayed for a moment or delayed + an additional pick attack. Use a lot of variety in this recording in order to force yourself to think creatively.

The ideas in this article will help you to quickly improve any normal guitar lick or solo to make it a truly great one. However, there is much more you can do to create killer guitar solos. In part two of this article, you will discover how bends can be used to make your solos sound even more unique and creative!

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitar player. He teaches guitar players from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. Visit his website tomhess.net to get free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar playing articles.

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