Making a single note sound emotionally expressive is one thing… but playing entire guitar solos that are overflowing with emotion is another. To do this, you need to control the level of emotion in every note of every guitar lick you use.
Note: Before reading the rest of this article it is critical that you read part three of this series on how to play emotional guitar solos. Go back and read it now if you haven’t already, then continue reading below.
To increase the emotional intensity in every single lick of your solos, you have to become aware of how each note feels as it is played above a specific chord/chord progression. Every note you use in your solos has a different function while it is played over different chords, so you can change the way a lick feels emotionally by combining different notes together. Here is an illustration of what I mean: if you are using notes A, B and D over a G major chord, each one of these notes functions differently (A as the second, B as the third and D as the fifth). If you were to use a G note in the place of the D note, it would function differently (as the root) and completely change the overall emotional feeling of the lick.
This can be understood best by thinking of different notes as different colors in your palette. Whenever you use a certain note over a certain chord, you are limited to creating only one emotion (based on that note’s function when combined with that chord). When this one note is combined with many other notes, it is the same as mixing the colors of your palette to produce a completely NEW color (like mixing yellow and blue to make green). You are already familiar with the idea that changing a few notes in a small lick will produce an entirely new emotional feeling… now you understand why this occurs.
To listen to how this sounds for yourself, play the video below:
To get started applying this concept into your playing to make your solos sound more emotional, listen to the following licks below and follow my instructions. Notice: the samples below are designed to be a minute long, so it will be less difficult for you to complete the steps below.
Lick #1 (Hear It)
Lick #2 (Hear It)
Lick #3 (Hear It)
Lick #4 (Hear It)
Step 1– Listen to the first sample lick and play this chord progression above it:
G major – E minor – A minor – C major
(Play each chord several times to give yourself enough time to understand the emotion created by each note.)
Step 2– Identify how each note in the lick above functions when combined with the chords you just played. Doing this is important for recalling WHY any lick you play feels how it does – giving you the ability to recreate that same feeling in any musical context. This skill is one of the most useful skills to have as a musician… keeping you from becoming the kind of guitarist who wastes time trying to think of a lick that will sound cool over a chord (rather than KNOWING what will sound cool ahead of time).
If you need to brush up on your music theory in order to better understand the above step, study the ideas in this video on how music theory really works.
Step3 – Go back and repeat the first two steps. This time, play the chord progression in step one over the other three audio samples.
Step4 – Go back and repeat the first two steps again. Instead of using the chord progression from step one, play these chord progressions over the licks they specify from above:
Play over guitar lick one: A minor – E minor – G major – C major
Play over guitar lick two: G major – F major – A major – E major
Play over guitar lick three: C major – G major – A minor – F major
Once you have completed all four steps, you’ll be able to easily understand how the notes you play transform the emotional expression of your guitar licks. It is very critical for you to frequently pay close attention to the note choices you make in your solos. By doing this, it will start to feel natural for you to express your exact feelings through your music – instead of just playing random licks and waiting for something to sound cool (a common mistake made by many guitar players).
It will be much less difficult to play emotional guitar solos when you learn how to transform mediocre guitar licks into killer guitar licks using the ideas of this article together with unique phrasing embellishments.
When you have the power to make any note sound incredibly expressive and can control the emotions of each note over specific chords, your guitar solos will become like an extension of your soul – making your playing sound highly creative and unique.
To learn even more ways to play creative, emotional guitar solos, read this page on how to create strong emotions in your music.