You have a hard time transforming ‘so-so’ guitar solos into KILLER solos because you (like many other guitarists) only use the following two approaches:
Approach One: You add extra notes to the licks within the solo.
Approach Two: You play alternate notes or replace the licks in your solo with new ones.
These two approaches certainly ‘can’ be useful, but they will not totally transform the sound of your guitar solos until you take this approach:
Approach Three: Break down all of the licks in your guitar solo and enhance them by altering how the notes within them are being played. You don’t even have to change the notes themselves… by simply altering ‘how’ the notes in your licks are played, you can quickly make your solos sound a lot better. If you never work to get better at ‘how’ you play the notes, then ‘adding more’ notes will only achieve the same so-so results.
Watch the video below to see how I enhanced one of my student’s solos using this idea. By making just a few small changes to the way he played the notes in the licks of his solo, we were able to make the overall solo sound A LOT better:
Now it’s YOUR turn to improve your guitar solos. Select a solo you would like to improve and implement the steps discussed below to the licks within it. To do this, you have three options:
1. Use a guitar solo you created yourself.
2. Use one of the guitar solos you learned from a band/your favorite player.
3. If none of the above options apply for you, think of several guitar licks (in the same key) that you can play consecutively. This will allow you to play through the exercise even if you don’t know how to play an entire solo yet.
Here are a few ideas for some licks you can use in the key of C major/A minor:
Lick 1- Hear It
Lick 2- Hear It
Lick 3- Hear It
Previously I have talked about the different ways you can enhance any guitar lick by utilizing legato techniques, vibrato and double stops. In this article, you will learn how to do this with any lick using bending technique. Yes, string bends are ‘simple’, but there are a lot of nuances to this technique that can make or break your guitar solos. Read below to learn how to use bends in a way that will enhance the creativity of your solos/licks.
Guitar Soloing Technique #1: Using Bends To Shape Your Guitar Licks
Step 1: Select any guitar lick within your guitar solo.
Step 2: Look for ways to connect the notes in this lick together using bends. In general, the beginning and ending notes are the easiest ones to enhance with bends. Note: Remember to keep your bends in tune at all times.
Step 3 (optional): After bending up to the desired note, increase the intensity and aggression of the lick by using wide vibrato. The following is an example of how steps 2 and 3 would sound like together:
Example– A short guitar lick that utilizes bends and vibrato on the third note and ending note. You will notice two variations: one that uses vibrato on the 3rd note and another that does not: Hear It
(Watch the demonstration in the video above for a more detailed example of this.)
Step 4: Play the slightly changed lick 3-5 times.
Step 5: Repeat steps two through four, only this time bend up to a new note in the lick. Then contrast the way each of your licks sound when compared to one another. Repeat this approach for every note in the lick.
Step 6: Once you’ve done this for every note, decide which variation of the lick you like the best and use it in the place of the original lick.
Step 7: Repeat this with a new lick in your solo or implement the ideas in technique #2 (and #3) below.
Guitar Soloing Technique #2: Playing Bends At Different Speeds
Guitar players will often use bends in the following manner: First, they will strike the note, then they will instantly bend up to the desired pitch. Here’s how it sounds: Hear It
Your guitar solos will sound much more creative when you use bends at varying speeds rather than always ‘immediately’ bending to the target note. Here is how to do this:
Step 1: Take a single lick within your guitar solo and select a couple of notes within it (that are a half step apart).
Step 2: Start ‘slowly’ bending up from the lower note to the note above. This will only slightly raise the pitch of the note (briefly taking it out of tune).
Step 3: As you near the target note of your bend (after you’ve started slowly bending upwards), quickly speed up the bend to bring it to the target pitch. Then you can either return the string to the pitch you began with or do this:
Step 4 (optional): Use wide vibrato on the pitch you are on and complete the rest of the lick.
Example– Using a bend with a slow beginning and quick ending: Hear It
(Check out the video above to see exactly how this is used in the context of a solo.)
Step 5: Repeat this with a new lick in your solo or implement the ideas in technique #3 below.
Guitar Soloing Technique #3: Using Pre-Bends
Pre-bends are done by bending the string before picking it, then striking it and sounding only the ‘release’ portion of the bend. This is how it sounds: Hear It
Choose any note within your guitar lick and enhance it using a pre-bend. Begin by bending the string up (without picking it) by either a half or whole step, THEN picking it and finally releasing it. Experiment with different notes in the lick to see which one sounds best when played with a pre-bend.
Example: Hear It Listen closely to hear the slow pre-bend on the first note of the guitar lick.
Repeat this approach of moving through the remaining licks in your solo to think of tons of creative variations for each lick. Afterwards, determine which variations you prefer and record a new version of the original solo using them. Next, listen to the original you began with and compare it to the new version… You’ll be shocked by how much better the new version sounds!
String bends are just a single tool you can use to enhance your guitar solos/licks. The main idea of this exercise is to demonstrate how many great ideas you can squeeze out of a single technique. You can also apply the same approaches in this article using other techniques, such as slides, vibrato, string muting, sweep picking, etc (as well as other types of string bending).
It’s easy to enhance any guitar lick/solo using the approaches described above. However, this is only the beginning to playing truly awe-inspiring solos. There exist tons of other approaches you should learn in order to write killer guitar solos – Read about them and get started in the process of mastering lead guitar playing.