Guitar Solo Lesson: How To Play Guitar Phrases That Stick Out

Author: Ed Cupler

Tom Hess

Many guitarists think that you have to play fast, technical guitar solos to get the attention of your listeners. However, you can very easily get the attention of your listeners by playing very basic guitar phrases if you know the right approach to take.

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In order to do this, you will need to create guitar phrases that surprise your listeners by presenting them with unexpected musical ideas. Don’t worry this is not as difficult as it may seem and there are tons of creative approaches that you can use to do this in your guitar solos. For the rest of this article, I will show you an effective step by step approach to creating attention-grabbing guitar solos.

First, you need to watch the video below to understand the concept I will be describing and get the full benefit of the ideas discussed in this article. Once you have watched the full video, come back and I will take you through the steps to writing your own killer guitar solo phrases.


Okay, assuming you have already watched the video above, you are ready to continue reading this article. Follow these steps to write guitar solos with phrasing that ‘demands’ the attention of your listeners:

Step #1. Think of a short melodic idea that uses the following restrictions:

A. Must be in 4/4 time.

B. Must be played using either strict eighth notes or sixteenth notes.

Once you have created your short guitar phrase, you will be playing it over a backing track in 4/4. After making your selection, play the phrase you created over a backing track (you can use this drum track in 4/4). Play your melody over this track now.

HINT: By using pedal point phrasing (as demonstrated in the video above) you will make the following steps easier to do. Additionally, you can use a similar idea to the one seen below, where every note is picked two times:

(I encourage you to create your own ideas as well)


Step Number Two: Play the short guitar phrase you made over the drum track in 4/4 above and repeat it several times. This step is important because:

A. By repeating your guitar phrase over and over, you are solidifying the expectation for your listeners that: the pattern itself and the 4/4 beat will continue (as you saw in the video).

B. It helps to set up the next step and make it more effective.

Step Number Three: Now you are going to surprise the listener with a totally unexpected twist to your guitar phrase. You are going to create a ‘three against four’ feel as I explained and played for you in the video I linked you to at the beginning of this article. A very basic method for doing this is changing your phrase by removing some notes so it can fit into a time signature with three beats to a measure. At the same time you will continue repeating it over the 4/4 backing track. Compare the tablature below to the one above to see an example of how this can be done:

Observe that the value of each note remains the same (16th notes) in both versions of the guitar phrase (just like in the video you watched). As the music continues in 4/4, the altered phrase you created will clash against it by falling on a different beat than the backing track. This makes the guitar phrase very tense and gives your listener NO CHOICE but to pay attention to what you are playing.

Step Number Four: After enough repetitions, your shorter guitar phrase will match up with the downbeat of the 4/4 backing track (since you didn’t change the note rhythms). Next you can choose to do any of the following:

A. Maintain the three against four feeling by playing the shorter guitar phrase again.

B. Start over by playing your original guitar phrase from step one.

C. Start over by creating a new guitar solo phrase.

By playing guitar solo phrases like this you will certainly create unexpected musical ideas for your listeners (that will grab their attention). However eventually the listener will get accustomed to ANYTHING you play, if you repeat it enough times. This means, you will need to change the idea if you want to continue holding their attention (even if the original phrase you played was great).

Also, you are not limited to using the idea of three against four only in lead guitar phrasing situations. You can also go through the steps above to use this idea for creating new rhythm guitar riffs. There are countless ways to creatively integrate this idea into your music and many more basic examples than I can get into in a single article.

Now that you have learned this idea, it is time to fully integrate it into your own guitar playing. Use what you have learned in this article to enhance your musical creativity and write killer guitar solos.

Use these lead guitar soloing tips to develop your guitar solo phrasing skills.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is an electric guitar teacher online, recording artist and the guitar player of the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website to locate many free guitar skill building resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.

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