Making Your Solos Sound Emotional
Do you have the ability to play highly emotional guitar solos on command? Find out fast by telling me the answer to this basic question (don’t use your guitar for help):
Of the following two pairs of notes, which ones are the most similar in the way they feel?
First Pair: a C note played over an F major chord followed by another C note played above an A minor chord.
Second Pair: a B note played above an E minor chord preceding a G note over a C minor chord.
The majority of people would say the first pair is the most similar – and they would be completely wrong! This is why:
The first pair contains a C note played over both chords. However, this note feels entirely different than the B and G notes in the second pair. This is because it functions as two different notes, a fifth and a third. A fifth and a third sound nothing like each other. Even though the same pitch is used in the first pair, the way it feels over each chord is completely different (since its function has changed).
On the other hand, the B and G notes in pair two actually ‘feel’ exactly the same (in spite of being different pitches). This is because they are both fifths – B is the 5th of an E minor chord and G is the fifth of the C minor chord.
To hear tons of examples of this, so you can fully understand this concept, check out the video below:
How To Apply This Idea So You Can Make Your Guitar Solos Sound More Emotional:
Listen to the following audio sample and complete the steps below. This audio sample contains a single note (E) being held for several minutes.
Step 1– Allow the E note backing track to continue playing while you play these chords on top of it (let each chord sustain for 5-10 seconds): B major, F major, F# minor, F# major, E major, E minor, A major, A minor, C# minor, C major, D major, D minor. Imagine this like playing a single note guitar solo above every chord.
Step 2– If you’re already familiar with the way in which chords are constructed, you are aware that the E pitch functions differently when played over each chord in the sample above. Now, identify the function of the pitch over each chord. Then decide which function sounds the best to your ears. For instance, if you enjoy the feeling that occurs when you play an E note over a D minor chord and recognize that E played over a D minor chord is a ninth, you will always enjoy the sound of a ninth when played over any minor triad. As you learned in the video above, the function of a note will always sound the same regardless of the pitch/chord being used.
With this in mind, it is important to learn how to recognize the sound of other note functions as well (not just your favorites). However, you should begin by identifying the ones you like first, then expand and learn the others.
If you aren’t familiar with chord construction, do this:
- Listen closely to how the feeling created by the pitch changes as a new chord is played above it. Once you learn music theory concepts applied to guitar, you can get into the details behind why each chord creates a different feeling over the same pitch. More importantly, you will have the ability to create this feeling in your guitar solos whenever you want to. For the time being, just get used to hearing the different feelings created when the E note above is played over different chords.
- Study guitar with an excellent guitar teacher who will show you everything you need to know about music, so you can quickly become a killer guitarist.
Final Step – Write down on a piece of paper the specific emotions you associate with each of the pitch functions (feelings) above. This step is crucial, because it will help you to remember these concepts and give you the ability to use them creatively in your guitar solos. Don’t worry about whether the emotions you write down are right or wrong, just think of your own terms for describing them. You should ask yourself the following: “How does it feel to ME when a ninth is played over a minor chord?” It’s not too important what words you use specifically, just make sure you understand the emotion you feel.
Once you have taken the steps above and have a solid grasp on the ‘feeling’ of each note function, begin seeking new ways to apply this idea into your guitar soloing. One exercise you can use to do this is to analyze the notes in the chords of the backing tracks you usually play over. Identify which note goes with which chord and find out what notes the chords have in common.
As an example, consider this chord progression:
A major, C major and F major, the E note occurs in both the A major and C major chords. In A major it has the function of a fifth, while in C major it functions as a third. Also, the C note occurs in the F major chord as a fifth (and the root in the C major chord). While soloing over these chords, take advantage of the common tones between the chords and their changing emotions. Hold these shared notes longer just as the chords begin to change, and you will shock anyone listening with the different feeling created as the note changes its function.
Of course, you should not ‘always’ be using this method in your solos. Doing this all the time will cause your soloing to become predictable and stale.
When you use the concept in this article in your solos, you will massively enhance your ability to express yourself on lead guitar. But keep in mind… this is just a single concept you can use to play better guitar solos. To truly become a virtuoso lead guitarist, you have to make anyone listening to your playing ‘feel’ exactly what you want them to feel (every time you play). Find out how you can do this by checking out this page about creating emotion in your guitar playing.