The Reasons Why You Can’t Improvise A Great Rock Guitar Solo (Yet)

Author: Tom Hess

Guitarist - music instructor Tom Hess
Would you like to be able to write creative rock guitar solo ideas? If you said yes, you have a lot in common with most guitarists. That said, although most guitar players want to play great solos and improvisations, very few actually possess the ability to do so. So why is it that guitar players struggle to come up with creative guitar soloing ideas?

The answer comes in two forms:

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  1. Almost all guitar players are under the impression that the best process for coming up with guitar solos consists of piecing together separate licks one after the other (which is a mistake).
  2. Most guitar players have not taken the time to work on their guitar phrasing. As a result, they are unable to start playing truly great guitar solo licks. These guitarists are extremely limited because they only know how to focus on ‘what’ they are playing (such as notes, scales, etc.) rather than ‘how’ they play it.

If you are looking to make massive positive change in your ability to improvise rock guitar solos, it will require consistent and focused effort to build your understanding of the points above (I teach my guitar students in detail about these things with my correspondence rock guitar lessons). With this in mind, you can work on improving your rock guitar improvisation skills right now using the guitar licks you already know very well. In fact, by doing this you can quickly create great guitar solo improvisation ideas in the moment without learning any new guitar melodies. To illustrate how you can do this for yourself, I am going to show you a highly effective guitar soloing approach.

Here is the process you should follow:

  1. Locate a backing track that contains chords you feel good soloing over.
  2. Choose a short guitar lick that you have memorized or are already familiar with.
  3. Play the backing track and start soloing your guitar lick from the previous step.
  4. After you have played your guitar lick once over the chords of the track, resist the temptation to start improvising any totally new licks. Instead, repeat the lick over one more time ‘except’ now you must add at least one of any of these alterations to it:
    • Use an alternate rhythm for the notes you are playing while keeping the actual pitches the same.
    • Change some or all of the pitches in your guitar lick while keeping the rhythm of the notes the same.
    • Create a different ending for the lick you are playing while playing all of the previous notes the same (additionally, try this while the chords of the backing track are changing).
    • Use different guitar techniques to add slight variations to some of the notes in the lick. For example, emphasize some notes with vibrato, use bends or artificial harmonics). Use this method to create at least ten variations of the guitar melody from step two (without simply thinking up an entirely new guitar lick). The goal of this exercise is to help you get as much as you can out of a single idea in order to force yourself to improve your improvisation in the moment.
  5. Now, choose a totally new guitar lick. This time use a guitar lick that feels significantly different than the one you had previously used. Repeat the
    steps described starting back at step 3.
  6. Use the rest of your guitar practice session to concentrate on the above-mentioned steps.

The approach described above is an entirely different one than the one most guitarists take when they improvise rock guitar solos. Focusing on coming up with many variations of a single guitar solo lick is actually a lot less difficult than trying to jam together several unrelated guitar licks and improvise at the same time. Additionally, this process of improvising a single rock guitar lick will sound much better because you have many different guitar phrasing techniques at your disposal that you can use to enhance the notes of each lick you choose.

You may think that this guitar soloing approach sounds like a really basic approach. If so, you’re right… this approach is both basic and incredibly productive at building your rock guitar playing skills. In fact, this is the same approach I have used many hundreds of times to help guitar players learn to play great lead guitar improvisations.

Learn how you can play great rock guitar solos using the exact approach in this article by checking out this free guitar improvisation video:

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 tomhess.net to receive many free guitar playing resources , mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.

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