The Right Way To Start Soloing
I believe that for the most part you have been taught how to solo on guitar, the wrong way. This will probably mean that you are frustrated with how you solo and you might feel that you can’t solo, even though you’ve put in a lot of effort and time.
The Old Method
Usually, the method that is used to teach guitar soloing is this: learn scales, up and down the guitar’s neck! Learn some new modes, an exotic scale or two – the more the merrier! Just learn them, not how to use them or how to write licks using them!
I’m sorry to say, if you’ve tried this or been taught in this way, you’ve been wronged. This way is much like learning to ride a bike by watching a film and then wondering why you couldn’t actually ride one when it came down to it!
All in all, scales are important, but having something to say using them is far more critical.
Now, this will sound like I am contradicting myself but, you should learn the 5 pentatonic minor scale shapes (if you don’t know them, you should buy my book on scales). Firstly, they outline the scale in a really easy to understand way. Secondly, the shapes cover the whole guitar’s fretboard, therefore after some work you’ll know where the notes are.
Learn Them Like This…
The first thing is to learn the fingering, with most of the shapes you can stick strictly to one finger per fret and therefore play through the shape quickly as you’ve built in efficiency from the get-go.
Next take each shape, and get comfortable playing it up and down. Don’t make it sound like an exercise, make it sound like you’re playing a song you’ve known for a long time.
Once Cracked – Limit Yourself
Once, you have the shape down, in time, in tune and doesn’t sound like an exercise, then pick four notes. Any four will do, you could pick two strings which are next to each other you could pick two with a gap in the middle. For a few reasons, four notes works best. Firstly, you are limited by distance, amount of ideas plus you can’t get lost with four notes which occur over two strings, can you?!
Got Your 4 Notes?
Find a simple song in one key that will be easy to solo over. Something like a pop tune that’s currently on the radio – I’m sorry to ask you to do that but they are usually in one simple key – this makes the whole exercise simpler and allows you to focus on playing better/more ideas rather than worrying about the impending key change!
The idea now is to just go nuts.
Try writing a few licks around them. You might be thinking, but four notes? That’s nothing! I can’t possibly solo with them, trust me, you have enough notes, you just need to get creative!
So, what can we do with our four notes? We could bend notes, slide up or down, stick on one note and play with the rhythmic element. Or we could leave space and play two notes. How about question and answer, trying to keep to the same question each time but change the answer. These are just a few ways for you to start soloing on guitar.
Please do it in tune! Sounds simply but is actually tough to do. When you’re starting out bending or even highly advanced! You will need to check your bending (hey – I still do!), the best way to get better at bending is to play the note you’re trying to bend up to. Sing that note out loud, while you move your fingers back into position ready to bend. Then keep singing as you start to bend the note up.
After a few times, you’ll start to feel where “in tune” is and over time it will become natural for you to hit pitch – quickly, easily and with style!
Exhausted Your Soloing Ideas?
When you’ve used up all of your guitar soloing ideas, try it again. Force yourself to find some new ideas, try to play with the timing of one of the licks you’ve already tried million times.
When you feel that you have played all that you can – try 4 more notes from that shape. Try all the things above – bending, sliding, motifs, Q+A etc.
Keep moving on, continue to pick four notes until you’ve worked through that shape and used up all the possible string choices you think you can.
Next Shape – Same Process
So, you’ve made it through one shape, congrats! Only four more shapes to go through! Best get started then! Again work through the same steps as before.
A Note About Phrasing
The easiest way to explain is this: phrasing is a lot like the way we speak; how we speed up when we get excited, or slow down to really drive the point home. It’s also the gaps we leave between sentences or the pause after we’ve asked a question (which we most likely would have raised our pitch as we came to the final word!)
That is what phrasing is, it is not talking all the time with the odd grasping for breathe, nor is it monotone lengthy sentences with no form or structure which make the listener believe you, the one talking is bored.
When you have some refined ideas, got that bending pitch perfect and polished your phrasing, then you can add a few of the shapes together. You could try whole shape or pick four notes from shape 1 and four notes from shape 2.
You’ve now more than doubled your possibilities and now there is space for you to create movement within your solos. Don’t hog one string or one shape; try to find melodic passages which travel through both shapes. Again play as many ideas as possible for as long as you can.
I’ve outlined here the correct way to learn scales, find your own licks and then refine that into your own unique voice. This method provides you the frame work to start soloing and learn how to in the quickest time possible. It will take some time for you to be able to solo effectively on guitar, so let the hard work begin!