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Unread 08-08-2005, 07:54 PM   #1
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Cool How does one craft a good solo? (& other soloing ?s, answers)

I have a fairly simple, fairly ignorant sounding question to ask:

How does one put together a good solo?

I've heard a few answers, but this seems to be the place to inquire to get some authoritative stuff.

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Unread 08-09-2005, 03:05 PM   #2
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Well, here's a couple of things NOT to do!

1. Don't play a bunch of random notes over the pentatonic scale as fast as you can. Playing as fast as you can randomly on the pentatonic just makes one emotionless, rehashed, sounds-like-everything-else solo.

2. Don't focus on speed. Speed is good sometimes, sometimes it's bad, but it has more showcase quality than musical quality.

Now, a few things to do.

1. Step outside the pentatonic. The pentatonic always sounds good, but it only has 5 notes. Why not use all 7? Steps 4 and 7 are taken out because they create harmonic tensions (in the C scale (C D E F G A B C), that would be the notes F and B). Still, those notes have good use. Figure out ways to incorporate them in.

2. Try going slow. You can tie nice emotions into a solo by going slow with a great deal of quality in each note. Imagining a simple solo consisting of quarter notes, eighths, and only a few sixteenths. Put vibrato into some of the notes, slide and bend into others. Musical quality makes a solo more memorable, not necessarily speed.

3. Use different scales. There's more to music than the minor pentatonic. Try learning the dorian scale, diminished, phrygian, etc. You can use them to create more color.

4. Remember, a solo is just a melody. We just like to throw bends, vibrato and such into them, and we tend to make them longer. So do this. Write a simple 8 measure melody, trying to make it sound emotional somehow. Then find good spots to put in vibrato, bends, slides, etc., and figure out a good effect.

Ok there's a start. We really need to make a sticky thread for soloing.
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Unread 08-09-2005, 03:56 PM   #3
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Great job Jenacen. What I usually do to make a solo is first start with only a few notes, I refer to them as "target notes," in a chord progression. After I find these notes that work best in the progression, I just fill in the spaces between the notes with hammer-ons/pull-offs, bends, etc. until I find something that I find to be satisfying. I just prefer to lay out a foundation with the "target notes" so that I stay on track and keep the solo going somewhere, but not letting it get out of hand and just becoming all flash and trash.
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Unread 08-09-2005, 11:48 PM   #4
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When I play a solo I usually come up with a few basic riffs I want to incorporate and come up with a general idea of when I want to go high, when I want to go low, when I want to go fast, when I want to go slow (and no, I didn't intend for that to sound like Dr. Suess), and then I just improvise the solo using the general ideas I have in my head. It seems to work.
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Unread 08-10-2005, 06:13 PM   #5
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I've had a request (and I think it has merit) to make a sticky thread for all soloing issues. I'm going to re-name this particular thread as such, and perhaps that will direct those with soloing inquiries to a helpful place.

Which direction is really up, anyway???
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Unread 08-12-2005, 11:59 AM   #6
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Alrighty, I'm going to re-post something I did before to show how the melody thing all works, just so I don't have to do this every single time someone asks how to create a solo. This is on improvisation, which is essential to guitar playing today.

Mary Had a Little Lamb. A simple melody. Remember, that's all a solo is; a melody. We just like to make them longer and fancier. Here's what I did. I took the basic melody (played in the "Simple" link), and I shook it up. I'll explain what I did.

First, the basic note progression is E D C D E E E D D D E G G E D C D E E E E D D E D C. Now here's how I mixed it up.

Jazz Version--I don't know if you could call this a solo, it's more like a chord progression, but this is to try to get you to think outside the box a little, apply a little music theory, and see some very different things you could do with the note progression. This is part of improvisation because you're finding a completely different way to play a melody. I took the melody and developed a chord progression using 7ths and m7ths. I used jazz chords because they show the feel that different chords can give. There's a bit of music theory behind it that you have to learn to make it sound good, but that will come too. But for a start, I just took the notes in the melody then based chords on each note. Example, E=Em7, D=Dm7, C=C7, G=G7. These chords are based on the melody's note as the ROOT NOTE, the note the chord is based on. Like I said, this involves a knowledge of music theory to make the chords sound right, but that's basically what I did.

Something you could try to do with chord progressions is break up the chords into notes. For example, form the C chord shape on your guitar. Now, play random strings on it one at a time. Sound nice? That's called a "broken chord." Or you could start with the top or bottom-most string in the chord form, pluck each one down to the bottom string, then go back up. That's arpeggiating.

Hammer-On and Pull-Off Shakeup--All I did here was take a few notes in some good spots in the melody and do a quick hammer-on and pull off one or two frets above them. Knowing which one requires a bit of music theory knowledge, but if it feels right to you, it'll work. This just shows that solos can be simple with just a bit of jazz-up here and there.

Surf Guitar Version--This shows that you can give the melody a different feel if you play it differently. I added to this melody by rapid picking and sliding down into the first note of the melody, E. It makes the melody seem a bit faster.

Tapping--Ok ok, I'm just trying to show off here, but it sounds cool, doesn't it? I took the melody and just let them be used as "root notes," for lack of better term, in this tapping pattern. What I'm doing here is tapping a G fret, and sliding my fret hand up and down between the notes E, D and C. Then when I have to get up to G, I move my tapping finger up to A and have my fret hand on G, then I go back to where I was to wrap up the melody.

Rhythm and Solo Chinese Improvisation--I did not mean for this to sound chinese, although to one of my sisters and I, it does. I just took the basic melody notes and made power chords out of them, using the notes as root notesI play that twice over, and in the second time, I just made up a solo on the A Minor pentatonic scale. It shows you what can happen if you shake up something a little. And that solo is improvised, made up as I went. I don't think this is some of my best work, but it maintained a bit of a chinese sound in the chord progression and solo.

Slow Distortion Solo--I added distortion, and played the melody somewhat slower, throwing in bends leading from D to E, and sliding out from a bend up to E up to G. I let the bends do the work and create the emotion. Feels a bit harsher, doesn't it? This is to demonstrate that the solo can have a harsh, cold feel without shredding your guitar to death.

Blues Solo--I took the simple rhythm of the melody and just added that blues feel to it, then I improvised on the blues scale. That wasn't rehearsed; I made it up as I went. That's a part of soloing that you'll get the hang of later on; improvising. You eventually learn to keep the feel of the song. It's just something that comes with practice. But the way I did the song here makes it a bit more feelgood.

Jazz Version
Hammer-on and Pull-off Shakeup
Surf Guitar Version
Rhythm and Solo Improvisation
Slow Distortion Solo
Blues Improvisation
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Unread 08-12-2005, 04:07 PM   #7
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Unread 08-12-2005, 04:12 PM   #8
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Unread 08-12-2005, 05:41 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Six Flags
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Unread 08-12-2005, 06:26 PM   #10
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I wanna go back to that piece about arpeggiating and broken chords.

Building off of chords is a great way to write solos, because chords provide guidelines for harmony. Harmony between the chords and the solo guitar just all-around sounds good. Maybe this is better done than said. Take a look at the attachment.

I have the rhythm part playing first. That right there is the basic structure for the solo part. The progression is C Am F G. Next, you're going to hear an 8-measure broken chord solo that I wrote based off of that progression.
What I did was I based each of the notes in the solo on the chords in the progression.

The notes in the C chord are C, E and G.
The notes in the Am chord are A, C and E.
The notes in the F chord are F, A and C.
The notes in the G chord are G, B and D.

For two measures, I created a sequence with the notes in the C chord, the next two with Am, the next two with F, and the next two with G. The point in hearing it alone is to hear that it still has that same buildup as the chord progression because their structures are the same. At the end, they both go from a G chord structure to C chord structure (there's a bit of music theory behind that, but just know that that always sounds like the perfect ending).

Next, you're going to hear both the chords and the solo together. Notice how good that harmonizes? It's because both guitar parts are adapting the same basic structure for what they do. Both are adapting different uses of the notes in the C, Am, F and G chords. One is playing them as chords, the other as a melody.
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Unread 08-27-2005, 03:21 PM   #11
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I'm going to try to make a very watered-down explanation of music theory that you can easily apply to any solo you write. What I want to get you to understand is how to write a good solo based on music theory.

I'm sure you know what a scale is. If you don't, it's just a given group of notes. There's more technical explanations for it, but this is all you need to know right now. I'm going to list a few scales below for reference.

The C Major scale:


The G Major scale:


The D Major scale:


I'm going to show these scales in a different way now.





Notice the numbers that I put up above the columns of notes? Those are what we will call "steps." The letters beneath each number are that particular step in their given scale.

There are a few things that occur naturally in the major scale that will help you in your solo writing. Granted, there's more than this, but these are things that I've observed with the major scale, or read somewhere.

I'll start off with the 1st step. When playing a scale, this is the note that ultimately resolves the sequence of notes. In the context of the Major scale, every single note wants to lead to this one. This note is home plate.

The 8th step is the same thing, just one octave higher.

The 7th step is what can be called a "leading tone." Play one of the scales on your guitar, and then stop at the seventh step (eg if you play the C Major scale, stop at B). Sounds very tense and unresolved, doesn't it? It's just dying to lead up to that 8th step, C. That's the natural tendency of the 7th step in the scale.

Look at the 4th step in the scale. That 4th step creates a slight degree of tensity. You can't just plug it into any random other note in the scale. To me at least, it sounds like it's trying to push the scale upward. Try playing C, D, then E. You can play up to the E note, then play back down without a problem. But when you play C, D, E, F, E, D, C, the walk back down sounds a little more forced. That's just the character of the fourth step.

Now, suppose we removed both the 7th step and the 4th step. What do you have? You have the pentatonic scale! Play the pentatonic scale a minute. No note sounds like it's trying to propel the melody in one direction or another. There is no tensity whatsoever. Now you know why the pentatonic scale is popular in rock; no matter what you do, it sounds good (although you can create very overused-sounding melodies with it).

Take a look at the 5th step. This step is one of the best lead-ins to the first step. When I started ear training, the C and G in the C Major scale were very hard to distinguish. They both sounded somewhat similar in their character, and they have excellent harmony together. Power chords are just made up of the 1st and 5th steps, and that's how the chord manages to seem to fit in many different songs, depending how it's used. Also, what steps are in all major and minor chords? The 1st and 5th. Their harmony is completely natural. I don't think there's really any wrong you can do when coordinating these steps together.

As for the 2nd step, I don't quite know what to say about this one. It can be used as a tone leading down to the first step, though it requires a little more support from the rest of the scale than the 5th and 7th steps.

The 3rd step just seems to be like a fork in the road; go one way or the other. You can go up or down. It also works to support the natural tensity of the 4th step. It has kind of a dark sound, though, leading to the 3rd or 5th step. At least, I got on my acoustic and play E-C then E-G (in the C Major scale), and it didn't sound too pleasing.

The 6th step can probably be thought of in the same way as the third step in the idea that it's kind of like a fork in the road; it doesn't lean any specific way. Also, if you want to turn the scale into a minor scale, just treat this step like home plate like you would the 1st step. For example, let's say you're playing the C Major scale. Only this time, you're going to play the scale up and down not starting and ending with C, but with A, the 6th step. Start with A and end on A. Play all the C Major notes starting and ending with A. There's the A Minor scale for you. You can probably come up with a creative transition between a Major and minor scale using that piece of knowledge.

There you have it. Now you know how a scale works, and I gave you some ideas on what each step does in relation to the rest of the scale. You may or may not view each step in the scale differently, but when I play the Major scale, this is what I get out of it.
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Unread 08-27-2005, 04:07 PM   #12
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This subject may not sound entirely relevant right now, but it will for when I go to explain modes and such in detail. Right now it's important that you know what an interval is, a few different types, and how to use them.

First off, an interval is the space between two notes. There are two basic types of intervals that you must know to understand this. The first is a half-step (on the fretboard, this would be going up or down only one fret), and a whole step (on the fretboard, this is going up or down two frets).

Do you understand that? Okay, good. Let's move on.

There is a type of scale that you need to know about called the chromatic scale. Simply put, this is every single note within an octave.

Okay, so there's a third interval I want you to know about, the octave. I'll explain it easily. Remember when I talked about the major scale? Noticed when I wrote out the scales, the notes at the beginning and end of the scale were the same? Well, the space from the first note in the scale to the last is called an octave.

So, the chromatic scale is every single note that can be playing within a given octave. Let's take the C chromatic scale. The notes C at the beginning and the end are the octave.


There's a basic chromatic scale starting with C. Also, you must know this. There is a half-step between every single note in that scale. Understand?

So how is a scale determined? You have to go by a pattern of half-step/whole-step intervals. Here is the basic pattern of intervals for the Major scale.


2=Whole Step

2-2-1-2-2-2-1 <---Pattern for the Major scale

Here's C Chromatic again: C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#-A-A#-B-C

I'll try to demonstate. Let's start at the note C.

What note is a whole step up from C? Look at the chromatic scale. Count two notes up. You have D. So far you have C-D.

What note is two notes up from D? E, of course. You have C-D-E.

What note is a half-step up from E? You have F. C-D-E-F.

Whole step from F? G. C-D-E-F-G.

Whole step from G? A. C-D-E-F-G-A.

Whole step from A? B. C-D-E-F-G-A-B.

Whole step from B? C. C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

There it is! The C Major scale.

Now try to figure out the A Major scale (look at the bottom of the post for the answer to double-check yourself to see if you got it right).

Now how do you figure out the minor scale? It's easy. There's a pattern of intervals for the minor scale.


Let's look at the A Minor scale. Let's go through this the same way we did the C Major scale. Look at the chromatic scale for reference again, only this time we'll look at the A Chromatic scale.

A Chromatic: A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G-G#-A

Start with A. What's a whole step up from A? B. A-B.

What's a half-step up from B? C. A-B-C.

What's a whole step up from C? D. A-B-C-D.

What's a whole step up from D? E. A-B-C-D-E.

What's a half-step up from E? F. A-B-C-D-E-F.

What's a whole step up from F? G. A-B-C-D-E-F-G.

What's a whole step up from G? A. A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

There it is. The A Minor scale.

Now you know how to figure out scales. Just for fun, try to figure out E Minor. The answer is at the bottom of the post.

Try this for fun as well. Figure out G Locrian. Here's G Chromatic...


And here's the interval pattern...


The answer is at the bottom.


A Major: A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A

E Minor: E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-E

G Locrian: G-Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G
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Unread 08-27-2005, 05:21 PM   #13
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I'm going to attempt to explain this without diving into music theory.

Look at the post I made about the major scale. You'll want to understand that before you read this. Towards the end I taught you how to figure out the minor scale. I shall go over it again.

Suppose you have the C Major scale...


Now suppose you wanted to play that like it was a minor scale. How do you do it? Well, I explained in the previous post that in the Major scale, the 1st step is always the step that you want to return to, because it ultimately resolves the scale. In the C Major scale, that would be the note "C." I will push this a little further, and say that that is only if you want this group of notes to sound like the major scale. What if I took this same group of notes, and I wanted to make it sound minor? Simple. Just make the note "A" in the scale, the 6th step, your "home plate," so to speak.


Right there you have the A Minor scale.

Do you follow so far? You just simply make the 6th step (A in this case) your resolving point.

Actually, I'll give you a word to associate with the finishing note. Tonic. The tonic note is your finishing note.

So how does this fit in with modes? Be sure you understand what I just told you. I just told you to take this group of notes from the C Major scale, and make the note "A" your tonic note, the note you end with. How you set all the notes in that group of notes to sound minor is all in how you end with the note A, how you end with A instead of C. You converted C Major to A Minor by making "A" the tonic note. Understand? Good. If not, re-read that until you do.

But what if you wanted to make another note besides C or A your tonic note? You can do that; there's no law against it. Let's take E for example. Suppose you want to play the notes in the C Major scale, but you wanted to make "E" the tonic note.


Play that on your guitar.

Congratulations. You just played the E Phrygian mode.

Do you see how that worked? You played the E Phrygian mode by ending on a different note.

That's basically all a mode is. Take the Major scale, but end on a different note than the first step. Take the C Major scale, but end on a different note than C.

Now that you know what a mode is, I will give you the names of the modes. I will use the C scale for reference.

C=C Ionian (or Major)

D=D Dorian

E=E Phrygian

F=F Lydian

G=G Mixolydian

A=A Aeolian (or Minor)

B=B Locrian

C=C Ionian

See? By changing what note you made the tonic note in the notes found in the C Major scale, you changed what mode you played.

You can do this with any other Major scale. Let's take the A Major scale.

A=Ionian (or Major)





F#=Aeolian (or Minor)


A=Ionian (or Major)

Do you understand this? Just by changing what note you end at in a given scale changes what mode you're playing.

In summary, here's the modes in reference to the steps on the Major scale (this is where you'll need to understand the Major Scale lesson).

1st step=Ionian (or Major)

2nd step=Dorian

3rd step=Phrygian

4th step=Lydian

5th step=Mixolydian

6th step=Aeolian (or Minor)

7th step=Locrian

8th step=Ionian (or Major)

I'll try and condense all this further. Let's take the G Major scale.


Let's say you want to play in the Mixolydian mode. According to the information I gave you, what step in the Major scale would make theMixolydian mode?

The 5th step. That's correct. Now what's the 5th step in the G Major scale?

D. That's correct.

So how does the D Mixolydian mode go?


There you have the D Mixolydian mode (or scale; keep in mind that a mode can also be called a scale)

So what's the practical application of a mode in soloing? Well, in short, the mode you play has a different feel, like the Major and Minor scales have different feels. Play B locrian (B C D E F G A B). It has a very tense sound to it. Play D Dorian (D E F G A B C D). It sounds like the minor scale quite a bit, doesn't it? Play with these different modes, find out how they sound. You can come up with some exotic solos by using different modes and scales. Your boundaries for creativity have just expanded extensively.

I hope that this lesson in modes makes sense to you. I hope not, but this is very tough to explain. I tried to keep it simple, I promise. Questions, comments, just ask them on this thread.

To make sure you understand this, try figuring out these modes. I have listed below 5 different scales. Answer the questions that follow. I'll have the answers at the bottom.

C Major: C-D--E--F-G-A--B--C

G Major: G-A--B--C-D-E--F#-G

D Major: D-E--F#-G-A-B--C#-D

A Major: A-B--C#-D-E-F#-G#-A

E Major: E-F#-G#-A-B-C#-D#-E

Write down the scales for the following modes.

A Ionian

E Dorian

C# Phrygian

F Lydian

B Mixolydian

E Aeolian

C# Locrian

I'll give you another challenge. This will let you exercise what you learned in the lesson about the Major scale. Figure out G Dorian.


A Ionian: A-B-C#-D-E-F#-G#-A

E Dorian: E-F#-G-A-B-C#-D-E

C# Phrygian: C#-D-E-F#-G#-A-B-C#

F Lydian: F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F

B Mixolydian: B-C#-D#-E-F#-G#-A-B

E Aeolian: E-F#-G-A-B-C-D-E

C# Locrian: C#-D-E-F#-G-A-B-C#

G Dorian: G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F-G

Here's how that worked. You know that the interval pattern for the major is this:


2=Whole step

Your tonic note was G, right? And Dorian is based on the second step of the Major scale, right? And the second step is a whole step up from the first step, right? So we know G was the 2nd step of the scale, so the 1st step must have been F, since F is a whole step down. From there, just follow the intervalic pattern given to you for the Major scale, and you have the F Major scale, which is F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F.

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Unread 09-16-2005, 12:05 PM   #14
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Definately worth learning. They the tools of making good music. However, once you learn the rules, and definately do learn them, don't be afraid to just blatantly break them from time to time. To further illustrate, it's far better to know the rules and concienciously break them than to be breaking them and have no idea you're breaking them.

Now about crafting solo's. Considering I've amassed all the tools I need, ie: theoretical understaning of music and my instrument, and motor skills to actually play the thing, I approach a solo like I approach a song. I'm painting a picture, telling a story. The rut I found myself caught in for a very many years is to approach my music from a technical aspect. I now think in terms of moods, feelings, sounds and textures that move me on an emotional level. So, a simple solo might be the right solo, if it feels right to do just that. Definately avoid blazing away with a flurry of notes, just because you can. But if it feels right to blaze away, then do it. And I'm not talking about strictly improvising. But I am saying that if you work out your solo, do it because it feels "right".

Consider a car ride. What's a more interesting ride? One that stays in the mountains the whole time, one that stays in flatland the whole time, or one that starts in flatlands, but ends up in the mountains? Probably the latter. Why is it interesting? Because a) it varied, and b) it started out mild, but ended dramatically. Such a sonic landscape is what you want to serve up to your listeners.
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Unread 10-14-2005, 12:23 PM   #15
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Solid teaching Bro.

While crafting I generally use major and minor scales for Faster speeds along with a set of quick arpegios I've came up with
I use a mix of major and minor pentatonic scales and a 7 note major scale for slow vibes.
I've been doing alot of chord scales for improv.
Hope that helps.
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