Guitar Zen: Creating the Perfect Solo!

Guitar-God in action, Joe Satriani shreddin’ away on another perfect solo!

Songwriting is a process that comes easily for some and takes much more effort and preparation for others. Although a great melody and strong chorus is often a songwriters focal point, this is not always the case from a guitar players perspective. For us axe-wielding God’s of guitar, the SOLO section is where we tend to set our focus in an attempt to wow the universe with our acumen. So where do you start when writing a solo?

There are several things to consider before you let the riffs fly, so that you step into the proper mindset for writing solos. After all, you want to create something that speaks in and of itself, within an already existing work. You don’t want to only show off your skills (but you do wanna show off your skills tastefully!).

I like to think of the guitar as the lead vocals for that part of the song, almost like the back up singer steps in and takes the lead for a segment of the song. With that thought in mind, listen to the mood of the song and get a feel for the emotions you wish to convey with the notes and patterns you string together. And also know in your mind to always go for it, with every take, and give your all to it, but keep it melodic and memorable! Sometimes too much crammed into one solo can take away from the really good parts that would stand out more if they were not sandwiched in between hammer-ons and sweep-picking!

Generally speaking the guitar solo section of a song usually (but not always) follows the same rhythm pattern as the songs chorus, so finding a way to expand on the songs hook while using a whole new instrument is a good approach.

The best way to begin constructing your solo is to record your rhythm part (either on a computer, 4-track, boombox, or even the voice recorder on your cell phone) and then play it back over and over again while practicing to jam over it. As ideas start to develop, you can pick out what you like and build on that. As each pattern rises up from your fretboard, think about how to incorporate each of the various techniques you use together to form a cohesive melodic “vocal” solo that will cut through the song and leave the listener standing with their jaw dropped when the song is over!

Another great way to develop lead skills is to practice soloing over all kinds of music. I used to spend hours jamming over old Metallica and Satriani albums to see if I could “blend” with the band. This exercise really helped to expand my solo approach and later I even found myself trying to play an Yngwie style solo over a Satriani style rhythm and vice-versa. This practice later helped me to develop a style that combined those of my guitar heroes! Another fun way to build soloing chops is to play across other genres too! For example, you might try shredding a solo over some opera music, or play some clean solo patterns over some Hip hop. Try it for yourself and you will definitely find that you have further stimulated your creativity when soloing.

So in essence, it’s not only the notes that you play, but how you play them in the context of the song. If you step up to the mic, they will listen and the same goes for writing a solo. If you step into the role of the lead vocalist with your instrument, you will have the power in your hands!

Scott “SVH” Von Heldt is a staff writer for SMG. Scott is currently the lead guitarist for Brian “Head” Welch (ex-Korn) and has worked with members of White Zombie, Cirque Du Soliel and many others. In late 2008 he released the first book of his Mystic Art of Self-Discovery series entitled Mind Over Metal: The Musician’s Guide to Mental Mastery.

Email: SVH@sharemyguitar.com

Like this post? Then you won’t want to miss the other awesome posts we have planned. Subscribe to Share My Guitar and get new posts delivered daily…for FREE!

Subscribe to SMG Podcasts!
Download the latest show
from iTunes >>>