Soloing With Style: Essential Tips for Writing Guitar Solos

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guitarsolosssLast time we tried to comprise the definitive list of Top 5 Guitar solos (more or less). Click here if you want to see that article.

Listening to all of these solos got me thinking about the characteristics they all have in common and what we can learn from them.

Unlike a G3 concert, people who show up at your church don’t necessarily come with the intention of listening to a guitar solo. Worship leaders know this, so when your worship leader trust you with a guitar solo, it’s worth spending time composing the solo so it is artful and meaningful.

There are a lot of ways to make a guitar solo good-there are even more ways to make a guitar solo bad-so here are some tips to help us compose guitar solos just a satisfying as the songs we play them in.

1. Melody, Melody, Melody

So your fellow Christians and church goers don’t arrive on Sunday morning to listen to a guitar solo. That doesn’t mean your can’t win them over.

How do you win over a non-guitarist to liking a guitar solo? By giving them something they can’t resist. A good melody.

No one can resist a good melody, it doens’t matter if it comes from a voice, a violin, a Tele, or a kazoo. Don’t use this opportunity to try to impress people with a sweet lick; rather, think of it as an opportunity to compose a melody that people can’t help but hum afterwords.

A good melody isn’t just your friend, it’s your lifeline. If you simply spit out your best licks you may impress a couple people, most likely guitar players, who may have better licks up there sleeve. But this isn’t an arms race, this is worship. If you compose a good melody you will create a piece of music that everyone in your church can appreciate.

2. The Techniques of Emotion

Once you find notes that make sense, it’s time to infuse your melody with emotion.

They way you do that is by giving your melody a vocal quality. This is what the best guitarists do. Not everyone naturally connect with the sound of the guitar, but everyone can relate to a voice.

Use these age-old techniques: hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and bends. It’s not enough to play the note, express the note using one of these techniques. This will make your melody infinitely more interesting.

3. Watch Your Gain

It’s fun to play with a lot of gain on the guitar. There is so much sustain and compression you barley have to play.

I often think I don’t have enough gain, then when I listen back to recordings, my tone sounds buzzy and thin.

It’s weird. What I think sounds good in the moment won’t really sound good once I listen back. It’s like I fool myself into thinking lots of gain sounds good because I like playing with it.

This might be just me, but if I have to choose between too much gain or almost enough, I side with almost enough. Take it for what you think it’s worth.

4. Nail Your Delay

Delay is awesome. We know this already. Delay is at the center of just about everything we do and the solo is no different.

Edge-like dotted eighth are great most of the time, but for solos it really make things messy. There are two types of delay that can really season your solo well.

The first is a dark-murky analog delay, something like an MXR Carbon Copy or Malekko Ekko 616. It will smooth out your tone without getting in the way of your notes.

The other is a ducking delay, sometimes called a dynamic delay. This is a smart delay that knows when you are playing long, sustaining notes and quick, fast notes. During the fast notes, it will “duck” out of the way and turn down its own delay, allowing a clean run of notes. During sustaining notes it’s it unleashes glorious delay.

Have fun with these tips. Soloing is fun; now it’s time to make them soloing meaningful.

If you have any tips of your own, make sure to share them in the comments below.

Keep sharp,




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