The guitar solo - my favorite part of a song. Forget the hooks, the chorus, the meaningful lyrics - give me a killer solo every time. OK, so there’s more to music than guitar virtuosity but nothing beats a screaming solo!
As a beginner I looked at transcriptions and tried to work the whole thing out without considering a smart system. I spent so much time on where all the notes were that I’d lose touch of the rhythmic flow of the solo, get frustrated, and leave it for another day. Not anymore - my seven tips will help you learn the solo you’ve always wanted to play. Playing well is not easy, but it is truly possible if you have a little help.
To demonstrate my seven trips I’ll use the first solo from "Sweet Home Alabama". The tab, graphics and Target Notes are from the award winning Rock Prodigy application which listens to your guitar playing like a live teacher.
Here is what the whole solo looks like note-for-note:
1. Use Your Ears
Listen to the solo a few times and try singing along with it. This helps to internalize the melody and rhythm of the solo. Try singing it slower than full speed to identify each note and the rhythm that connects them.
2. Target Notes
Create a simplified framework of the solo by listening for short phrases or statements with key notes in them. Listen for patterns that repeat on different scale degrees (these are called Sequence). Try playing the first and last note of each phrase in time with the song. Then listen for the notes that fall on a strong beat.
Skip the articulations like bends, slides and hammer-ons/ pull-offs at first. Build a foundation then you’ll be able to work in articulations to sweeten. If you need help on this you can ask a teacher or use Rock Prodigy to know the Target Notes. Looking below at Rock Prodigy’s charts will show the main ideas of finding Target Notes.
3. Get A Snap Shot
Focus on the fingering and positions on the neck. Start to identify patterns and repeated shapes (sequences). Usually the solo will be based on a scale or two.
4. Slow It Down Then Turn It Up
Play it slowly to train your fingers so that they know the correct way to play it. Be totally concentrated on the feeling of your fingers and where your eyes look as you train your muscles and nerves to know the patterns. Then push yourself by increasing the tempo. You can use a metronome, digital tempo shifter, or Rock Prodigy to increase the tempo.
5. Take A Section At A Time
Master small chunks like a phrase or part of a phrase. Trying to learn too much is inefficient. Learn the sections, then connect the sections, slowly and sequentially expanding your coordination and attention span for fine details of a solo.
First Half Of Phrase 1
Second Half Of Phrase 1
6. Correct Trouble Spots
Once you have the general shape focus in on the specific spots that are giving you trouble. If you use Rock Prodigy you can check your scores to get an unbiased opinion of your playing, and you can see exactly where you are weak and where you are strong. Practice your weak spots until they are as clean as the easy parts of the solo.
7. Now You're Ready To Rock
Add more notes and articulations when you’re ready. Once you’ve identified and improved every detail you’ll quickly be ready to push your limits with faster speeds and more advanced techniques. Add the bends and vibrato that you see below then put feel into it.