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So, let’s improvise tonight! You know the drill, the backing track is playing, and... nothing seems to sound OK! That’s a horrible feeling and this is when I come to you with some advices which, I hope – will help you to pull out a great solo! Have a nice read. Use chord tones in your melodies.
That’s the easiest way to sound "in key". If you use chord tones as a guide to your melody – that’s probably a good start. If you don’t know what chord tones are – read some articles about chord construction. I haven’t written any, so there is no link to any of mine, huh. Get out of the box!
If you improvise using only the "box" form of a scale, you are losing the game since the start. Why? Because approximately billion guitarist in the world are using the same box as you do. How do you think, are you sounding very original now? So get out of the box! Play the scale in a very weird way, for example: play it on one string. Or try very queer and bizarre fingering. That can make your fingers play the notes you weren’t really beware before. Record you soloing!
Never mind that it’s not 100% great and ok. Record yourself to listen to it and pick one or two great licks out of 100 rather sloppy and boring ones. I’m really happy when I find 2 out of 100. Think also what parts of your solo do you like and why. Then analyze. Try to imagine the solo before you even pick up a guitar.
This is the way I like the most. Just listen to the backing track and imagine, how more-or-less you would like the solo to be. "What’s the mood of that part? Do I like it really fast here? Ouuu, I’d like to put some dissonance between that chords." This kind of thinking makes you improvise even before you play. Your musical mind grows swells, I can almost hear it. Write the chord progression on paper.
Writing the chord progression that is being played as a backing track can help you build the foundations for the further soloing. It’s a great support to the method mentioned just above, cause you can think which certain notes you will use. Experiment with your ears.
I don’t mean you have to use chemicals and pour it over your earlobes, but to find nice-sounding notes by ear. Find a good note that is not in the key that connects two other notes and you will know what it means to be satisfied. (Woah, sometimes my jokes are so weak, that they seem not to be even funny for me. Shwaps). Resolve.
If you know what "resolving" refers to, try doing this on single notes, even few times during one chord duration. If you don’t know what it does mean, well... Learn about it. Look for the "chord progressions" topics. Make a good use of your dynamics control.
Play the solo once as silent as you can, then play it as loud as you can. Do it bar-by-bar, so one bar of a tender, light notes, and the next consisting ROARHARD! Then, try adding all the in-between versions of them. From soft to hard, and in reverse. Let the guitar speak. Let the guitar speak.
Use various articulations – dynamics, string bending, legato and so on to imitate the human voice. Imagine the words that guitar "speaks". It’s one of my favorite ways to solo – I imagine that the sound of a guitar is a sound of a singing vocalist and give it a lyrics. Sometimes they are really dumb, but hey – it could be worse, I could write a truly-romantic love song. But I never did that. And for me it’s 100% ok. Make a story, divided into chapters.
John Petrucci talks a lot about his solos, and he sometimes divides them into chapters, separated by scales that he uses. Every part can tell a story in a different way, or even tell a different story. Your choice, master. Change pickups and use effects.
If you have a pickup selector, try fooling around with it and hear how it affects your sound. Stomp on some of your effects and see how it affects your noise. Then use it in your soloing wisely. Or not. Guitar is not a piano. Bend the strings! Vibrate them!
String bending is one of the most important ways of expressing yourself on guitar. It’s a shame that I haven’t mentioned it before. Make a good use of bending, but remember – If you’re not good at this, a "good use" will be no bending. The same goes to vibrating the notes. Of course, until you’ve practiced your fingers and ears that you can do it properly. I love this kind of advices. Don’t ever go only up and down the scale.
Never, ever. I’d kick you out of a band for it. Or suggest another hobby. Use dissonances to build tension inside the solo.
Keeping yourself inside one scale and limiting to using only the "right" notes can be... limiting, of course. One cup of cacophony, please. Use short melodies, called motifs.
Put them in the central points of solo. It will sound like a song-within a song. Songception. Make weird noises.
That’s the coolest thing in soloing. Harmonics, pick scrapes, whammy bar stunts, screaming into pickups and a lot more. There are thousands of sounds that electric guitar can produce, so discover them by yourself and use it to build your unique solo style!
And my last advice is to...
Feel the music! And don’t try to use all the advices at once. They are in random order, no puns intended anywhere. (Oh, maybe a little here and there).
I see that I’ve written a lot of advices, so thank you for your focus and time. I hope that this article will give you some ideas to work on. Peace, love and Ibanez.
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That’s all for tonight. Please, curtains down.