Creating An Innovative Solo Or Sound

This is mainly a vague guideline with 10 guitar tips for beginners on how to make a nice and innovative sounding solo or sound.

Ultimate Guitar

Thanks to all thsoe who commented on my last article, "What Makes a Good Solo?" The topic i bring up today would be essentially how one makes a decent solo. By no means is this meant as a complete guide, it is meant as a stepping stone for beginners.

01. Know what type of music you want to play. If you want to play a blues solo, dont use a classical scale. (The basic form of the Pentatonic scale is: e ----------------------------1--4-- B -----------------------1--4------- G ------------------1--3------------ D -------------1--3----------------- A -------1--3----------------------- E -1--4----------------------------- If you like blues, rock, or punk music, this scale is essential if you want to solo in this style. That pattern works all down the neck, so if one started the scale on the 7th fret, the next note would be on the 10th. I know many beginners who have trouble with this concept, so get it thorugh your head early: scales have the same shape all down the neck when you change keys. For those who dont like to solo in the pentatonic scale i would suggest Aeolian Mode or Dorian for classical styles. Major scales for country solos, and obviosuly Indian and Far Eastern scales, for what else, Indian and Far Eastern music!

02. Once you get your finger speed decent and you have memorized your scale you may soon notice what you are playing starts to sound the same after half an hour or so. You're running out of notes to play! My advice to remedy this problem is to slow down, and speed up to a climax as one suggestion. Also making your own variations on a scale can help create your own unique sound as well. Another tip is to think of neat phrasing. Don't continuously play 8th or 16th notes and bending the same note as always. (Experienced guitarists you know what im talking about, when you get stuck bending that same damn note.) Also, instead of playing one note at once, try playing 2, or even 3, and possibly bending both or all 3 of them. Also, realize that when you solo, every note doesnt have to be different than the one previous to it. For instance, play one note and then bend it a half step, play the original note again, then bend it to full, and then get on with your solo.

03. If it suits your style, try out tapping, i personally enjoy listening to Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck tapping, but its not my style of playing. Tapping can add a lot of depth to solo.

04. Change your distortion! Nothing's worse than feeling as if all your solos sound the same. Maybe turn donw your tone to a jazz-sounding level. Maybe you could play a solo on the Neck Pickup. As a guitarist, I have to say for solos, most definately I prefer setting the pickup to the Bridge, but it sounds much different on either both pickups or the Neck pickup. (Or if you have a Strat, you can use the "out-of-phase" toggles, thats quite neat too.)

05. Don't just use notes to make your sound. A thing I love practicing is controlling feedback. If you can turn your amp up a bit and have a good amount of distortion, stand next to your amp, tap the back of the neck behind the 3rd fret, and voila, go nuts with feedback. Its especially interesting when you have a tremolo bar. If you're able to incorporate artifical harmonics from feedback into your solo it sounds very deep. (Also, artifical harmonics produced by trailing one's thumb right behind the pick or pinching the string is very neat, altho i recomend not be over-used.)

06. In a technical aspect, learn to pick both forwards and backwards, this is a very basic skill, but essential to playing remotely fast. I personally didn't learn this until after 3 months of playing, and wow, I got much better.

07. Another technical aspect is using your pinky. I used to hate doing this, but now it is essential kto how i play, it makes elaborate chord structure much easier, and playing fast is much easier.

08. Use support for bending. When I started out, I would bend notes with just my index finger alone. What one should do is use their index, middle, and ring to bend a note, obviously having their ring finer on the note they are bending. Bending with your pinky is hell now matter who you are, although one does get used to it.

09. I hate to sound like a salesman, but buy a Wah Pedal. This concept almost explains itself, you'll love the sound of the wah on a solo, adds a great feel to the solo, a whole 'nother dimension.

10. Use passion to play. Do not play what your brain tells you, play what your gut does. Nothing's worse than seeing a real good player have no passion. This happens often with more convential instruments like school band instrument players, you see everyone up there, no passion. But the guitar is an extension of one's body, a way to say things through your amp, or hole in the guitar. Carlos Santana is by no means a highly technical player, but man alive does he sure put all his soul in his songs, as with those lovely folks from my Favorite Guitarist List).

And a quick spin, what exactly is innovation in the guitar world. It is widely accepted the Jimi Hendrix was probably the most innovative and influential guitarist in rock. But players like Jimmy Page, I love him to death, but by no means was he a real, set-in-stone original in terms of his solo style. (Although some of his rhythm work, and much of his acoustic stuff was.) Eddie Van Halen was innovative in creating the metal-style solo, and pioneering finger tapping. Robert Johnson, the King of the Delta Blues, pretty much created the foundation of all blues and rock guitar, so much is owed to him, and certainly much homage has been payed. For all those who believe Mr. Kirk Hammett to be the innovator of all, I say he is not, but he was extremely influential. Thousands of guitarists have modeled their style after his. For all the Sabbath fans, Tony Iommi I do believe was an innovator, he helped shape heavy metal very well, same with the Angus and Malcom Young of AC/DC.

But I must say that yes I believe Hendrix was the most influential and innovative, and I urge anyone who enjoys music in the least to give him a try. So do I think anyone reading this article will be a real virtuoso, not really, but its possible. And my tip to all people who can and want to solo, is to use your passion to play, and let people know your playing with everything youve got.

43 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Billy Badass
    Ah Joe Satriani, million notes per minute... Surfing With the Alien is a great song. The part I like most about your article was crediting Hendrix as the most influencial guitarist of all time. There is nothing but truth in that statement. Hendrix invented it, Stevie Ray, J. Page, Slash, and Clapton perfected it. Also, when you talk about using feedback in a solo, no one ever mastered that quite like Ted Nugent. If you ever have a chance to listen to his Double Live Gonzo discs check out Hibernation, its a great piece with plenty of feedback playing.
    Nice, does anyone have a link or know where I can 'obtain' far eastern or indian scales? This article just reminded me of how I really want to know how to play those. Also does anyone know the Aeolian Mode or Dorian for classical styles?
    ....all alone, o well -pulls out guitar and plays welcome home by coheed and cambria-
    Or you could take 1/100th of a section from a Satriani solo and its gonna sound good.
    -finishes the song and breaks his guitar in excitement- wooo hoo, uh-oh, that was my only one....NOOOOO!
    oi, i need to find a place to help me write some ballads/ an effective solo for the ballad
    any ideas/ suggestions will help, btw, i'm a budding young guitarist, i've been playing a year and i can play some good stuff i'm proud o meself, i caneven play hendrixs version of star spangled banned
    good article. but can i change the scale in the solo. for example could i go from Am pentatonic, to Cm diatonic??? plzzz answer me i really want to know.
    It wouldnt be your own solo then would it numbnuts. Good article, gave a good sense of what should be included. It would have been nice to have a few other scales tabbed, but meh
    a bit low level and kind of opinionated at the end (not very). still good basics to creating your own solo.
    ya how about metal soloing? Please, how about Opeth and Meshuggah.
    usually when i post a comment its negative...but this is a great article, straight to the point and well thought out....and of course, hendrix owns
    OpeN WidE
    oh yeah, an example of overuse of artificial harmonics in a solo... Evanescence - "going under"
    good article man. but you can use the aeolian and dorian for much more than classical; the dorian sounds awesome in a metal solo, as do harmonic minor scales.
    Cant somebody write a REALLY BIG article about Metal Soloing??? That would be great, with a little tips on runs and good scales to use? Teqhniches???
    Great article... it made me think more and want to experiment with some of the idea's u gave straight away. There was more on sounds and idea's than the actual solo itself but still a top article.
    Captain Colon
    Phrygian mode also works well for metal solos. Great article for beginning soloists, but I'm with Oswald, how about some articles for specific genres!
    yea we need a metal soloing lesson, but anyway great article, nice to get away from the typical "i'm right ur wrong up urs" And also, bending with the pinky is aweful, but you know somehow that Zakk wylde uses it alot??? I mainly use my 3rd finger, enough support from the other 2 and it's stronger, and yes get used to working with the pinky, I'm still working on it, but man it's a pain, it will help you with streches (obviously) and trills, and legato mostly, but everything it helps open you up to express urself (the most important thing is music).
    Anyone want to list the Aeolian Mode or Dorian scales? You'd make me a very happy man. lol. Yes and great article!
    has anybody noticed that this article was to the point and about soloing until it segwayed into a paragraph on which metal and classic rock bands were infulental? loss of focus right there.. other than that... a decent article
    good artical...wish i would have read this when i first started playing guitar...but very good artical to get beginners to start playin things other than "GUITAR METHOD 1"
    HENDRIX ROOLZ!!! for sure dude!! pretty good article btw, altho its a bit low level for me.....its good for ppl who are less experienced.
    really a great article thanks its really helpful as i should be gettin my first electric guitar in a few days although ive been play acoustic for two years.
    Oswald wrote: Cant somebody write a REALLY BIG article about Metal Soloing??? That would be great, with a little tips on runs and good scales to use? Teqhniches???
    yeah i agree with him i cant make good metal solos and thats my real aim in playin guitar someone help