So You Are Writing A Solo

Stuck writing a solo? Want to know what to do to spice it up a bit? You've come to the right place!

Ultimate Guitar

Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking: that this is going to be one of those articles where I tell you my way of doing things and it has to be done my way. Fortunately that's incorrect, because like so many of you out there, I can't stand those articles. No, no, instead, I'll pretty much give you the basic solo techniques you'll need to make your guitar solo really shine. So, whether you're a beginner or a guru, take a few minutes and check out this article: who knows, you just might learn a thing or two.

Alright, there's really no real way to start out a solo, for that involves creativity and is really up to the writer. So, instead, I'll just give a run-through of the basic techniques you can use in your solo that will give it some flare.


I know this sounds really basic, but just think about it for a minute. Bends can work wonders for your solo. It can give it a bluesy sound, you can hold them out for effect, you can even descend a bend instead of ascending it. I don't mean you should just monotonously bend; you should spontaneously bend! What I mean is, you can get really creative with bends sometimes. Take a look at David Gilmour. He is a prime example of a guitar player who uses bends to his advantage. A good solo to check out would be "Time". All I'm saying is, working in bends here and there in your solo can sound great where plain picking just sounds decent. Which brings me to the next technique:

Tremolo Picking

For those beginners reading the article, tremolo picking just means picking really fast. This can give an extremely fast-paced impression, and can really do good for your solo, especially the climax. As usual, I have an example, and it's "Holy Wars... the Punishment Due" by Megadeth. Dave Mustaine's solo at the end is full of ridiculously fast tremolo picking (well, admittedly, I myself can't quite pull it off but I'm sure there are a few here who can easily take it). Tremolo picking works great for those fast-paced songs you're writing. Okay, what's next?

Hammer-Ons And Pull-Offs

Tremolo picking has its pros and cons. Where tremolo picking fails, hammer-ons and pull-offs can come in handy. Once again, beginners, a hammer-on is where you go from a lower note to a higher note using another finger, and a pull-off is going from a lower to a higher note by pulling your finger off the higher note and having your other finger on the lower note. Got that? Good. Now, where is this technique good and tremolo picking bad? Well, for instance, say you've got a bit of a slower piece of music. Tremolo picking could work for a neat effect, but more often than not you're going to want to use those hammer-ons and pull-offs to your advantage. There are literally hundreds of examples of this; just listen to any solo by your favorite band. I'm sure there's a lot of hammering-on and pulling-off going on. It's a very common technique. And, speaking of common techniques:


Yeah, sliding. Pretty simple. All you do is go from one note to the other by sliding your finger either up or down the fretboard to it. Easy stuff. And it's amazing how well it can work out for you. Jimi Hendrix uses this technique in a few of his songs; for instance, let's take one of his most famous pieces, "Purple Haze". The main riff starts off with a B on the D string (9th fret, beginners), only he slides up to it, giving it a much more entertaining feel. Well, that's how I feel anyway. But wait, there's more! Say you want to switch scales or modes in the middle of your solo, due to a key change or something like that; yes, yes, you can slide to the next mode! The beauty is, this can sound really good! I said it before and I'll say it again: yeah, sliding. Anything else?


I'm afraid this topic is way too big to cover completely, so I suggest reading some other articles on here about it. But, to put it simply enough so at least you beginners have an idea: harmonizing is using one different set of notes on top or bottom of another set of notes to create what is called "harmony". This can be done in all sorts of intervals, some popular ones being the minor third, major third, perfect fourth, perfect fifth (the power chord, beginners), and the octave. Of course, there are plenty more, and to those of you who are awaiting my Harmonizing Pt. 2 article, don't worry, it's on its way. Hey, you know what I'm just remembering?


Phew, almost forgot it. That was a close one. Arpeggiating is probably one of the coolest-sounding techniques you can possibly use. And it's easy, too. Arpeggiating is just taking the notes of a chord (probably specified by what key your song is in) and playing them individually. You have in front of you one chord yet hundreds of combinations of notes you could play to make your arpeggio sound unique. And yes, it has been used in some pretty popular songs. Let me name a really, really famous one: "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" by Van Halen. See? And you thought I couldn't name one...

Well, there you go, beginners (and experts alike). I hope now you know what might go good with your solo; I'm sure this gives you a pretty broad range of techniques. Plus, combine those with different scales and modes and you've got yourself one great solo. I apologize if I left anything out (which I'm sure I did); but just keep in mind this was kind of geared more towards the beginners.

What are you doing still reading this? Go and write your solo!

118 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This stuff is extremely basic by the way, most people should know these
    yup, very basic but it does cover the basics pretty well and gives beginners some idea of what a solo consists of
    80's Hair Metal
    Its a good article, basically from then on you need to decide what works best for what mood of solo you're playing. After you know the basics, its down to your own techniques and how you put them together...
    small mistake...
    a pull-off is going from a lower to a higher note by pulling your finger off the higher note and having your other finger on the lower note
    mentioned knockin on heavans door twice, damn, o yeh fall to pieces (VR) is another example of an arpeggiated riff and lead line
    i thought the arpeggio bit in aint talkin bout love is the riff, not the solo? and ther again ther are tonnes of arpeggiated riffs, don't cry, house of the rising sun, knockin on heavans door, the intro sequence to stairway, intro to paradise city and knockin on heavans door and actually a lot of slash songs (he must like his arpeggios)
    Sweep Picking should have been added no ***ing questions asked!!!
    it was mentioned, sweep picking is the technique used by shredders in particular to play arpeggios, which was mentioned, so they were mentioned using the proper musical term ....actually mentioning a song with lots of sweep picking would be a better example of arpeggios in solos sweep picking is a way of playing the solo, a more general technique, whether you play something sweep picked, alternate picked or just down stroked makes only a very small difference to the sound of the solo itself, though i doubt someone can just downstroke a six string arpeggio quicker than it can be sweep picked
    El Benno
    I like the article. I'm not a beginner and I was just reading this for kicks, but it would be awesome for a beginner. Rock on.
    yeah true this article is basic and its stuff i already know...but ya gotta consider there's A LOT of kids out there who are just starting.Shit i had to learn the basics the same way over a i respect it. \m/!
    4 stars??? He missed sweeping picking!!!.. Sweep Picking should have been added no ***ing questions asked!!!
    Decent. You began to loose track of your main topic - soloing. Still semi-handy tips, but they are techniques you really should be learning off a teacher.
    Good stuff. Anyone who anyone who insults this writer for gearing his article toward beginners is is a hippocrite that desperately needs to grow up and realize that there was a point in their life when they didn't know these things either. That being said, it's good stuff for everyone... I'm not a beginner and i learned a few things here. I would have added some tabs, posted some examples, like the a minor (i think) arpeggio in Ain't talkin bout love. 3 stars. Good job.
    if u want a good solo den both master of puppets ones r awesome and the firsy 1 iz east 2 play 2
    nice basic stuff. i remember when i was starting out guitar i wanted to learn more "cool stuff" to play. great article for begginerstop stuff
    This article gives a very good idea to the beginners on the basic techniques of soloing. All of us must go through or have gotten through these basics. And now:
    dan_the_pie: basic and boring. u shood not play guitar if you dont kno this stuff. 1 star, you dickhead
    dan_the_pie is an illiterate faggot, you should consult some 7 year old to learn spelling.
    mwarf1989: this guy blows goats for a living
    mwarf1989 is a fool. I am certain that a goats "baahhaaha" sounds better than you playing guitar. You are a fag too.
    eastbay36: tell me something i dont already ***ing know *******
    eastbay36 sucks at life. Idiotic comment. You are a fag too sir.
    Yes, you see guitarist think of noises that sound cool and write them down, usually on paper, so thye don't forget them later
    i knoew mosty of that but i really just cant pull it all off in a solo.
    "a hammer-on is where you go from a lower note to a higher note using another finger, and a pull-off is going from a lower to a higher note by pulling your finger off the higher note and having your other finger on the lower note. Got that?" you said a hammer-on was going from a lower note to a higher note, and that a pull-off was going from lower note to a higher note lol otherwise, good article
    can anyone tell me where i wrote Beach Boy lyrics in the comments include it in your comment thanks.
    You really should have included Alternate picking or left out Tremolo picking because you're going to give people who have never done any of this that Tremolo picking is Alternate picking.
    only usefull for beginners... Why does everyone write really standard stuff and then say "oh, this is for beginners" If you want to write an article, add in some info that can be used by all of us, not just the guitar newbies.
    How to really write a solo: 1. have a friend play some chords 2. play some notes over it 3. if it sounds good then it is 4. experiment 5. don't read how to articles
    yarp this is good to tell beginners what they need to learn, however, its not detailed enough for beginners to be able to learn how to do the techniques, but too basic for people who can do it to learn anything.
    dan_the_pie wrote: basic and boring. u shood not play guitar if you dont kno this stuff. 1 star, you dickhead
    That dude's the dickhead man, good article for beginners and the such. - 4 stars
    nice article. I've been teaching myself so I know how to do this stuff but don't know the vocabulary. Quite helpful. However, you didn't really talk about how to write a solo, just the bare, basic elements of a solo. How do you put it all together, smart one?
    next time explain how to construct a solo using the techniques and scales and other stuff
    basic = good solos are ****in hard if your a newb guitarist like i am... thats why i practise with atbs such as wake me uop when september ends and the tab for sound effects and over dramatics bt the used... WHO I AM SEEING TONIGHT BITCHES! ha bye
    How to really write a solo: 1. have a friend play some chords 2. play some notes over it 3. if it sounds good then it is 4. experiment 5. don't read how to articles
    While this may work, it never hurts to have an extra trick or two in your bag. learning these techniques can help make a solo better. I do agree with you though. Just experiment until you find somehting that works for you.
    I know even some beginners who would schof at this article. Very basic stuff. 2 stars