If you want to play truly memorable lead guitar solos, one of the most important skills you must develop is the ability to use your guitar in the same way that a singer uses his voice. Being able to play guitar in this way can truly separate guitar players who are "good" from those who are truly GREAT. Here is a personal story that illustrates this point:
During the '90s I was auditioning to play guitar for a band. In the end, I didn't make it in the band, but I still have a strong memory of that day. As I was packing up my equipment to leave, the last thing I was told was this: "Don't come back until you can make your guitar sing." In that moment, I felt bad for not making the band, but to tell the truth, this statement was some of best advice I have ever received in music. Unfortunately, at that time I didn't truly understand it, and had no clue how to "make my guitar sing."
As time went on, I started studying all of the singers I liked by merely focusing and observing the precise manner in which they sang their melodies. I would listen to the way they phrased their notes, the techniques they would use, and other smaller subtleties. Then, I started to transcribe their singing phrases onto guitar. Finding the correct pitches was not too hard, but being able to accurately simulate all of the small subtleties of their vocal phrases and vibrato technique on guitar was much more of a challenge.
In the later '90s I came across something that would totally change the way I played guitar. This was the time when I started listening to Rhapsody Of Fire. As I was listening to them, I was totally impressed by the incredible vocals of their singer (Fabio Lione). In fact, I was so impressed that I decided to really focus on learning as many vocal melodies from the band as possible. Eventually, I became familiar with almost every small subtlety in the vocal melodies of their music.
Here is the most valuable idea I learned:
It wasn't important to focus on what specific pitches the singer was singing, but it was essential to know why the singer would make particular phrasing choice with the music. For instance, why do so many great singers use different styles of vibrato, why do some singers sing with really with strong vibrato, why do some singers sing with a more subtle vibrato. As soon as I began to think about these things, my guitar playing instantly started to grow to a new level.
A lot of you probably know that at the start of 2011, I was asked to be a guitar player in Rhapsody Of Fire. One of the strongest reasons why the band liked my guitar playing was because I had great ability with creating vocal style guitar phrases.
Now, what can you learn from all of this?
The ability to make your guitar solos have a "singing" style is a highly valuable concept to learn. Understanding how singers think to create their melodies will help you to become much stronger in your own musical expression. Another great part of this is that when you combine the mindset of a guitarist and a singer, you create a totally new method of creating guitar solos. This will set you apart from the other players out there who all use the same ideas.
As an exercise, take a vocal line from a singer you really like. Next, make sure you fully understand the subtle parts of that person's technique. Once you have done this, use those ideas to create your own guitar solo.
Watch this video to see an example of a solo I quickly wrote using this exact process.
About The Author: Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and the guitar player for the band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches guitar players from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. Visit his website to get free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar playing articles.