The Secret to Making Your Guitar Solo Sing

Learn how to make your listeners LOVE your guitar solos!

Ultimate Guitar

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.

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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.

40 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Wasn't this already in the lesson section...
    Stop with the self-promotion Tom. It's annoying, it makes us like you less (or dislike you more), and we don't give a f---.
    "Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and the guitar player for the band Rhapsody Of Fire." LOL. Check yourself before you wreck yourself bro.
    How can you speak of annoying self-promotion practices and internet etiquette when you yourself replied to the first post in these comments (twice) just so that your view would be placed at the top? What you said was not related to and did not reference Sn@il!'s comment, but you are so self important that your views must be heard in front of those who spoke before you - don't you see the irony in that? Your brazen hypocrisy is nauseating. "Check yourself before you wreck yourself bro."
    Tom is right in saying that you should make your guitar sing and to learn vocal melodies and transfer them to guitar, but my god, all of the shameless self-promotion and the video at the end makes the length of this article completely pointless.
    Just an advertisement for his new band, and more sensational nonsense. Also, all his videos have atrocious tones.
    *Talks of imitating vocals on guitar* [INSERT PICTURE OF TOM HESS HERE] *Shreds his solos in a way a singer could never sing!*
    link no1
    I don't dislike the guy for posting all his articles, he's promoting his services and giving out some free advice, tips etc. at the same time. I disagree with posting the same article twice though since like others, I'm pretty sure this is already been posted. UG should just give him a permanent link at the top or something rather than 50% of the columns being Tom Hess.
    The tone of the singer's voice was equally as horrible as the tone of Tom's guitar. I'm off to youtube so I can listen to something to get that painful sound out of my head.
    Tom Hess fanboys coming in and down voting anyone with negative views. "YOU CANT HANDLE THE TRUTH"
    That isn't really happening - if you are referring to Barricade_28's posts up top, I imagine that most of those down votes are from users who agree with my criticism, not necessarily disagreeing with what he had to say. Generally, posts complaining about the tone/content of his articles are up-voted.
    I already have a can of WD40, wouldn't that snake oil be redundant?
    I should say, I've gotten into the habit of immediately disregarding every guitar lesson which purports to divulge the fabled 'secret' to you. There is no secret, there is only good advice and diligent practice.
    LEAVE TOM HESS ALONE D': HES JUST A HUMAN BEING WHO WANTS TO MAKE A LIFE PLAYING GUITAR!!!! WAHWAHWAHCRYCRYCRY srs tho, he can be very helpful sometimes. BUT he does come off a bit condescending. for real tho, my hood never let me be no hater. he doesnt bother me
    Hess has a valid point, that you should have nice melodies in you solos. However most of his stuff is just faux-Malmsteen neo-classical super fast playing.
    This article was already posted here... I think Tom should read the comment sections of his articles here, and maybe finaly realize that everyone pretty much hates him.
    I agree with you, gorkyporky, but at least he has some valid points. Although I am well aware that he is really using these free short videos to advertise his expensive lessons and all, but I've got some good advice of his free stuff, which is why I'm still subscribed to his website. I don't mean that I could have not found it elsewhere, but still, he isn't that bad and I don't hate him for advertising his stuff. After all, that's what he makes a buck out of and keeps him fed. And I have to say it, his tone is pretty awful, yeah.
    His vibrato, tone, condescending vibe, and overall presence bothers me.
    Wow his tone is painful to listen to. I can where he's coming from, but that video was pointless, why didn't he give the singer a mic so we could hear the vocal line he was following?
    Gee! Thanks Tim! Now I can play more amazinglike to be more gooder since I bought your skype lessons! Keep doing what you're doing, pal!
    The only reason i ever read a Tom Pest lesson is to read the comments. Iv never taken anything useful from his columns. I just enjoy the flaming.
    hey, you guys want to read something funny, you should go check out his wikipedia page... wow. that is all.
    So these guys totally suck. Why does UG focus on garbage-ass metal? Metal died. Long ago. It is not relevant. And never will be again. Evolve, or get over it.
    You sound like Ian_the_Fox, except more lame. And if you seriously think Metal died, then you're a moron.
    A predictable statement from someone's user-name that is titled "freshtunes." It's attitudes like this that make some of us think that the music industry is screwed.
    Was I the only one who thought the singer couldn't actually reach the notes tom was trying to " follow " ? Tom even said at one point he was creating a sort of dissonance, which to me is like saying he wanted to make his guitar's voice crack... If you asked me, he was making a good point, but I didn't feel it.