What Makes A Good Solo?

An author suggests 6 advices which should help you with writing a good and original solos.

Ultimate Guitar

Ok, this debate has been gonig on for years now: Why do mainstream bands not have solos? And people think that automatically "The Solo" will bring back good music. I think it will help, but think about what makes a good solo.

01. You need to have some actual talent. Duh.

02. Being original is key, anyone can play a million miles a minute, but the truly revolutionary soloists are truly the most gifted.

03. It's not too long. When people go on for ten minutes playing the strings out of tuning yea its cool, but a nice one-minute solo that you can memorize in your brain making you long for me is what really makes it that good.

Take for example the solo in "Stairway To Heaven". By no means do I think its the most amazing solo ever recorded, (I reserve that for Hendrix songs) but its about 30 seconds in length (the real bulk of it at least) and is put on such a platform above all the other solos you can easily hear from a Hair Metal Band. I love a good thrash solo from Eddie Van Halen, but it cna get repetitive. (Although Van Halen is a genius in my opinion, nothing to Hendrix though.)

04. A climax. A lot of metal solos end with the highest note in the scale bent to high heavens with an obvious build up to it. A real master of the guitar can stick the climax where you don't really expect, and then go down, right back to the rhythm. (Yes, I believe Hendrix mastered this, as well as Stevie Ray Vaughn) Also David Gilmour certainly didn't play terribly fast, but the drama in his solos were incredible.

05. Not being obvious. Metal solos are obvious, admit it folks. You know when they are going to bend, they are gonna do 3 notes per string and play it all as 16th or 32nd notes. Before the Metal explosion and such around 1980 guitarists made a point to be original (usually) and wanted to create their own sound.

06. Changing the sound of solos. I love fast-paced, bending-crazy, pentatonic scale solos. But using different modes makes different solos actually sound different. And changing one's distortion is another element, don't drench your guitar in overdrive everytime, change it, make it sound cool.

So my message is: Not only do we need the solo back for good Rock and Roll, but we also need people who want to be original.

And for a quick throw in I'd like to list my ten favorite guitarists of all time:

1. Jimi Hendrix 2. Stevie Ray Vaughn 3. Jimmy Page 4. Eric Clapton 5. David Gilmour 6. Eddie Van Halen 7. Carlos Santana 8. Jeff Beck 9. Robert Randolph 10. (tie)Sheldon Reynolds (EWF)/Eddie Hazel (Funkadelic)

Thanks for your time folks, enjoy!

66 comments sorted by best / new / date

    This was a nice article, you brought up some really awesome points. Especially with knowing when a solo is coming, i agree with that one. But it's hard to make an article like this and have people not bash it. I mean, from what i've seen they think all articles are "biased'' and don't make sense...
    metal solos are not predictable or obvious. listen to "dyer's eve" by metallica, and tell me that that solo is predictable from a guy like kirk hammet. also, kerry king can play incredibly fast, and his solos are also unpredictable, even though they arent genius.
    this is a complete pointless column, didnt like it a single bit..and DUH of course a good solo needs be original, and DUH of course it needs a climax, you're just coughing up general knowlegde here that everybody already knows, and you know what, we really didnt care about your standard top 10 guitarist list
    this seems to be more of an annti metal article then anything else. 1 star
    i agree with everything you said, but you have to admit it's fun listening to the predictability of Iron Maiden solos. you know whats going to happen, but it's sooo hard to play that you have to respect it; then sound like a dick trying to play it yourself.
    i think you are right that speed doesnt make a solo, but that by no means makes it a bad thing. look at john petrucci. he is incredibly fast, but the notes in his solos seem to meld into one melody and they are very expressive. so speed is definately a good thing, but not without all the emotion feeling crap too
    Alright, I agree with the SRV fans...he was just pure awesomeness, and deserves more credit than he gets. Also, no Joe Satriani or Steve Vai?
    The guy who mentioned shadows fall has a piont. Those to guys are really good, also not many people know robert randolph that guy is a freak.
    you know, at the levels that kirk, jimi page and hendrix, dimeman of pantera, srv etc. Theyre all good no matter how fast or how slow or how well they can or cant play a solo. Its just what they feel(emotion)like doin and i dont think anyone has the right to criticize what they play. But at those levels theyre all good. All of them. Even if you dont like what theyre playin, they are still good. Did i mention that theyre all good
    "anyone can play a million miles a minute, but the truly revolutionary soloists are truly the most gifted." ...AMEN to that.
    Man, Awesome article and awesome top 10 list. Whoever it was that said Clapton was over-rated is a little too full of themselves, step down off of your high horse and recognize the fact that he is great and could play your pants off at any rate, lets see you out play him, he gets all the credit he deserves, he is truly one of the greatest guitarists of all time, along with Hendrix, SRV, EVH, Page, all of em have worked all thier lives to become that good to play like that, hell Hendrix and Clapton are just 2 of those guitarists that could pick up an untuned guitar cold and make it sound like a miracle right off the top of their heads, bustin out solos left and right none of em were born holding a guitar, they worked for it. And yes, I agree HENDRIX RULES ALL!! PERIOD! I hold Clapton a little higher than #4 but its your article.
    spam deleted again.... cant believe it took both me and frigginjerk to clean it up... bah... the only thing i see "wrong" with this article is the fact that you sort of bash metal music's "predictability".... well... you can predict the style, but i dont see how you guess exactly when they bend and exactly when they will make fast runs.... metal really is more unpredictable than predictable.
    "anyone can play a million miles a minute ..." I doubt thtat statement a lot. I doubt You can, at least in a way that makes sense, shows emotions and not just fury ... Some metal solos really sound predictable, but so do many (slow and pseudo emotional) rock solos. But as there are authors ten top classic rock guitarists, that are great, there are ten or maybe more metal guitarists, who maybe are not to your taste, but are not predictable or boring, and some can play ten minute solo that should not be a second shorter.
    nice article. you brought some good points. one thing, though, i can't make my own solos, cuz i can't play solos other ppl made, cuz i have no talent, cuz i SUCK
    dude, everyone always rips on punk music because they say it has no solos here, but if you are looking for quick unpredictable solo, look at a good punk band IE dropkick murphys, dead kennedys, bouncing souls. PS Hendrix owns. If you dont think he is the best guitarist ever, you are the anti-christ and should stop lieing to yourself.
    You forgot to mention Greg Ginn in unpredictable solo playing....but most people aren't too familiar with him. Also, Kerry King's solos (as well as Jeff Henneman's) are always predictable! All the solos Slayer ever played were noise except the slower ones...but their riffs are awesome!
    nice article. my philosophy on soloing is this: wing it every time. just know your pentatonics. if a solo is supposed to be from heart, how can memorizing something and doind the same thing over and over again be from the heart. if its different every time, its more interesting for everyone-the listener and you.
    I have a few things to say. First off, the author of this article hasn't heard any metal. Listen to Randy Rhoads of Ozzy Osbourne, John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Michael Romeo of Symphony X, and Marty Friedman of Cacophony and Megadeth, etc, and then tell me all metal solos are the same. Next, this is the most logical article I have ever seen: "YOU HAVE TO HAVE TALENT TO SOLO" No, really? I thought you could solo by banging your head against the guitar. To really solo: - Figure out songs yourself, dont use tabs except to check yourself - LEARN MUSIC THEORY: Its good to know some other scales besides just pentatonic, i.e. Harmonic Minor - figure out what licks go well with what chords/feels - NO ONE EVER completely randomly plays notes they know work in a chord and sound good. If you hear someone improvising and they sound good, they've been there before and they have worked out that lick every way you can think of Thats how everyone that you've heard that is good sounds good. EVH isn't thrash. RANDY RHOADS FOR LIFE!
    Randy Rhoads? Not on your list. He is by far more musical than Jeff Beck or Hendrix. Every great solo doesn't have to sound bluesy.
    RockYourFace wrote: Randy Rhoads? Not on your list. He is by far more musical than Jeff Beck or Hendrix. Every great solo doesn't have to sound bluesy.
    and Kirk Hammet
    aright we get the point, you like hendrix. but as everyone says, solos are about feeling and emotion; most of us play for fun, and realy put our emotions into solos. it could come out in that metal 300bpm way, or it could come out slow, singable, whatever.
    Ace McAce
    Great artical dude! Although I'm not the best soloist ever and cant play a million miles per hour I understood what you ment about rock solos being to predictable. Look at the solos in I believe in a thing called love! Yeah, they sound great but you kinda know what to expect!
    it's gonna be tough not getting bashed over some of the things you said, but solid article.
    one of the articles i've seen thus far, but what about Hammett, Frusicante, & Morrello
    yea great article, but if you can sit there and judge whats a good solo and whats not and whos better then who, how about your next article be "how to make a great solo"
    Geldof the Grey
    yeah, I liked it, but I can already feel the heat. I would like to see a how to write great solo, but I'd also love to see it posted in the columns forums
    Dude, you missed the MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR OF SOLOING. Feeling and emotion. Not in the emo way either
    liking metal, i can kinda see your point about metal solos being obvious... although some are better than others, i can think of a couple that totally knock me down every time i listen to them. next time some thoughts on how to create an innovative solo?
    Some of the points are ofcourse fair, but you definitely missed some points. What's about the "extra" top-ten list? Thats lame
    Awesome article, focued on the physical aspect, the only other thing is passion, which brings all the techniques together, good job.
    Solid attempt at a touchy and relative topic. Now for your top ten list, which I also understand is relative, but I have to comment on it. Hendrix is god, Clapton is the most overrated guitarist on the planet. He's good, not great. Why did you omit thrashers like Dave Mustain(Megadeth) and Dimebag (Panera)?
    yeah that was a pretty good article, seemed a little bias though, but i have to say u are right when you say...HENDRIX RULES!
    ok all you are complaning about his favorite guitarist. their his if u have a problem with it go create your own, dont try getting him to change it!
    Great article, I love Hendrix also and I'm glad to see Robert Randolph getting recognition! But what about Steve Vai, I know, I know- its kindda obvious but I just think how many different expressions is amazing.
    no one ever mentions Shadows Fall. These two guitarists are among the greatest, with originality and feeling. They are just awesome
    right on we got one thing in common man.... JIMI HENDRIX OWNS..... 5 stars bud.