Poll: When you solo/improvise, do you ...
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View poll results: When you solo/improvise, do you ...
make up riffs on the spot
8 29%
put together riffs you've made up from before
0 0%
a mixture of both
20 71%
Voters: 28.
I'm not what you'd call an awesome guitarist, but I can get myself around the fretboard. Lately I've been playing in a band as lead guitarist and I have troubles when it comes to soloing.

The problem I have is that when I improvise on the spot, using my knowledge of where the notes of a certain key and mode are on the fretboard, my solo's sounds decent, but not what you'd call amazing (they don't usually have any structure, ie. build up, climax). If I think of something, like some riffs, ahead of time though, I can make them sound good with the rest of the song.

My question is, when you guys solo/improvise over a chord progression, song, or whatever, do you make up riffs on the spot, or do you just compile a bunch of 'pre-invented' riffs that you've made up while practicing or messing around from before?

I'm kind of confused as to whether being 'good' at soloing means that I can pull things out of nowhere or whether it's just playing the right riffs at the right time, or is it a mixture of both.

I guess I'll add a poll to get some more input.
Any feedback is appreciated.
Quote by PopPunkPotHead
practice is the only way for great solos

I understand that much, but I've found, from past experience, that practicing without technique doesn't get me very far.

It seems that I may be over analyzing this, or have any of you ever thought of this before?
For most people it's probably a mixture of both, but with the pre-invented "bag of licks" making up a small minority of what you play. To play using only those licks wouldn't be improvising at all. Don't worry, you'll get better at improvising on the fly as you practice it.

It depends on what kind of sound you are going for though. Many rock musicians when soloing onstage are simply trying to recreate as closely as possible the solo they did on record. It's even considered an measure of their talent if they can. So if that's what you want to do, go for it - it gives a different sort of sound to improvising becasue it's been fully thought out beforehand, like a melody. Throwing together a random jumble of previously thought out licks however, isn't improvising or doing the rock thing, it's just.....lame.
Last edited by Beserker at Jul 13, 2009,
If you want to practice making up licks on the spot, like the others said, you should just jam over a variety of backing tracks. If you can record yourself (if you can't then you can still look out for these things while playing) then you can listen back and notice things in your playing like use of dynamics, speed, timing, whether or not you find yourself always falling into the same patters and many other aspects. You can also compare your playing in the long term, by recording at least 1 jam every month and then tracking your progress.

It is also helpful to have an arsenal of licks that you can bust out at any moment that you can't think of something to play or if you need some time to think about what to play next while your fingers do the work for a little bit. Balance between these aspects is also important to keep your solos interesting and new.
For me, the majority of my improv is just made up on the spot, usually on shapes that I'm comfortable enough to play easily. But I usually use riffs that I've picked up from past jams/compositions/covers and stuff. Good improv is largely dependant on experience, so the more you jam, the better you will be at it. When I can't find anyone to jam with, I just use jam tracks off of youtube :P You'd be surprised how many there are, and the variety. It really helps, and don't just stick to practicing in one style. I play hard rock and bits of metal, but I love jamming on blues tracks just cause you can explore a whole different mood.

Hope that helps :P
It is said that if you learn all the main scales you'll benefit much more...I don't know many scales but I get along just nicely
“Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

― Dolly Parton
I know people always say "play your own style man!" but do look at moments in your favourite players solos (especially live if they're good live players) and draw inspiration not from what they play but HOW they play it, for example john Frusciante often plays a very fast blues licks while sweeping through the range of the wah (as done in the studio in Dani California) which gives a sort of "travelling" sensation to the sound of the solo.

Not to plug but my site is a place where i talk about more of the specific things a few players do rather than the general guides on "ooh just pentatonics" that you tend to get.