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#1
This is more of a songwriting preference than lack of ability. I can write/improvise a solid solo if I want, and I used to do it a lot until I realized something: Many bands nowadays, especially in metal, just use solos as filler.

Think of it this way: A typical modern song uses a verse-chorus structure. After the second chorus, the listener's already heard the verse twice, so they're going to want to hear something different. So, to mix things up a bit, there's usually a solo, or bridge, or breakdown. Or a combination of those three. So now the song is more varied. Great.

Some bands can pull this off nicely. If a guitarist can write a memorable solo, without it collapsing into a puddle of pentatonics and runs, the song benefits greatly. Mercenary and Scar Symmetry are really solo-heavy bands, for example, and their guitarists do some really cool stuff. Some styles, like power metal, just call for solos as part of the style; take out the solo and it's not really power metal anymore.

But when some other bands try this, it just feels stale and derivative. I get that sometimes, a solo is there so the guitarist can show off how good they are, but restraint should come before skill. It feels stale and derivative to shoehorn a solo in when I'm writing too; when I look at the marker list in Guitar Pro, I'm like, "Solo there? Why?"

So, with some of the stuff I've been writing lately, I'm taking a path that's common for some melodic black metal and folk metal bands. Instead of playing a complicated, technical solo, the third-verse break uses a slower, more melodic lead that isn't heard anywhere else in the song. Again, this all comes down to personal preference, but if a band pulls it off properly (ie Catamenia or Ensiferum), it's more effective than a half-hearted solo that's there just for the sake of it.

That's just my opinion, though. Does anyone else think the same thing? I know there are probably tons of you who disagree, so is there something I'm missing? I'd love to hear from some songwriters.

To be clear, I'm not asking for advice, just pointing out an idea for other people.
Last edited by Cavalcade at Sep 14, 2011,
#2
my thrash band has a song with no solo in it. were one of the few thrash bands out there with a song that has no wanked solo. we get shit all across New Jersey for it. Welcome to metal elitism my friend.

But to play devils advocate, "If a guitarist can write a memorable solo..." is a matter of perception. Same deal with people saying that shredding shows no emotion. Its not the case. People express emotions differently, whether it be bending 1 note the entire solo or playing 200 notes a second.

Personally, I could care less, as long as the solo isnt completely out of place. When I listen to thrash/power i expect to have wankery across the fretboard. however, i would not expect to have a Dragonforce style solo during an acoustic ballad.
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Last edited by COBHC_Erick429 at Sep 13, 2011,
#3
My take on it is that if the solo can't add to the song then don't put a solo in it. I personally find writing the solo the most enjoyable part of writing metal.
#5
I play in a Heavy-Alt band that dabbles in metal. Some songs have solos and some don't. If a song feels like it should have one, it does. But if it doesn't need one, there's no point in forcing it. This goes for any genre. Screw anyone who tells you every song you write needs a solo. They don't know how to write songs if they think every single song should have a solo just for the sake of it.
#6
Quote by COBHC_Erick429
Welcome to metal elitism my friend.

Don't you know? The trve kvlt elite are above such worldly affairs as shred solos.
Quote by COBHC_Erick429
But to play devils advocate, "If a guitarist can write a memorable solo..." is a matter of perception. Same deal with people saying that shredding shows no emotion. Its not the case. People express emotions differently, whether it be bending 1 note the entire solo or playing 200 notes a second.

Fair enough. Like I said, some solos are good enough to justify being on the song, and it depends on what you call "good". I've heard some (not many) shred solos that just ooze emotion.
#7
With black metal, the typical verse-chorus structure is pretty much abandoned. Or, it should be IMO. The focus is more on unconventional chord progressions , repetition, and an overall "cold" atmosphere. I noticed some chord changes resemble romantic era music.
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#8
Just because some bands have too many/bad solos doesn't mean you have to completely abandon playing them yourself. Of course you don't have play them either. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but only play one if it will improve the song, don't worry about trying to make a point about what other bands are doing.
#9
Quote by MetalCommand
Just because some bands have too many/bad solos doesn't mean you have to completely abandon playing them yourself. Of course you don't have play them either. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but only play one if it will improve the song, don't worry about trying to make a point about what other bands are doing.

I know, this is just a songwriting choice. I thought most of the time, my solos weren't an integral part of the song either, and that's why I cut them out.
#10
Quote by z4twenny
My take on it is that if the solo can't add to the song then don't put a solo in it. I personally find writing the solo the most enjoyable part of writing metal.

Basically this.

Most of my songs have a solo right where the climax of the song is and I put it there on purpose. I also rarely use a ABA etc. form. They just fit with my writing style. You can check out my songs and decide if you agree, but most people do.

No need to fix what isn't broken, says I.
#11
TS, the problem here is that you think a solo is just "oh it's time to show how good I am wank wank wank wank".

If you regard the guitar as a musical instrument, you'll find that solos are intended to be complementary melodies to the song. Their purpose is to add to and enhance the song. The purpose is not to show how awesome you are.

So basically if you think along a more musical route in relation to your instrument, then you will understand that a solo doesn't have to be fast, doesn't have to be slow, doesn't have to be present, doesn't have to be anything. It's there to express yourself musically. If what you're doing takes away from the song, then you're doing it wrong.
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#12
Quote by AlanHB


So basically if you think along a more musical route in relation to your instrument, then you will understand that a solo doesn't have to be fast, doesn't have to be slow, doesn't have to be present, doesn't have to be anything. It's there to express yourself musically. If what you're doing takes away from the song, then you're doing it wrong.

ding ding ding we have a winner. Honestly when i started thinking "you're not writing a solo, you're writing a multi faceted melody" my solos became better.
#13
Quote by AlanHB
TS, the problem here is that you think a solo is just "oh it's time to show how good I am wank wank wank wank".

If you regard the guitar as a musical instrument, you'll find that solos are intended to be complementary melodies to the song. Their purpose is to add to and enhance the song. The purpose is not to show how awesome you are.

So basically if you think along a more musical route in relation to your instrument, then you will understand that a solo doesn't have to be fast, doesn't have to be slow, doesn't have to be present, doesn't have to be anything. It's there to express yourself musically. If what you're doing takes away from the song, then you're doing it wrong.

Maybe I should have made something clearer in the topic post. I make a distinction between shred solos (like in the topic) and melodies. Guitar melodies, harmonies, and often counterpoints are an important part of the type of music I write, but I don't treat them as "solos", just riffs that are also melodies. That seems to be what you mean.
Solos (to me) are generally more complex and less repetitive, even without the "shred" part. They serve a purpose of their own, but it's not necessary to have one in every song, just for the sake of having it.
But maybe this is just a terminology mix-up. Maybe we just mean different things when we say "solo".
#14
Cavalcade, what do YOU think "melody" means? That would be the proper issue re: terminology.
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#15
Yeah, terminology is definitely the problem.
Technically, a melody is just a sequence of notes. So technically, solos are melodies, but so are Meshuggah riffs. But when I say "guitar melody", I'm talking about a melodic lead riff.
Another thing: This thread wasn't written as a call for help so much as an open discussion. If that's not what this forum is for, I'll keep these sorts of musings on my blog instead.
#16
im not really sure what the point of this thread is. are you looking for our permission to make music the way you want to?

i highly doubt all these shredders are just taking a solo just to show off. even if they were, so what? technically any time you play you are showing off. even if you are playing a slower, melodic lead part.

i do kind of agree though. i think some songs dont call for a solo or if they do, shredding over it doesnt always make a good solo. now, i dont play metal but i can play fast runs but more along the lines of eric johnson or joe bonamassa type stuff. but i try to find something thart suits the song. however i dont usually write solos either. i prefer to improvise because its in the moment and i feel i can express myself more that way.

but anyways, again im not sure what the point of this is really, do whatever you want. but dont think you are somehow making better music because you refuse to shred.
#17
I definitely agree that solos are only meant to enhance the songs and always should be. If I feel a solo shouldn't be there, it won't. One guitarist, I've been getting into, demonstrating this philosophy is Devin Townsend. When in context, I applaud shredding across your fretboard at 100 notes a second, dissonance ripping through your face. It makes the song exciting when it builds and builds. But if the phrasing doesn't tell me a story at some point, it really is just filler. I probably won't be humming it later, but that's a matter of taste to me. If an Extreme Metal piece didn't have a solo, I wouldn't throw a fit. So long as the song sounded great on its own, I'm content.

That verse-chorus-bridge stuff is pretty bland too. Add a quick solo in the beginning or post-verse, do something tasteful, but this still comes with playing in context and involving a story-like atmosphere. One song I've been working on for a while that comes to mind is "Hangar 18" by Megadeth. That song is intense with more than 5 different solos in that song and yet I never ever feel bored because each section tells a little something different. I still don't know what to expect sometimes!

Plus, diversifying song structure and omitting solos, that don't fit, within a collection of songs is pretty cool in my opinion. To me it's like "Oh man, I wonder what's gonna happen when this next song starts". It keeps me from feeling each one is as predictable as before.
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Last edited by Mathedes at Sep 14, 2011,
#18
Like I said in the previous post, this would probably have worked better as a blog entry. It's less "asking permission" than sharing what I do and maybe getting feedback. It was the question in the title, wasn't it?
Last edited by Cavalcade at Sep 14, 2011,
#19
Quote by Cavalcade
Yeah, terminology is definitely the problem.
Technically, a melody is just a sequence of notes. So technically, solos are melodies, but so are Meshuggah riffs. But when I say "guitar melody", I'm talking about a melodic lead riff.
Another thing: This thread wasn't written as a call for help so much as an open discussion. If that's not what this forum is for, I'll keep these sorts of musings on my blog instead.


It does seem to be a difference in considering what "melody" is definitely. For the majority of a Meshuggah song, I would argue that the vocals supply the melody. Sure it may consist of largely one note repeated, but it's the melodic them in the front of the context, which is the riffing.

Of course this does call into question whether "melodic soloing" is in fact the best description for what everyone accepts as "melodic". One could argue that by playing solos slower, there is more of an emphasis on single notes than in shredding, and a more distinct melody is made out, but that's not to say playing 200 notes a seconds is then not a melody.

As for encouraging an open discussion, you can't really expect everyone to agree with your opinion, this is a public forum.
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#20
Quote by AlanHB
It does seem to be a difference in considering what "melody" is definitely. For the majority of a Meshuggah song, I would argue that the vocals supply the melody. Sure it may consist of largely one note repeated, but it's the melodic them in the front of the context, which is the riffing.

Of course this does call into question whether "melodic soloing" is in fact the best description for what everyone accepts as "melodic". One could argue that by playing solos slower, there is more of an emphasis on single notes than in shredding, and a more distinct melody is made out, but that's not to say playing 200 notes a seconds is then not a melody.

As for encouraging an open discussion, you can't really expect everyone to agree with your opinion, this is a public forum.

Wow, my post looks really stupid now. I described a guitar melody as "melodic". So now we're talking about "melodic" instead of "melody". That's progress.

Anyway, what makes something "melodic" is kind of arbitrary, and has to do with how the human mind interprets music. That sort of thing is kind of interesting, but I'm not a neuroscientist, so I can't really give an exact definition. You know what I mean, though, and your post hit the nail on the head.

My problem doesn't come from people disagreeing with me, just that everyone seems to think I'm asking for advice. It's all about context, and the OP is more of a blog entry than a forum thread, since the whole point of a thread is to get replies.
Last edited by Cavalcade at Sep 14, 2011,
#21
A riff is a group of notes put together that form a distinct rhythmic/ melodic signature.

A solo is a group of notes that form an indistinct, changing rhythmic/ melodic signature.

Riffs give a song structure, lyrical progressions and solos add dynamic, emotional storytelling.
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#22
Quote by iancmtaylor
A riff is a group of notes put together that form a distinct rhythmic/ melodic signature.

A solo is a group of notes that form an indistinct, changing rhythmic/ melodic signature.

Riffs give a song structure, lyrical progressions and solos add dynamic, emotional storytelling.


Just to play with you a little, what would you call it if:

- The solo played the same melody as the vocal line.

- The solo was the riff, an octave up.
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#23
...then it wouldn't be a solo it would be a harmony...
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#24
Quote by iancmtaylor
...then it wouldn't be a solo it would be a harmony...


What would the melody line be then?
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#25
The riff/ vocal of course, what's your point?
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#26
Quote by iancmtaylor
The riff/ vocal of course, what's your point?


The solo takes over the melody when the vocals stop. Although I do get what you're hinting at with the octaved riff being the harmony, although I think it would be better to say the solo is the melody being in the forefront, and the riff then would become the harmony (if that's still a correct term for playing the same note an octave above).
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#27
I interpreted your question as two separate scenarios, not at the same time.

Obviously if you changed the guitar solo on a song to be the vocal melody, and had the lead guitar double up on the riff, then the guitar solo would still be there, just from a different voicing.
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#28
Quote by iancmtaylor
I interpreted your question as two separate scenarios, not at the same time.

Obviously if you changed the guitar solo on a song to be the vocal melody, and had the lead guitar double up on the riff, then the guitar solo would still be there, just from a different voicing.


I think we also have a different idea as to what a melody is.
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#29
Ok? You going to say what yours is, or are you going to keep being all cryptic and talk-downy?
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#30
Quote by iancmtaylor
Ok? You going to say what yours is, or are you going to keep being all cryptic and talk-downy?


The musical theme at the forefront of any piece of music at any time. What's yours?
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#31
So, if there are three melodies playing all at once, each similar to each other, yet slightly different, but one is played with more force, that's the one you consider the melody?

All the notes you hear at one time are contributing to the melody. The one that's most recognizable is a conglomeration of the beat, bass and mid-tone with some alterations. The backing progression is just as much a part of the melody as the solo.
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#32
i find that bands like Disturbed, who have a great guitarist who certainly can shred, do well in this genre. Every once in a while you hear him shred a little, but most of his solos are nice and artistic. I believe a solo should have thought to it, instead of fast playing. some of theyr songs have no solos, and thats okay. (sorry if i sound fanboyish) a solo isnt necessary to the song always.
#33
Quote by Cavalcade
This is more of a songwriting preference than lack of ability. I can write/improvise a solid solo if I want, and I used to do it a lot until I realized something: Many bands nowadays, especially in metal, just use solos as filler.

Think of it this way: A typical modern song uses a verse-chorus structure. After the second chorus, the listener's already heard the verse twice, so they're going to want to hear something different. So, to mix things up a bit, there's usually a solo, or bridge, or breakdown. Or a combination of those three. So now the song is more varied. Great.

Some bands can pull this off nicely. If a guitarist can write a memorable solo, without it collapsing into a puddle of pentatonics and runs, the song benefits greatly. Mercenary and Scar Symmetry are really solo-heavy bands, for example, and their guitarists do some really cool stuff. Some styles, like power metal, just call for solos as part of the style; take out the solo and it's not really power metal anymore.

But when some other bands try this, it just feels stale and derivative. I get that sometimes, a solo is there so the guitarist can show off how good they are, but restraint should come before skill. It feels stale and derivative to shoehorn a solo in when I'm writing too; when I look at the marker list in Guitar Pro, I'm like, "Solo there? Why?"

So, with some of the stuff I've been writing lately, I'm taking a path that's common for some melodic black metal and folk metal bands. Instead of playing a complicated, technical solo, the third-verse break uses a slower, more melodic lead that isn't heard anywhere else in the song. Again, this all comes down to personal preference, but if a band pulls it off properly (ie Catamenia or Ensiferum), it's more effective than a half-hearted solo that's there just for the sake of it.

That's just my opinion, though. Does anyone else think the same thing? I know there are probably tons of you who disagree, so is there something I'm missing? I'd love to hear from some songwriters.


I think you should do what you want and not worry about things like this.

If you feel that a solo belongs in your song.... put one there. If you don't ... don't.

Don't over think it or take yourself too seriously.
shred is gaudy music
#34
Quote by RagingVegas
i find that bands like Disturbed, who have a great guitarist who certainly can shred, do well in this genre. Every once in a while you hear him shred a little, but most of his solos are nice and artistic. I believe a solo should have thought to it, instead of fast playing. some of theyr songs have no solos, and thats okay. (sorry if i sound fanboyish) a solo isnt necessary to the song always.



I absolutely loooove Disturbed solos, but every time I mention one to a guitarist friend they just 'pssssh'. Yet they bandwagon on Comfortably Numb... go figure.
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#35
Quote by RagingVegas
i find that bands like Disturbed, who have a great guitarist who certainly can shred, do well in this genre. Every once in a while you hear him shred a little, but most of his solos are nice and artistic. I believe a solo should have thought to it, instead of fast playing. some of theyr songs have no solos, and thats okay. (sorry if i sound fanboyish) a solo isnt necessary to the song always.

This seems to be the mindset of a lot of people: Thinking that playing fast automatically means the solo isn't thought out/hasn't got soul in it. Speed doesn't matter, but that doesn't mean you have to play slow. Forcing yourself to play slow is just as bad as forcing yourself to play fast. Just do what sounds good.
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#36
I don't think the issue is with speed itself but a matter of people focusing on speed in a way that can detract from simply having good lines and phrasing. "Shred" is a dirty word to the extent that this is the case with guitar players - that their fast playing is really restricted to something linear and repetitive. When the quest for speed overshadows being musical.

That said, there are also insecure people out there who demonize anything that is too complex for them to play as "souless", or just make too many negative assumptions about people who can do pretty fiery stuff.
#37
I think most guitar solos suck to be honest, but that's the guitarists fault, not the idea of a solo.

Obviously Alan and GM have covered the important points regarding structure and melody.
#38
Quote by Freepower
I think most guitar solos suck to be honest, but that's the guitarists fault, not the idea of a solo.

Who's in the minority list of players whose solos you do like?
#39
Well, players I consistently like are Allan Holdsworth, Paul Masvidal from Cynic, Gus G (at least his Dream Evil stuff), George Harrison and Neil Young. There's a lot of solos I really like which aren't by those guys, and a lot of it is just my personal taste - but I think those guys are consistently really good.

I find that a lot of pop/rock/metal solos are very inert structurally, what I really like is a solo that goes somewhere and/or takes the song someplace, not just carry a melody for a few bars and then do a screaming bend into a chorus. Gus G and George Harrison tend to write solid solos that have a good phrase structure and are dynamically interesting.

There's also guys like Neil Young and Allan Holdsworth, where something about their improvisation really strikes a chord with me, even though the solos may be a little rambling.

Players where I consistently really dislike their solos are Eric Clapton, Andreas Oberg, Tosin Abasi... obviously these guys have plenty of fans who are totally justified in digging them, I just don't like their lead playing.
#40
When I think of well structured solos and phrases Robben Ford immediately springs to mind. One in particular that really tells a story is that solo in Help The Poor from the Talk To your Daughter album.

Every time the band goes to the V chord, being a minor blues, the altered scale sticks out a mile, but he uses it so tastefully. But it's not just the fact that he uses that scale, it's the phrasing, like you say he takes it somewhere.
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