#1
I play rhythm guitar in a metal band. I can play solid rhythms and write decent riffs, but when it come to writing solos, I am an idiot. I know tons of scales and practice them often, but when I try to write solos they are lame and sound too "scaly." I can't even make a simple pentatonic scale sound decent. The music gods do not speak to me, and I cannot hear in my head, a clear "melody" that would sound good. How do I overcome this? Am I just a musical retard?
#3
I'm kinda the same way. I play rhythm guitar all the time. Do you by chance play piano/keyboard? That would help a lot. When writing songs, if I can't make it work on guitar, I sit down at the keyboard and write the melody or solo on that and then transcribe it onto guitar (or sometimes keep it as a keyboard solo )
#5
Quote by ronhoward
You could cheat and try to write solos in Guitar Pro.



That's not really cheating. Because there is no "correct" way to writing music.


Guys, want to write solos? Learn to play solos at first, it will create patterns and licks in your mind that you will use when constructing solos
#6
You say you can't hear music in your head, let me ask you this:

How much ear training have you done?

(I'm going to guess not a lot. Meaning: give it a try.)
#7
Some would consider it cheating, but there's no right or wrong way. But you can use the visual fretboard with whatever scale you're in and mess around with it. I did it when I first started writing leads and I felt more comfortable doing that. It really helps to learn other solos just to give you ideas that you can use with some of your own.
#8
Quote by ronhoward
Some would consider it cheating, but there's no right or wrong way. But you can use the visual fretboard with whatever scale you're in and mess around with it. I did it when I first started writing leads and I felt more comfortable doing that. It really helps to learn other solos just to give you ideas that you can use with some of your own.


It allows me, for example, to write solos that I can't play and practice my own material, which is awesome, to avoid learning other peoples' songs
#10
Quote by ronhoward
If I have trouble with certain licks or techniques, I use it to slow them down and build up to full speed.



Speed is an important factor, you need to make sure the solo would sound well on the speed you wish the song to be, guitar pro is perfect for that
#11
Quote by z4twenny
How many solos from other musicians do you know?

I know few solos. I'm currently working on Europa, but have played some Randy Rhoads solos (although not quite up to speed)
#12
Quote by Weaponxclaws
I'm kinda the same way. I play rhythm guitar all the time. Do you by chance play piano/keyboard? That would help a lot. When writing songs, if I can't make it work on guitar, I sit down at the keyboard and write the melody or solo on that and then transcribe it onto guitar (or sometimes keep it as a keyboard solo )

I do have a keyboard, but I'm not sure it would help me if I have no idea what the hell I'm trying to play. I may not be creative enough to write solos? I will give it a try though...
#13
There's a whole subclass of guitar players like you and me who can write riffs but who struggle with solos.

My recent solution, which seems to be working, is to approach solos in the same way as riffs. Dividing a solo into 'beginning', 'middle' and 'end' is a simple way to introduce structure and development. Then, within each section, a riff-like lead will have its own structure.

Put the backing on loop playback and use a mixture of improvisation and refinement (aka trial and error), and a bit of theory to bridge two sections or to cut down the note choices.
#14
Learning other peoples licks/solos will definitely help you learn to create your own. I would start with something easy at first - Yngwie or Dream Theater will only discourage you. "You Shook me all Night Long" is a good because it can teach you a lot about phrasing, and will help you with bending. You can increase the difficulty in the stuff you learn as you progress.

When it comes to writing original stuff, what I do is record a 5 minute loop of whatever progression I'm going to play over, then I play over it and try to develop phrases that I like. Soloing is like carrying on a conversation, whatever you play, the next thing should be either an answer or a continuation of what you just played.
I'd like to help, but not as much as I'd like not to.


"To be successful, you need to be a good musician. To be popular, you just need to be fashionable" - Ritchie Blackmore
#15
You don't write a solo by starting with licks. You start with musical ideas. Licks are the embellishment of a solo, not its structure.
#16
Quote by Lorissa
I know few solos. I'm currently working on Europa, but have played some Randy Rhoads solos (although not quite up to speed)

rhoades' stuff is awesome, just keep learning solos. picking up theory can definitely help but isn't really a necessity. the thing is, much like "riff writing" you need some foundation and a bit of a better understanding of how notes sound together especially in larger groups.
#17
Why do you have to write a solo? If it doesn't come to you, and you don't clearly have a vision of what comes in that part of a song, a solo is just a generic way to make a piece 10-30 seconds longer.

Also, I don't see why we have to try and make a boundary between "lead guitar" and "rhythm" guitar. Playing notes outside of the first 3 strings doesn't make the instrument any different a beast to tackle, and I think fundamentally you're lacking when it comes to seeing the big picture.

Quote by Zeletros
It allows me, for example, to write solos that I can't play and practice my own material, which is awesome, to avoid learning other peoples' songs

Can you still not play hair metal?
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
Last edited by Hail at Dec 13, 2011,
#18
Quote by Hail
Why do you have to write a solo?


If he wants to write solos he wants to write solos.

If it doesn't come to you, and you don't clearly have a vision of what comes in that part of a song, a solo is just a generic way to make a piece 10-30 seconds longer.


People may like them. People may expect them. Solos might enhance the song, ramp up the excitement, add variety, or take it somewhere new.

A 'clear vision' of this is what he's aspiring to.

Also, I don't see why we have to try and make a boundary between "lead guitar" and "rhythm" guitar. Playing notes outside of the first 3 strings doesn't make the instrument any different a beast to tackle, and I think fundamentally you're lacking when it comes to seeing the big picture.


We don't always need a boundary between lead and rhythm guitar, but sometimes there is a clear distinction. It's like an orchestra ... lead violin is just a violin, but its role changes sometimes.
#19
Quote by Jehannum
If he wants to write solos he wants to write solos. People may like them. People may expect them. Solos might enhance the song, ramp up the excitement, add variety, or take it somewhere new.

A 'clear vision' of this is what he's aspiring to.

He should learn to compose over time, not throw riffs together. Solos can work well in a song, but only if you can see an actual need for it. Most of it is pentatonic wanking anyway. If it's not natural to him to write/play it, he either doesn't know much about his instrument or it doesn't fit in the song.

Learning other peoples' songs will certainly help, but learning specifically the solos is a no-no. It'll help technically, but it won't tell you how the solo fits into the song as a whole. Very, very different.

We don't always need a boundary between lead and rhythm guitar, but sometimes there is a clear distinction. It's like an orchestra ... lead violin is just a violin, but its role changes sometimes.

I have never, ever read a score where someone had the audacity to label "lead xxx" and "rhythm xxx". There are differentiating parts to add texture and at times for different functions, but by comparing an orchestra piece with multiple parts for each instrument to a contemporary "guitar" band, you're throwing oranges against tomatoes.

Someone competent writing a score will almost never say "Alright, this trombonist will play all the hard parts, the others will play pedal tones."
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#21
Quote by Hail
Someone competent writing a score will almost never say "Alright, this trombonist will play all the hard parts, the others will play pedal tones."


Oh? In a violin concerto there will be a virtuoso who plays the violin solo, and there will be other violinists who - to use rock band terminology - provide the backing.

There are many differences between orchestral music and rock music. That doesn't mean there are no points of comparison whatsoever.

Music is melody and harmony. Sometimes the guitar has a harmonic role, sometimes a melodic role. Therefore it's reasonable, at appropriate times, to make a distinction between rhythm and lead guitar.
#22
Quote by Jehannum
Oh? In a violin concerto there will be a virtuoso who plays the violin solo, and there will be other violinists who - to use rock band terminology - provide the backing.

There are many differences between orchestral music and rock music. That doesn't mean there are no points of comparison whatsoever.

Music is melody and harmony. Sometimes the guitar has a harmonic role, sometimes a melodic role. Therefore it's reasonable, at appropriate times, to make a distinction between rhythm and lead guitar.


"I'm getting good at harmonic guitar. How do I approach melodic guitar?"
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#23
well, i dont know about what everyone else does, but the way i look at composing a new solo is to take some time to just think about the theory of it all first - look at the key, the chord progression, and then what scales, modes, chords and arpeggios really fit with the progression and style of the song.
after that i pretty much break it down to what individual notes work, sometimes just down to a 5 or 6 note span of an octave. and then i try to find wierd ways to connect them across octaves, scales, and modes. once you can see the actual notes where you'd normally just see a fret number, connecting them gets a lot easier and makes your solo a bit more tasty then one composed with say just a pentatonic box with a few bends thrown in. it all depends on the song and how you use it!

well, at least, thats what im trying. :P Theory can be a bitch to learn, but its really useful in the long run. i hope this helps! sorry if i basically reposted what someone else had said :P
#24
Quote by Hail
Someone competent writing a score will almost never say "Alright, this trombonist will play all the hard parts, the others will play pedal tones."


I may be dating myself here, (...and I hear you can go blind doing that... why yes, I do wear glasses, SHUT UP) but when I was in junior high band class, we divided our instrument sections into "levels" - IE, since I was a trumpet player, we had first trumpet, second trumpet, etc. First trumpet was the virtuoso who played all the solos, and us schlubs played the rest of the crap.

I was not fond of being a trumpet player.

Anyway. Solos used to confound me until I realized they're just melodies. If you can write a melody, you can write a solo. There's also an excellent book called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Solos and Improvisation", which I found insanely useful despite the title.
#25
Quote by CarsonStevens
I may be dating myself here, (...and I hear you can go blind doing that... why yes, I do wear glasses, SHUT UP) but when I was in junior high band class, we divided our instrument sections into "levels" - IE, since I was a trumpet player, we had first trumpet, second trumpet, etc. First trumpet was the virtuoso who played all the solos, and us schlubs played the rest of the crap.

I was not fond of being a trumpet player.

First, Second etc. I wasn't denying their existence, but to separate into "melody" and "rhythm" was something I never saw. Trumpet would be one of the few instruments where that'd happen, I think.

Anyway. Solos used to confound me until I realized they're just melodies. If you can write a melody, you can write a solo. There's also an excellent book called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Solos and Improvisation", which I found insanely useful despite the title.

This was what I was getting at. Anyone can play a melody.
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#26
I'd say that the convention of characterizing guitar as either "rythm" or "lead" would be better rephrased as: "harmony" and "melody". What people call "rythm guitar" is generally the harmony/chords. I suppose it's been called "rythm" because it tends to lock in more with the bassist and drummer.
#27
Quote by Brainpolice2
I'd say that the convention of characterizing guitar as either "rythm" or "lead" would be better rephrased as: "harmony" and "melody". What people call "rythm guitar" is generally the harmony/chords. I suppose it's been called "rythm" because it tends to lock in more with the bassist and drummer.


Even then, each instrument (save drums unless they have percussion equipment) should be able to do both melodic and harmonic functions adequately. We're not in the 1960s.
Quote by Kevätuhri
Hail isn't too edgy for posts, posts are not edgy enough for Hail.


Quote by UseYourThumb
You win. I'm done here.
#28
Even then, each instrument (save drums unless they have percussion equipment) should be able to do both melodic and harmonic functions adequately. We're not in the 1960s.


Sure. But I don't think anyone ever meant to imply that the instrument itself is restricted to one or the other. The terms just refer to different roles one takes in various contexts when playing the instrument. "Rythm guitar" is a more supportive role. When I come on stage with a singer who has all the melodies, and play chords behind them, I'm functioning as a "rythm guitarist" in that context. I don't really like the term "rythm" for it though.

While I might be *able* to do both functions adequately, that might not be my role in a band or gig, at least not consistently.
Last edited by Brainpolice2 at Dec 15, 2011,
#29
Generally, I approach solos "in the moment" and improvise them. It sucks, I think, to hear everyone promote vague, esoteric concepts like "feeling the music" etc. I'm not arguing with them, they're right, but if you don't already know what that means then it isn't going to help you. To get to that point, I think Sean's very much on the money - an internalized knowledge of notes and chords is necessary to write a solo on the spot/in a short amount of time. Combining that with a good knowledge of intervals will really open your playing up.

When I'm "writing" a solo, I usually think in very broad terms while my fingers do the work. Solos always tell a story, they have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Like a story, there is suspense, or more musically speaking, "tension" and resolution. Stories are made up of sentences, and sentences are made up of phrases. You need to have a good grasp of phrasing to write a really good solo. You don't always need to be playing, either. Sometimes a held note or silence in the right spot makes all the difference. Don't worry about playing something flashy, clean/articulate is better than a fast/complicated part played sloppily.

In general though, I don't really think of what box/scale I'm playing in. If the chord progression I'm playing over is in Gmaj, I already know what notes are at my disposal over any given chord and at that point it becomes about emphasizing what notes when. My point is that you shouldn't need to think "which note do I play next based on x,y,z?" (that should be internalized) - you should be able to hear in your head how you want the solo to sound and move to the next note based on that. You should already know which notes are in key, which ones are out of key, what the "avoid" notes are at any given time, and have a mental collection of licks to use in any key. Those repetitive blues/rock licks and runs (looking at you, Clapton) are great in any style as a safe spot. Arpeggios too.

The bottom line is that you need to be very fretboard literate to write a solo on the spot.
PRS SE Custom 24 25th Anniversary
Ibanez RG2EX1
Fender CD220CE Acoustic-Electric
Fender Hot Rod Deville 2x12 60w