Hey everyone! I'm a newer member here, but I was working on some lessons, and wanted to get yall's opinion on a question that would help me out (especially for newer players):

What do you guys find the most challenging thing about writing a 'great' guitar solo? Keep in mind, not how to write a good one, but what you consider the 'hardest part' for you as a player.

Thanks for any thoughts!
Well, the hardest part of writing great solos is in fact not writing them in my opinion, but coming up with them on the fly. If I took a pen and a paper and started writing a guitar solo it wouldn't be that hard to come up with something that sounds pretty great. But improvising a great guitar solo is an another thing. Not only do you have to constantly be mindful of every shift in the chord progression, you should be able to do it by instinct trusting your ears. That level of cooperation between the ears and the fingers is the.tricky part if you ask me.
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Making it easy to listen to, yet keeping it fresh. That means no straight running up and down scales, using unique arpegios, no overly simple melodies that are too predictable, and try not to stick to pentatonic shapes. Other than that, as long as you're aware of the chords you're playing over and play with rhythm enough, writing good solos isn't all that hard in my opinion.
I don't think any of my favorite guitar players ever play a solo the same way twice. You hear a recording they have done and then go see them live and the solo's are always different because they are not tied note-for-note to what they recorded. The artist is just capturing a particular moment on the recording. That's how it was played that day. That's what makes a live concert so interesting. You hope the band does the vocals and arrangement close to the original version but the solo usually is the one place where the players can let go and just play off the top of their heads. If I ever heard a guitar player in concert who just repeated his solo's note-for-note I would be very disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, when I started playing I did learn solos not-for-note. That's how we learn to play, but I have been playing a long time and I have no desire to do that and I have played enough that I can just wing it.That being said, I don't "write" or "create" a solo until I get to that point in the song and then I just play. Sometimes it comes out ok, sometimes it's not quite what I had in mind (but it was nice try) and then sometimes I do a solo that surprises me and gives me that "wow" experience. Those moments are what keeps me playing. The funny part is that when I do play something that I think is really good and above the norm, I am usually the only one who notices it.
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Last edited by Rickholly74 at Jun 12, 2015,
Making each solo sound somewhat unique instead of making all my solos sound the same.

My knowledge of theory and scales in limited but I have this sort of eye/muscle memory thing that when I see the fretboard and my fingers on it I more or less know which notes to hit and which not. Then I just start improvising and try to remember and write down what sounds good to me.

It is really rare that I actually hear a solo in my head and then try to tab it out and perform it.

I remember always starting from the pentatonic and going on from there.
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Last edited by Guitar0player at Jun 12, 2015,
"Writing" solos is not really a great approach - start focusing on improvisation. Most solos you hear on records were improvised or are made up of various improvised takes.

I always recommend learning solos by ear, preferably slow blues to start, and then working on improvising. When learning more technical styles, such as metal, try to break down the solos in small parts and try playing around with the different phrases ( altering them, playing them in different contexts etc.) when you improvise. Basic theory ( major scale, minor scale, intervals, chord progression naming etc.) is really important for being a great lead player.

I find the most productive way to "write " a solo is to record myself improvising several takes and then picking out the best parts. You can then re-learn these parts and bang ! you got a solo.
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"Writing" solos is not really a great approach - start focusing on improvisation. Most solos you hear on records were improvised or are made up of various improvised takes.

To add to this, many solos started as improvisations, and with each time playing through, certain parts are kept and certain parts are changed until it develops into a fairly solid and consistent solo, though often with some room left for improvisation in live performances.

Also during many live performances of certain pieces, solos to be extended significantly, from perhaps 30-60 seconds to 5 or maybe (sometimes significantly) longer. Though this often depends on the genre, with jam rock bands like Phish and the Greatful Dead, bluegrass (particularly the progressive bands), and jazz bands often having very long extended solo breaks, often alternating between musicians.
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When I write solos for recording, the hardest part is not getting tired of the process.

I usually start out just by improvising over the solo section until I find things that stick, and then build the solo around and between those parts. I find that the beginning, ending, and transitional phrases come first, and the rest gets filled in. You don't always have to compose the whole thing, so long as you have your important parts in place and can get between them confidently. Contrary to popular belief, most good rock guitarists rehearse anything they're going to commit to recording, even if not note-for-note.

That said, improvisational skill is required to write good solos, and if you perform your music you'll probably want to take a more improvisational approach than you would for recording. Mis-steps on stage are fleeting and forgivable, but there's really no excuse for leaving crappy playing in a recording when you have every opportunity to go back and do better. Recording is expensive and time consuming enough as it is - anything you can do to make the process easier on yourself is worthwhile.
A solo should:

1. Provide a complementary melody for the song, it's not a chance to show off and detract from it.
2. Have flow.

The hardest part is keeping in line with number 1, and not adding notes for the hell of it.
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The hardest part - getting the magic, the tone, the story, and the technical execution to meet all at the same time.

Usually what I do is either make a demo of the rhythm tracks or bring a demo over of the rhythm tracks home and play along with it, then when the solo comes, I Record the solo section (improvise), and I do multiple takes, listen to those takes, then take the best parts of those and string em' together in a way they work and tell a cohesive story, then everything else just sorta' falls into place from there.

Sometimes though, I get lucky and come up with something that sounds amazing without even trying, and other times, 100000000 takes later, I decide to wait a bit until I think of something, usually I come up with it in my head at some point in time when there is not a guitar around, and that final bit is probably the hardest part.
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