Learn A Solo In 7 Steps

The guitar solo - my favorite part of a song. Forget the hooks, the chorus, the meaningful lyrics - give me a killer solo every time.

Ultimate Guitar
The guitar solo - my favorite part of a song. Forget the hooks, the chorus, the meaningful lyrics - give me a killer solo every time. OK, so there's more to music than guitar virtuosity but nothing beats a screaming solo! As a beginner I looked at transcriptions and tried to work the whole thing out without considering a smart system. I spent so much time on where all the notes were that I'd lose touch of the rhythmic flow of the solo, get frustrated, and leave it for another day. Not anymore - my seven tips will help you learn the solo you've always wanted to play. Playing well is not easy, but it is truly possible if you have a little help. To demonstrate my seven trips I'll use the first solo from "Sweet Home Alabama". The tab, graphics and Target Notes are from the award winning Rock Prodigy application which listens to your guitar playing like a live teacher. Here is what the whole solo looks like note-for-note:

1. Use Your Ears

Listen to the solo a few times and try singing along with it. This helps to internalize the melody and rhythm of the solo. Try singing it slower than full speed to identify each note and the rhythm that connects them.

2. Target Notes

Create a simplified framework of the solo by listening for short phrases or statements with key notes in them. Listen for patterns that repeat on different scale degrees (these are called Sequence). Try playing the first and last note of each phrase in time with the song. Then listen for the notes that fall on a strong beat. Skip the articulations like bends, slides and hammer-ons/ pull-offs at first. Build a foundation then you'll be able to work in articulations to sweeten. If you need help on this you can ask a teacher or use Rock Prodigy to know the Target Notes. Looking below at Rock Prodigy's charts will show the main ideas of finding Target Notes. Phrase 1 Full
Target Notes
Phrase 2 Full
Target Notes

3. Get A Snap Shot

Focus on the fingering and positions on the neck. Start to identify patterns and repeated shapes (sequences). Usually the solo will be based on a scale or two.

4. Slow It Down Then Turn It Up

Play it slowly to train your fingers so that they know the correct way to play it. Be totally concentrated on the feeling of your fingers and where your eyes look as you train your muscles and nerves to know the patterns. Then push yourself by increasing the tempo. You can use a metronome, digital tempo shifter, or Rock Prodigy to increase the tempo.

5. Take A Section At A Time

Master small chunks like a phrase or part of a phrase. Trying to learn too much is inefficient. Learn the sections, then connect the sections, slowly and sequentially expanding your coordination and attention span for fine details of a solo. First Half Of Phrase 1
Second Half Of Phrase 1

6. Correct Trouble Spots

Once you have the general shape focus in on the specific spots that are giving you trouble. If you use Rock Prodigy you can check your scores to get an unbiased opinion of your playing, and you can see exactly where you are weak and where you are strong. Practice your weak spots until they are as clean as the easy parts of the solo.

7. Now You're Ready To Rock

Add more notes and articulations when you're ready. Once you've identified and improved every detail you'll quickly be ready to push your limits with faster speeds and more advanced techniques. Add the bends and vibrato that you see below then put feel into it.
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26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Am I the only one who sees the biggest message of this lesson as using the "Rock Prodigy" application?
    That is the underlying message, but if you ignore that part it's actually a pretty good way to learn solos. After reading it I realized that over the years I've learned to do most of those steps without consciously thinking about them.
    Rock Prodigy
    We created the lesson to teach the concept and the Rock Prodigy is just another tool to help people learn. We are here to help people make music so hopefully some people find it useful. Thanks for reading the article and for your comments!
    At least you're honest and open about it. I have to respect you for that.
    Rock Prodigy
    Thanks for saying that. Let us know if you have any questions or if there are any topics you would be interested in seeing a lesson on. ~ maximum respect
    My Last Words
    "The tab, graphics and Target Notes are from the award winning Rock Prodigy application which listens to your guitar playing like a live teacher. " Ok.
    "We hope a ton of new guitar players start because of Rock Prodigy." So you think people see tabs and just decide to start playing guitar?
    Isnt there that one site with loads of tabs, lessons, videos, and intelligent, helpful users that would be glad to offer advice to the young budding guitarist? Shit, if only i could remember the name.....
    I think it also comes with over 150 lessons and exercises with lessons that are designed for various skill levels. But I think it has been getting spammed recently from a lot of guitar scams...
    This isn't how to learn a solo, this is how you should practice all the damn time.
    People are such ungrateful *****s. Yeah, it's a thinly veiled advert for an app. And what? If you don't want to buy it, don't buy it. But that doesn't make this lesson worthless, it actually seems really helpful, especially for beginners.
    This is not a thinly veiled advert for an app, this is an advertisement for an app. The problem is people come to the UG lesson to hear from actual musicians spreading ideas, not to read advertisements.
    Rock Prodigy
    You're right, in the studio recording does hit a D note on the B string after going down the arpeggio. The transcription used in this article is from the live version in Rock Prodigy, where he hits the A note on the G string after going down the arpeggio.
    Rock Prodigy
    We hope you don't mind that we think Rock Prodigy is the best way to learn guitar. We are excited to show off what Rock Prodigy can do. We have worked nearly 4 years on it and are very proud of our patented system and curriculum. We hope a ton of new guitar players start because of Rock Prodigy.
    My biggest problem with this lesson isn't the use of the app, but the fact that it states that hammer-ons/pull-offs and slides are just flourishes. A lot of the time those things are necessary to use in order to put your hand in the right position to play the next part of the solo.
    $20 for an app? Fuck that, I'll learn it by myself.
    Rock Prodigy
    Please keep in mind that the Rock Prodigy app comes with over 150 Lessons and Exercises. The lessons/exercises that come included are designed for the beginner guitar player and cover chords, scales, rhythm, technique and theory. Really for the price of less than one lesson with a teacher there is a whole lot of useful content. For sure we believe in you "learning it by yourself" but it is a useful tool if you need some help. Thanks for checking out the article! - RP
    This article mad me feel like the free Spotify version. A lot of ads, but still worth it because of the awesomeness of everything else. 8/10
    So basically you just take your time and learn the tab a section at a time? Wow, totally going to blow $20 on an app that tells me that instead of getting my crack.