Useful Tips On How To Make A Good Guitar Solo

Just like the title says! ;) Read it, you won't regret it!

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Wanna get some good tips on how to build a good guitar solo? You've come to the right place! Now, make yourself comfortable, and start carefully reading the lesson! ;) First, let's talk about what you should DO to make a good solo. After that I will show you the most popular modes of the seven-note scales (heptatonic scales), so that you have some scales to use in case if you don't. Ya know, the scales like Major, minor and so on. So, in order to build a good guitar solo, you must do the following:

1. Find out what key is the song in.

It is very important to be in the right key to make a good guitar solo.(Not to mention that your phrasing must be good as well). Now it doesn't mean, that should stick only to that one key (aka scale). You can find a way around the key of song. A safe way is using scale modes (aka relative keys). Most scales have relative scales. Most popular example of modes is the C major scale, which has 6 additional relative scales: D Dorian, E Phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A Aeolian (aka natural minor), and B locrian. You can use modes in whole song, not just it's song. However, to make sure, that your way around still sounds good, you should also both start and end on the right notes. With that, I mean the notes of the chord that is being played at the moment of start/end. For example, If you are playing a part of a song in E Phrygian, which both starts and ends on an E5 power chord, then the right notes to start and end the solo on are E and B. This means, that it is safe to use B locrian, if you don't want to use E Phrygian to solo. Or also, if you are playing in C major, and it starts on C major, and ends on an A minor chord, then the right notes to begin on are: C, E, G. And the right ones to end on are: A, C, E. In order to find out the right notes BY YOURSELF, just look at the chords, and scrutinize at what fret each string is being pressed (open strings count too)

2. Come up with some phrases. Put some dynamics into it.

You may start by shredding the hell out of the guitar, a good example is a guitar solo of One by Metallica. That solo starts right after the thrashy interlude, Kirk uses a lot of legato (hammer/pull-off) runs there. Or also you may start by a few, but very powerful notes with a good vibrato. A good example is an 80's metal classic - Still Of The Night by Whitesnake. That solo riff is not exactly a solo, though. It's more like a warm-up to a solo, but nonetheless, it sounds very melodic, and powerful.It starts after the violin part. You may also start at a normal pace, not too fast, not too slow. You may also kick in with the solo by using a slide at the first note. Or maybe start with a not very fast, yet a very tasty bend, after that throw in a few pinch harmonics, amd end with a nice vibrato. A good example is the guitar solo from Home Sweet Home by Motley Crue. Also, you can do just the opposite of the examples I just gave you. You may also end with a cool bend, or a cool slide, or maybe with a deep dive bomb. There's tons of options. In other words, use the right scale, come up with phrases, mix in some techniques and see where it goes. You can do whatever is possible. Experiment. But never forget to work on your guitar techniques and phrasing. It is vital to make/play good solos. Also, never forget to record your ideas somewhere. This habit may come in handy, in case if you forget some parts(or even all of it). This may sound too generalized, but basically this all you gotta do. It ain't that easy, though. Okay... Now the scales. As I said earlier the most popular modes of the seven-note scales. By the way, do not wonder when you see that there's 8 notes. That because the 8th note is an octave, and shares the same name, as the root note. The examples will start with the C major scale. These scales can be played ALL OVER THE NECK, FROM ANY FRET! (if played in the same exact shape) JUST REMEMBER THE SCALE SHAPES! (But don't stop from enriching your knowledge about them. The more you know the better) EVERYTHING'S IN STANDARD TUNING! C major
E|-----------------------|
B|-----------------------|
G|-----------------------|
D|---------------7-9-10--|
A|--------7-8-10---------|
E|---8-10----------------|
D dorian
E|------------------------|
B|------------------------|
G|--------------------7---|
D|-------------7-9-10-----|
A|------7-8-10------------|
E|---10-------------------|
E phrygian
E|------------------------|
B|------------------------|
G|------------------- 7-9-|
D|------------7-9-10------|
A|-----7-8-10-------------|
E|------------------------|
F lydian
E|---------------------|
B|---------------------|
G|--------------7-9-10-|
D|-------7-9-10--------|
A|--8-10---------------|
E|---------------------|
G mixolydian
E|---------------------|
B|------------------8--|
G|-----------7-9-10----|
D|----7-9-10-----------|
A|-10------------------|
E|---------------------|
A Aeolian (natural minor, or simply minor)
E|-----------------------|
B|------------------8-10-|
G|-----------7-9-10------|
D|----7-9-10-------------|
A|-----------------------|
E|-----------------------|
B locrian
E|---------------------7-|
B|----------------8-10---|
G|---------7-9-10--------|
D|----9-10---------------|
A|-----------------------|
E|-----------------------|
And, we're back to C major! C major
E|----------------7-8-|
B|-----------8-10-----|
G|----7-9-10----------|
D|-10-----------------|
A|--------------------|
E|--------------------|
This type of scales is not the only one that has relative modes. There are tons of other scales that have modes too. There is a good lesson about the modes of the pentatonic scales (The 5 pentatonic scale shapes), here on UG. It's called "How To Begin Soloing And Writing Your Own Stuff". Go check it out as well, if you haven't yet. ROCK ON!

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Butthead
    Should is a strong word. You can build a solo around scales, it's not limited to arpeggios. It's just baking a cake with a different oven.
    Dynamight
    Scales would be an oven with only one cooking setting then. Chords are the "lowest common denominator", so by starting straight from scales, you limit yourself melodically where you could be breaking down chords and adding additional notes where desired.
    theogonia777
    It wasn't bad, but: -It's only main two tips really. I don't even see why they are numbered. -They were both pretty obvious, especially finding what key you are playing in. -Mentioning modes is generally not a good idea, since that stuff tends to confuse many people, especially newer players, which this is probably aimed towards. There is also relatively no explanation of modes other than just "these are the notes" which is really not very good. That's probably something that should have been avoided.
    TuningGamer
    Scales =/= solo. Key? Well, that's pretty obvious. The only real tip in here is the phrasing. And on Still Of The Night, what part do you mean? There's so many solo-ish bits in there, you're not explicit enough.
    Dynamight
    It's bad because it encourages building solos around scales where you should be building them around chords/arpeggios.
    Virtuosofreak
    Oh really? Then why the hell did i mention starting and ending on the right notes? Why the hell did i go into showing examples of the right notes?
    SkyValley
    The phrasing part doesn't even explain phrasing. It just goes "you could begin/end a solo this way or that way." Beginnings and endings themselves are not really phrases.
    Ita3rd
    The best way to write a solo is to find an effective balance between melody and "shredding." When listening to a chord progression, try singing a little vocal melody over it and see what comes out; it will likely be more catchy than what you would have come up with improvising scales. That's not to say that nothing good ever came out of an improv, either with scales or arpeggios, but if you are able to find that appropriately catchy base theme and then further embellish those ideas with licks and tricks then you will have the makings of a good solo. At least, that's the method that's always worked best for me.
    slayvant
    I found it helpful in some ways. I think you should clarify your points though
    Vathalan
    Since this is in the key of C: C major, D dorian, E phrygian, F lydian, G mixolydian, A Aeolian, B locrian Would this be in the key of D? D major, E dorian, F phrygian, G lydian, A mixolydian, B Aeolian, C locrian And would it be the same "pattern" in all keys? like F major, G dorian, A phrygian etc.
    dumbface12
    The author is wrong about that part. What those examples are doing is starting a C major scale but on a different pitch that is in the C major scale. Forget that the author used the word modes, I'm pretty sure the author doesn't know about the proper use of modes. Also, there really is no "right" notes to start and end with. Sure starting/ending with a chord tone in the solo will sound, for the most part, good but you can use some dissonance to spice up the solo.
    Virtuosofreak
    Yeah,but if you want to make good solo,and you're gonna start a solo with an F note over a C major chord,then the beginning of your solo will sound dissonant,which in most cases is not what you want.
    Virtuosofreak
    Uhh... not quite. You see,to use modes properly and effectively,you have to have a GOOD knowledge about scales. The major scale follows the pattern 2-2-1-2-2-2-1. 2 = whole tone. 1 = semitone. When you know patterns of scales,and consecutively,the notes of the scale,then can count out exactly WHAT modes are there. Now,with the D major scale,the modes would be: D major,E dorian,F# phrygian,G lydian,A mixolydian,B aeolian,and C locrian.
    rockslide86
    There is only ONE mode when playing in C Major.... Ionian Dumbass.... PLEASE stop writing lessons.... you are being completely reckless and damaging beginner guitarists learning curve because you simply do not understand what modes are. I know you will write back saying "I do know what modes are and how you use them tralalalala" Trust me.... I've read your articles.. and comments.... you Do NOT! Stop messing up peoples knowledge so that you can satisfy your ego!