How to Learn Any Solo No Matter How Difficult. Part 2

This is a two part article about how to learn solos that you find challenging, particularly if you're an intermediate or advanced guitarist.

Ultimate Guitar
This is a two part article about how to learn solos that you find challenging, particularly if you're an intermediate or advanced guitarist. See Part 1 here. I was watching an interview with top Experimental Psychologist BJ Fogg a few weeks ago. He was talking about how, for health reasons, he wanted to drink more tea. He assessed the system around him-he had no teas, and the only way he could boil water was to microwave it in a Perspex container. Being an expert in behavioural change, he knew this system would fail (the game was too hard to win, long term). He decided straight away to get all the equipment he needs. (I don't really understand how a man 45+ doesn't have a kettle, but I digress). He bought a kettle that boils water in record time. He buys ten flavours of teas, strainers, everything he needs. Two weeks in, he's drank tea every day. He's rigged the game in his favour.

Rigging The Game

So, let's dig into the tactical side of things. What system can we create to rig the game in our favour and make it as easy as possible to learn a new solo, one bar at a time? Here's my current system:

Strategy #1 - Guitar Pro/Power Tab

This is the game changing tactic right here. Instead of listening to the solo at full speed, trying to sync it with the paper tab, I use guitar pro to play it out for me. It plays a little bit like a karaoke machine, and it makes it easy to hear straight away whether the tab is correct or not. Faster solos tend to have parts that sound weird out of context, so being able to instantly verify that it's correct is a huge time saver. It's also superior to listening to a slowed down version of the song, because you get to see the solo move note for note, just like karaoke. You can also loop specific sections that you find difficult. Click below to see how I use Guitar Pro to learn solos.
I don't see as many power tabs online as I used to, but it's a good free option if you don't want to buy guitar pro.

Strategy #2 Stop! Break It Down.

The first thing I do is slow everything way down. If the piece is at 160 bpm, I put it to 60. Remember, you want to rig the game in your favour. Speed will come naturally later with good technique. I have a phrase I like to tell my students there isn't a single piece of music in the world you couldn't play flawlessly if you slowed it down enough. I'm not playing at 100% yet, but it's a start, and an easy start at that.

Strategy #3 Looping

I also like to loop the bars I'm learning. For the unfamiliar, this is where I set guitar pro to repeat a bar over and over. It sounds just like when a CD breaks and plays the same 5 seconds of music over and over, except you can control where and when the CD skips. This means I can get a bar in about 1 to 5 minutes, depending on the complexity. Having played for years, I can see patterns quickly, but even a beginner can memorise by rote with one bar a day. I've rigged the game so it's easy to learn the solo. No transcription, just sit down, hit play and copy.

Strategy #4 Clean It Up

This is probably the most "obvious" one. Make sure it's really easy to read the tab. The goal is always to make it super easy to learn the bar, so you should be able to read it quickly and easily. This method has made a real impact on my ability to learn solos. I'm halfway through Marty Friedman's "Tornado Of Souls" solo and I love it. Learning has been a breeze with this method (rigging the game) and as someone who's never really learned solos before this is a nice change.


Do I really have to learn the solo so slow? I like to start at that speed to make it really easy, but once I have it memorised I like to play faster. Make it fun! How do I loop a bar in guitar pro? The short cuts in GP6 are the [and] keys, but you can also go "Bar" > "Repeat Open" > "Repeat Close". You can also loop larger sections, for speed training later on. How tight should my rhythm be? Should it be just like the solo? Yes, the solo played at a slow speed should be just that the solo played at a slow speed. I do make exceptions for when there are long rests I skip those. If I know the section is going to require a lot of work later, like if it's insanely fast and moves between triplets and semi quavers, I don't worry about getting it perfect. Notes in the right order will do for now for the very technical passages. Later on, we can perfect the rhythm, but right now let's keep the momentum going let's just get that tricky triplet bar in the right order and come back and perfect it later. Hey guys, I'm Eoghan O'Neill and I'm a guitar teacher currently teaching in the West of Ireland, Galway to be precise! I'm starting a new blog, called "The Efficient Guitarist". It's a blog for intermediate and advanced guitar players interested in Soloing and Advanced Acoustic Guitar Playing. Check it out!

26 comments sorted by best / new / date

    My Last Words
    Am I the only one here who uses TUX guitar?
    No. All you need to do is replace the words "Pro Tab" or "GuitarPro" with Tux and do the same as the description. I do.
    Yeah, try to learn a slayer solo
    ^Proof that speed is not always the key to a good solo. It can easily derail a song.
    As impressive that solo is, I found myself getting bored listening to it. I mean... I've only watched the video right there, and the solo sounded cool and was technically impressive, it didn't grab me. Also, these articles have been very useful for me. Keep at them! Thanks a bunch
    You do realise that on there's a loop/ speed trainer button on Guitar Pro 5 and 6? It's a little button just to the left of the metronome symbols on GP5, and on your version of GP6, it's that circle of arrows on the right of the "beginning/ rewind/play/ fast forward/ end" buttons in the middle of the screen directly below the tab. Select the bars you want looped, and click it. You're given an option of "simple loop" or "speed trainer". If you select speed trainer, you can set your opening tempo as a percentage of the original, i.e 25% full speed, 50% full speed... and then you set the increments the tempo increases by. For something not too hard, you can go by 5 or 10%, so it'll play 25%, then 30%, 35%, and so on. If you want to play it really slow, set the starting tempo to something like 10% and the increase of 1%. Much better than adding random repeat bars in the tab and adjusting the tab's tempo. Also, if you don't want to speed it up each time, just set the increase to 0.
    Eoghan O'Neill
    Well I'll be, never knew that was there, thanks!
    It's really useful. You can still neaten up the tab by making it easier to read, but this way you don't actually alter the tab itself It's the way I learn almost all my songs if I'm struggling with a particular section.
    Is guitar pro a good resource for sheet music or is it more TAB focused? Its easier for me to learn on sheet music so can anyone suggest if i should buy it?
    Guitar pro automatically converts it into standard notation when it's tabbed or vice versa.
    link no1
    Just to make it 100% clear. ALL guitarpro tabs come with sheet music aswell.
    Is it better to play a small part of a solo and practice on getting it right before moving on or to learn the whole solo and try to do the whole thing correctly?
    link no1
    I wouldn't say so. I tend to go through the entire solo all at once learning all the parts I can whilst making a mental note of what I am struggling on or need to work on. Once I know which parts I need to work on I concentrate on them and work on them pretty much the same way as this article explains to.
    Eoghan O'Neill
    That can work too, my problem is I would always get overwhelmed by how much I needed to do, thinking how long it would take. This method works for me but there are always going to be ways that suit other people better.
    i dont think power tab works with newer operating systems but guitar pro has an "import power tab" option so you can still download and use power tabs. great article though. its solid advice. ive been a bit discouraged lately with my playing so this brought me back into the game.
    Power Tab works well on my Windows 7, but every Power Tab file I import into my GP6 just doesn't work.
    For using PowerTab files today, get TuxGuitar(all GP5/GP6 users should have this as a supplement, it's free) and import it there. Tux reads ptb perfectly (and arguably even handles gp5 files better than gp6).
    weird. ive tried using power tab on vista but it doesnt work. im still using GP5 and they import perfectly lol. thats messed up
    Um...I've been trying to slow down a solo on Tab Pro and it seems that the lowest speed is "50%." Now, cutting a complex solo to half speed is nice, but not nearly good enough for a lot of us. Am I missing something, or is this a fundamental limit for Tab Pro?