How To Solo Fearlessly On Guitar

There is one huge thing holding you back from being the amazing guitar soloist you imagine in your head. Fear. Your brain loves to get in the way of what your hands want to do. Check out these tips to loosen up, brush off the fear, kick your brain to the curb, and start creating killer guitar music.

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There is one huge thing holding you back from being the amazing guitar soloist you imagine in your head. Fear. Your brain loves to get in the way of what your hands want to do. Check out these tips to loosen up, brush off the fear, kick your brain to the curb, and start creating killer guitar music. Yes, you should practice your scales and arpeggios. Yes, you want to do metronome work to build up your speed. But when you're improvising, creating in the moment, you can't think. You have to just play. 1.Have you ever killed anyone with a bad note? Of course not. Nobody else has either. You can't kill anyone with music unless you're physically smacking them in the head with your instrument. So, outside of a few punk rock shows I've seen, playing music won't hurt anyone, no matter how bad you think you are. And the infamous South Park brown note doesn't exist. So fear not. It's normal human nature to want to fix your mistakes. But when you're playing or improvising in a performance situation you have to train yourself to just let those mistakes go and keep playing. There are a couple reasons for this: First off, second-guessing your own playing in the moment will slow the whole process down until it stops completely and you just give up and stop playing. Not an option. Artists in all disciplines have discovered that you must turn off your internal critic when creating a first draft. And improvising music is tossing that first draft out to the world for better or worse. Just embrace that idea and go. Secondly, mistakes can often create inspiration. A few years ago I was trying to copy a drum loop I'd heard and hit a wrong button on my sequencer. It created a totally different loop that inspired a whole song. That song has been in five movies since then. If you happen to play a weird note, see if it has value. If not, just forget about it and keep going. 2.Begin by just playing anything. In the Jazz world this is called free playing and it's a fantastic way to blow through the mental endurance problems of improvising. Don't over think this. Don't worry about playing over any particular chord changes or rhythms or even tempos. Set a timer for 2 minutes. Start improvising melodies on your guitar without stopping for the entire 2 minutes. Again, no thinking, just playing. Don't worry about whether it sounds good or not. The point is to train your brain to stay out of the way while you create on the fly. 3.Give yourself tight restrictions on what you can play. This is completely the opposite of the previous idea and it's used to get a different result. Doing this will help you mine small groups of notes and rhythms to create concise and memorable melodies. It also helps you dig out every possible idea from a musical area. Try these examples and create some of your own. -Use a two-chord progression, one measure of each. And you can only solo on the top three strings of a pentatonic minor scale. -Use a one-chord groove and only allow yourself to play major scales on the 1st string. -Jam through a 12-bar blues chorus using just one note. (This is a favorite of mine) In the real world there's no such thing as a wrong note. You can play any note over any chord and a music theory geek can give you an explanation for it. But if you try to go in with that mindset as a beginner it's too much to deal with. It's like saying, Go walk somewhere. It's much more helpful to say, Walk to the 7-11 on 4th St and Tucker Ave. Using temporary constraint exercises will teach you how to form effective melodies that you can expand into crazier stuff after. 4.This one beautiful trick can get you out of any bad note scrape you find yourself in. If you hit a note you don't like during a solo but you know you are still in the right scale, go one scale tone in either direction and you'll hit a note that fits the chord better. If you accidentally slip out of the scale pattern you intended and end up on a note you don't like, go just one fret in either direction and you'll be on a note that works better. Remember this: You are never more than one fret away from a note that works. Not only does it get your back on track, you can play it off as a cool outside note in your melody if you don't lose your confidence. Seriously, I've done this in front of audiences full of experienced guitar players and it made my solo look cool instead of oops. 5. If using tip #4 can make you look cool, why not start using some of those mistake notes on purpose? My point exactly. Go back to tips #1 and #2 and start using the weird notes to your advantage. Your best improvised guitar lines won't come out because you thought them up ahead of time. They'll arrive like little gifts from the guitar gods when you free your brain from fear and worry and your fingers and ears do their job to find those gems. Get a simple system for reading your guitar fretboard plus other systems and brain hacks for guitar at Guitar Notes For Beginners HQ.com.

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    sjones
    Really good article. Some sound advice on improvising. Some other tips I'd recommend for those looking to improve their improv are: 1. Stay loose. I find that when improvising, many players tend to tense up physically because they're afraid of making mistakes. That, in fact, is more likely to cause you to make mistakes! Make sure you keep loose and confident. 2. Try to "add" to the music. Do what the song calls for. Sometimes a few soulful bends will sound better than an impressive legato run. Sometimes vice-versa! Make your leads make the song more interesting. 3. Don't be afraid to experiment. Did a crazy idea for a tapping lick just enter your mind? Go for it! If you try something and it doesn't quite fit, be prepared to go back to a "safe place", such as a pentatonic box or a chord tone. And remember, no one is perfect. If you hit a bum lick don't fret about it. Simply move on with the song and don't focus on the mistakes. If you're recording yourself, you can do back and reassess the good and the bad later. 4. Make your leads "vocal". Try to mimic how a singer would vocalize the notes you're playing. You'll find this gives your improv a very musical quality and it will help those guitarists who find themselves "stuck in the boxes" break away from their standard licks. 5. Repeating licks! In contrast to the above, using a repeating lick can buy your hands and mind time to address the musical situation if you feel like you're getting a bit out of the flow Plus, if done right, they can sound really cool! And not generic! A nice, powerful repeating lick can also draw the listeners attention back into the song, especially if you feel things are getting too "noodly". 6. Lastly, I highly suggest anyone looking to improve their improvisation play along to backing tracks of some kind. "Real music" if you will. There are many sites online that provide very good jam tracks for absolutely free. Playing along with an actual piece of music with melody, structure, and dynamics will help you improve your improv, and playing as a whole, much more than plucking along to a metronome. Guthrie Govan (aka-improv-God) recommends this in interviews I've seen/read. In my opinion, the approach obviously works, taking his playing for evidence. Guthrie's improv can go from simple emotion filled bends to the most daring feats of speed, but all the while it stays incredibly musical and in good taste. If you're looking to improve at improv, discover Guthrie Govan and begin examining his work.
    thisaradj
    Slayer has these weird notes, right? I don't think their mistakes while playing are noticable.
    beginnerguitarn
    Always interesting comments on here.... Essentially when I first throw one of my new students off the cliff and ask them to improvise, they are paralyzed by the fear of playing something "wrong". These are the steps I take them through to get them past that idea. Then we can start to work on the mechanics. Many of which sjones described above. And as for which 5 movies? Terrible ones that most people never saw. Never said they were good ones. But I did get paid.
    pailoong
    "Don't worry?" But what will the guitar gods that populate the UG comment boards think of me if I miss one note?! If I play "too many" notes?! "Not enough" notes?! It's too much!
    RamblinMan2450
    And this taught us what? "Don't be afraid of your guitar"? What. ..... Did you read the article?
    TextOnTheScreen
    That fourth tip is something my granddad (who's a music teacher/opera singer) taught me last year. And just following that tip, my soloing improved in a week more than it had in the rest of the time I had been playing. I'm actually surprised by how many people don't do that. Pretty great article.
    RichieJovie
    Sounds like someone started learning NLP but hasn't finished the first chapter yet. Good though.
    thirst4music
    One of my favorite mistakes is in Eric Clapton's solo on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" on the live Derek & the Dominoes LP. He hits one "bad" note and turns it into something that gives me chills every time I hear it.
    thirst4music
    One of the biggest problems with many guitar solos is that they don't "breathe." To expand on #4, don't just try to make your licks sound like vocals; imitate actual vocals. Play melody lines; try to follow scat singers; eventually progress to emulating speech if you are someone who likes microtonal bends, e.g. a blues player. Also imitate sax and other horn players, because they have to breathe when they play.
    thirst4music
    Clarification: My mention of #4 previously was in reference to the list in the sjones comment.
    beginnerguitarn
    Nikh158... I love that idea of playing along to any music that happens to be near you. I do that too. Not only does that help your improv chops, but it does wonders for your ear as you try to figure out how to follow along. Great tip.
    poisonousmetal
    thisaradj wrote: Slayer has these weird notes, right? I don't think their mistakes while playing are noticable.
    I think not. They apply the diminished scale a lot so that's were a lot of the "make you crap yourself" stuff comes from
    nikh158
    For me, this was an interesting article, particularly tip 4. Now I might deliberately put in a "wrong" note when soloing.
    4. Make your leads "vocal". Try to mimic how a singer would vocalize the notes you're playing. You'll find this gives your improv a very musical quality and it will help those guitarists who find themselves "stuck in the boxes" break away from their standard licks.
    6. Lastly, I highly suggest anyone looking to improve their improvisation play along to backing tracks of some kind. "Real music" if you will.
    As an extension to these,as my guitar is permanently welded to my body, I find myself attempting to play along with anything; TV theme tunes, random songs on the radio, anything really.
    thf24
    Akaforty wrote: What is this nonsense about The Brown Note not existing?!
    All lies.