We all know that feeling when a famous guitar solo takes over the air waves; the broadband; the track. It instills us with total confidence – the feeling that the guitarist has “got this,” and that they’re going to take the song to the next level. But how do guitarists achieve the perfect solo? Let’s take a look at this incredible art, part-by-part.
The head of the perfect guitar solo has everything to do with focus and memory. It takes incredible concentration, beginning with relaxation, to play a killer solo. On top of that, you’ve got to be ready with your strongest soloing scales and the mental agility to use those scales to interpret each song anew, especially if the solo is improvised. Check out this easy approach.
Licks. You’ll need ‘em. They are the formula – the roadmap – to a great solo. Here’s a much-utilized lick for blues and rock:
The hands of the perfect solo employ a different type of memory: muscle memory. All of your dexterity exercises and scale work will pay off in spades and free you up to get creative in the moment. Don’t forget to warm them up.
BB King once said in an interview: “…The Blues are a mystery, and mysteries are never as simple as they look.” The heart of the perfect guitar solo is in the emotion that inspired it. You can have all the technical proficiency in the world, but the solos that go down in history, committing to memory, were the product of a musician who’s willing to express their emotions through their instrument. Elements like phrasing are deeply tied to these emotions. See Peter Green’s take on “Black Magic Woman”:
The legs of a great solo provide support, without which, you’ve got nothing. They are a steady, comfortable posture – whether you’re sitting, standing or running around the stage, drenched in sweat. They allow you to breathe as you play and free up your other limbs to make the music. But, feel free to toss out this rule – have a look at Chuck Berry!