Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 13th Episode.
We’re getting towards the end of this 13 episode blog series.
I hope all the techniques and concepts shared, have made a difference in your guitar solos in the past weeks.
There will be one more bonus episode next week, in which we’ll discuss how to put it all together.
In recap: here’s all past episodes again.
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 1
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 2
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 3
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 4
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 5
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 6
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 7
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 8
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 9
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 10
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 11
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 12
Let this last one in the series, be a fantastic one.
We’ll be covering important topics.
Incorporating canned phrases/ clichés
This is a very common technique in certain blues, country, and rockabilly soloing styles.
I actually teach a lesson in my ZOT Zin Guitar curriculum, called “Blues cliches”.
It’s a collection of phrases, that every blues guy uses all the time.
Every musical language has its own vocabulary that is part of that language.
Knowing the vocabulary that comes with the language of “rock”, automatically improves your rock soloing because you know how to speak the language.
Incorporating parts of a well known song in your solo
Audiences are always greatly entertained when you do this.
It’s also a great technique to draw the attention of your listeners.
I still vividly remember how the audience went nuts, when Steve Morse, during a Deep Purple concert, suddenly unexpectedly threw in the Third Stone From The Sun (Jimi Hendrix) melody, in the middle of one of his solos.
There are many cool things you accomplish doing this:
It sounds impressive.
It sounds playful. (and because of that your audience ends up liking you even more)
It is something that sounds familiar and your audience thus connects better to your solo.
It shows great showmanship.
You could throw in the “Twinkle Little Star” or “Frere Jacques” melodies in the middle of your solo.
Incorporating parts taken from other solos.
I showcase how this works in the video below.
One of the really great things you get out of learning solos is that you grow your vocabulary.
The word vocabulary, in music, refers to the collection of melody lines, phrases, and riffs you have memorized.
You can then use that vocabulary to construct and build your solo, without having to constantly keep coming up with new melodies on the spot.
Not only that: it’s really fun and sounds great to use phrases from well-known solos into your own improvisations.
Practice composed lines till they show up in your solo.
This is what many jazz musicians do, including for example John Coltrane and Charlie Parker.
When you analyze their solos over different albums and time periods, you notice how the same couple of melody lines keep reappearing over and over again in their solos.
That right there tells you, that only a part of their solos are improvised, and the rest are practiced/studied phrases.
Learn from their example!
Compose melody lines you really like or that are really strong.
Then practice them in all 12 keys.
Practice these composed lines so regularly, to the point that they naturally appear in your solos without you thinking about it.
Composing a solo.
I put this at the very end because this is an oddball topic.
In a way: if you’re composing it, then it’s not an improvisation anymore.
This is where I kind of get into semantics on “solo vs. improvisation”.
Though these different words are used interchangeably as if they were exactly the same thing, I always liked to make a distinction between the 2.
Solo: an instrumental part where you go nuts, stretch out, rock out, and tell a story with your guitar.
Improvisation: the same definition as for “solo”, but with the difference that everything you play is all completely improvised on the spot.
The guitar solos in Dream Theater’s music, or Joe Satriani, or Steve Vai, Greg Howe, and so on: are all composed solos.
Jimi Hendrix solos, or blues guys, sound improvised.
You can tell by the difference in feel and structure between the solos.
The improvised solos tend to sound a bit more spontaneous (and that difference is sometimes really subtle) and free (think “Purple Haze”), but less structured and less organized.
Composed solos, sound like a song in a song.
Musicians for who a high degree of control (over the song, and the outcome, etc.) is important, will automatically gravitate towards composing their guitar solos. This allows them the time to write strong phrases, control the direction and momentum of the solo, select the best possible note choices against the chords and build the climaxes as desired.
The easiest way to fully grasp that difference is by comparing and contrasting for example Jimi Hendrix solos to Steve Morse solos.
Or Kurt Cobain or The Allman Brother’s solos to Steve Vai solos.
The very specific feel that is the result of either approach (composing vs improvising), is easy to hear when you contrast the solos of artists who are known to favor one approach over the other.
So should you “wing it” or “write it”?
The answer is, that it depends on how you hear your solo and what kind of feel you want.
You could also apply an in-between kind of approach.
This is one of the approaches Joe Satriani and Steve Vai sometimes use to writing their guitar solos.
You loop your solo section on repeat, and you keep soloing over the track while it’s on repeat, recording everything nonstop.
(In Logic: a new track/take gets automatically created when you loop recorded, every time the loop starts over again.)
At some point, you will come up with a phrase you really like, that you will want to keep.
A little later, there’s going to be another phrase that you are ecstatic about.
So in a way, you are kind of improvising and composing it simultaneously.
Playing tons of guitar solos over a repetitive solo section/loop, then editing the best parts together into a full solo.
This has been a hell of a ride.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing the past 13 episodes.
I really hope they are helpful for you, the reader, and that you enjoyed them.
Hit me up anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions, or if you would like to book a lesson.
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That is why people take lessons: way better results and progress, much more complete information, exposed to way more creative ideas than you can get from a blog or YouTube video.
There is only so much that self-study can accomplish.
If you want to see amazing results and progress in your guitar playing, buy your first lesson here and get started ASAP.
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