Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 1st Episode.

Cory Phillips Superlove at the Cabanna Club - Hollywood, CA

Boosting Your Soloing Power.

In the next couple of months, over a collection of 13 episodes, we’ll cover a great many rock guitar improvisation tools, techniques, tricks and concepts.
Some of the topics we’ll cover will make your soloing sound more expressive, others will make it sound more colorful.
Some will lead to new kinds of melodic phrases you never used before in your solos.

Some of the points we discuss will sound or might be very basic to you: some might be things you had forgotten about, or weren’t using as much in your guitar solos as you could.

We will cover over 60 techniques and ideas: about 5-6 per blog.

The idea: is that you incorporate the concepts you like, into your daily practice schedule.
The best way to do this:

1) play a backing track in a key you like
2) put your countdown timer for 2 minutes
3) solo for 2 min over the backing track
4) using that soloing concept only in every phrase you play.

In other words: during your 2 minute soloing session, you focus hard on applying that 1 particular soloing concept only, as if that 1 concept is your whole world and is the only thing that exists for those 2 minutes.
The harder you push the concept and the more you exaggerate in applying it during your 2 minute practice session: the more you will get out of these 2 minutes.

If you diligently do this on a daily basis, the concepts will gradually become part of your style and show up automatically in your guitar solos if you don’t do them regularly and often enough.

The next step, after those 13 episodes: is starting to combine 2-3 concepts at a time, which will lead to a new series of exercises, but we will get to that in due time.
Let’s get started!

Repeat Notes in Phrases

Don’t play every note only once in a phrase.
I’m not talking about playing a couple of notes, a couple of times in a row here. (i.e. C D E C D E C D E)
I’m talking about, repeating a note x number of times in a row in a phrase. (i.e. C C CC D E E)

This seems obvious, yet it is all too common for guitar students, to play note after note after note without repeating any note.
Keep in mind that when you solo, you are talking with your instrument.
You want everything you play to sound like it has meaning, and like it is going somewhere.
You want to turn your phrases, into “statements” that sound like you truly meant to say them.

You don’t want to sound like you’re meandering about, without direction and without saying anything. (Which is how it sounds like when you don’t repeat any notes.)

Scroll down for a video showcasing this.

Repeat Phrases.

Besides repeating notes in phrases, you could also repeat whole phrases.
Again: you want to “exaggerate” this.
Meaning: the repetition only sounds obvious if you refrain from making little changes in your repeated phrase.

All too often, after I explained this to guitar students: I can’t tell where the repetitions are when they start applying this concept.
The concept is really simple: you play exactly the same thing twice in a row.

The reasons why this boosts your soloing power?

1) Repetition breeds familiarity. You make it easier for your listeners to really like your solo.
2) Your listeners don’t have to keep processing new information all the time, and are hence given more space to enjoy your solo.
3) You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel phrase after phrase, which raises the melodic quality of your phrases.

The video below showcases this.

Be aware of what the notes are that you’re playing while playing them.

This would require fret board exercises for a while if you are only playing shapes and patterns without knowing what the notes are passing under your fingers.
There is nothing wrong with only thinking scale shapes and patterns.

However: one of the disadvantages to only being able to think shapes, is that you become so consumed with the visual aspects, that you forget to listen to what is going on. This would partly explain why so many guitar players who lack fret board (note location) knowledge and go by shapes only, all very often tend to sound alike, and tend to lack creativity.
After all: they eyes took over from the ears.

To practice your fret board knowledge, I recommend following blogs:

Guitar Fretboard Exercises
A Holistic Organized Approach to Fretboard Mastery
Fretboard Mastery for Better Songwriting

I also have fretboard exercises that are so specialized and effective, that I only teach them in my guitar lessons.
It wouldn’t fair towards my students if I gave all the best goodies away here for free. 🙂

Play more behind the beat.

There’s of course many different ways you can rhythmically approach a solo.
The reason why this is on the list here, is that it creates a really great feel when you deliberately play note late against the beat.
Yet, it seems like very few guitar players have control over this or think of using this creatively in their soloing
Deliberately dragging your notes, creates an interesting laid back feel which tends to make you sound very confident.

It’s interesting how very few guitar players use this.
Most of the time it sounds like the guitarist is on the beat or sometimes even pushing the beat.
As with any soloing concept: the more you exaggerate it, the more expressive it gets.

You can also see how this sounds in the video below.

Focus on playing cool rhythmic patterns with notes.

The reason why this is on the list, is that it’s all too common for guitar students, to play phrases in which they play all their notes equal length, equal placement.
You want to combine 8ths, with rests, with quarters, with ties and syncopations and everything you can rhythmically think off, to make the the placement of the notes in your melodies, resemble the rhythmic complexity of syllables in human speech.

(Meaning: “No-bo-dy-talks-like-that-it-is-weird-if-you-do-and-you-should-not-so-lo-that-way-ei-ther”!)

Applying rhythmic creativity also prevents a solo from sounding too scalar.
You can literally play a whole scale up and down, without making it sound scalar.
The trick is too have note repetitions (as covered above) and play interesting rhythmic patterns.


Have fun practicing this. To be continued next week.

Keep me informed on your progress. You can hit me up in the comments section below.
If you like this blog: give it a rating and feel free to also give me any feedback.
I believe everything can always be improved. I’d gladly implement your suggestions and ideas in this blog or the next.

Be on the look out for more blogs about everything guitar, music, songwriting and music education.

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