Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 4th Episode.

Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques, 4th Episode.

This is the 4th installment in a series of blogs on rock guitar soloing.
You can find the previous 3 episodes here:

Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 1
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 2
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 3

Whammy bar

I always had whammy bars on all my guitars.
The cool things you can do with it, are too much fun.
Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Scott Henderson and Jeff Beck are all great examples of players who use the whammy bar very expressively in their solos.

Giving a full description here of the many great things you can do with a whammy bar, is beyond the scope of this blog.
You can dive bomb harmonics, flutter notes, add vibrato, and so much more.
You’ll hear some of the sounds in the video below

Space and silence are important.

Over playing, seems to be a common guitar player’s “disease”.

A couple of things experiment with and to be aware off:

  1. Experiment having longer silences between phrases
  2. Experiment leaving more silences between phrases.
  3. Play less.
  4. Let your music breath.
  5. This allows you the time to think before you play, which improves the quality of the melodic phrases you’ll come up with.
  6. This allows your listeners the time and space to enjoy what you are saying with your guitar.
  7. Think of it as Yin and Yang. You’re constantly balancing silence with sound. Silence is the canvas against which you paint your story.

I once heard Steve Morse explain a fun exercise, where he linked his soloing to his breathing.
I don’t remember the exact exercise anymore, but following should give you ideas.

Focus on your breathing: breath in and out as you normally do. Don’t hold your breath.
Solo only for as long as you have air (and hence are breathing out).
Immediately stop playing when you breath in.

Have the occasional intervallic leap within your phrases.

Avoid playing in stepwise, scalar motion too much.
While it’s true that melodies for the most part, tend to move in stepwise motions, too much of it, can make a melody sound predictable.

The occasional intervallic leap, adds freshness to melody lines.
Melody lines that have leaps, sound more melodic.

On the other hand, you also don’t want to go overboard.
Too many intervalic leaps, will make a melody sound frantic and all over the place.
Unless of course: you want that particular sound for a solo or part of a solo, which leads to…

String Skip Soloing.

This is pushing the previous topic (intervallic leaps) to a whole other level.

This is an interesting improv technique not enough guitar players explore.
Most of the time, most guitar players improvise going from one string to the adjacent string, which automatically makes musical phrases more scalar.
“Scalar” means “as in a scale”, or in other words: “moving by step”.

When you improvise on 2 non-adjacent strings, then your phrases automatically become more intervallic instead of scalar.
The idea: you play all your phrases on 2 non adjacent strings (i.e. treble E and G string), using both strings in every phrase.

That last part of the previous sentence is important.
You’re not playing: a phrase on the E string, a phrase on the G string, and so on.
You are instead playing phrases where the notes of each phrase, are spread out over the 2 non-adjacent strings.

This technique could be a whole chapter onto itself, but let me share some elements of this soloing style:

• Many finger slides.
• Mostly linear. It is like single string playing on 2 non-adjacent strings simultaneously
• Both strings are always incorporated within each phrase.
• Longer melodic lines. This is beyond “3-note phrases”.
• Lots of linear/horizontal movement all across the fret board.

You want to check out Carl Verheyen, who uses this technique as an important part of his soloing style.
The video below, will also demonstrate how this sounds like.

Mutes: percussive hits

It seems like many great solos, have some percussive muted hit somewhere in the solo.
The muted hits can enhance the drive and rhythmic feel of a solo.

Some great examples:

Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd, The Wall) at 5:04, and at 5:21
Another Brick In The Wall, Pt. 2 (Pink Floyd, The Wall) at 2:19, at 2:24, 2:33
Hotel California (the Eagles) at 4:37
Sultans of Swing (Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler) at 3:39, at 3:54

This great deal, when used well, adds a lot to a solo.
The only way for this to become part of your soloing, is if you dedicate yourself a couple of minutes a day, to only playing phrases that have mutes in them.


The above ideas should keep you busy for a while.
More cool rock guitar solo ideas coming up 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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