Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques: Putting It All Together

Guitar Rock Improvisation Thoughts, Tricks, Concepts and Techniques: Putting It All Together

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
Rock Guitar Soloing Episode 13

This is where the fun is about to kick into higher overdrive: Combining 2 concepts at a time.

I know we covered a tremendous amount of information and ideas in past 13 installments in this series.

It’s always challenging to figure how to effectively practice that many new ideas.
As I pointed out in one of those past blogs: one of the approaches I highly recommend, is doing 2-minute timed practice sessions per topic.

You would work through for example 30-32 topics a day, and that would be about 1 hour of practice.
The following day, you do the next 30-32 topics. About 60 minutes of practice again.
I think we covered about 65 rock solo ideas in those 13 installments.
If you do 30-32 topics a day, you practiced all ideas every 2 days.

If you feel 2 minutes is not enough: double the time per topic (4min) and only do half as many (15) per day, over a 4-day schedule.
You’d have everything practice every 4 days then, which is still pretty good.

Sticking to this intense practice schedule every day, you should see some of these techniques automatically showing up in your soloing after a couple of weeks already.

Combining The Ideas

After a couple of week, you should start getting pretty comfy with those soloing ideas, techniques and concepts.
That is when you are ready for the next level, which is where the fun really starts. 🙂

Start combining concepts.
You would still do 2 minute practice sessions, but now focusing on applying 2 concepts in every phrase you play.
Again: notice how I said “within every phrase you play”

As an example: let’s say that you choose “Dynamics (on every note)” and “Picking the string on different locations”.
You would now play nothing but phrases in which you do both at the same time.
In every phrase you would pick up and down the string and vary up the attack/dynamic on every note.

Other example: let’s say that you combine “double stops” and “cool rhythmic patterns”
Your focus now is on adding double stops in every phrase you play, and on making sure that you play those phrases (with double stops) rhythmically creative.

Some cool combinations:

  1. Have note repetitions & Focus on shorter phrases.
  2. Dynamics 2 (notes) & Picking the string on different locations.
  3. Pedal Point & Double Stops
  4. String Skip Soloing & Interesting Rhythmic Patterns
  5. Pedal Point & String Skipping
  6. Pedal Point & chromatic passing notes.
  7. Chromatic approach notes & Pedal Point
  8. Short phrases & Silences/Space between the phrases.
  9. String Skip Soloing & Chromatic approach notes.
  10. String Skip Soloing & Chromatic passing notes.
  11. Tapping & String Skip Soloing

The possibilities and combinations are endless.

When you feel pretty comfortable with any possible combination, start combining 3 items from the below list.

For example: short phrases & note repetitions & picking strings on different locations.
Or string skip soloing & pedal point & tapping.

Again, keep in mind: you’d be combining these 3 chosen techniques all together within every phrase you play.
It’s amazing what kind of melodies you’ll come up with.

For Your Convenience: The List

To make sure you won’t have to surf around from episode to episode: here’s the list of all concepts we covered.

  1. Have note repetitions. Play some notes numerous times in a row within your phrases.
  2. But also: have phrase repetitions.
  3. Be aware of what the notes are that you’re playing while playing them.
  4. Play more behind the beat. (More lazy)
  5. Focus on playing cool rhythmic patterns with notes. (This prevents a solo sounding too scalar)
  6. Focus on shorter phrases.
  7. Play 1-note rhythmic patterns every couple of phrases.
  8. Double stops: More harmony (playing multiple notes simultaneously)
  9. Dynamics 1:
    a. Play loud phrases, quiet phrases.
    b. Let your guitar whisper quietly, and scream super loudly, and everything in between.
    c. Exaggerate: play notes that nobody can hear, they are important too.

  10. Dynamics 2:
    a. make every individual note count by giving every note its own volume
    b. Accent certain notes in phrases.

  11. This is so important: “it’s not about which notes you play… it’s about how you play them.” Another way of saying this, is that you should focus as much (if not more) on the “how”, as you focus on the “which/what” notes you choose to play. You’re telling a story, not just reciting notes.
  12. Pick notes on different locations on the string, to create different timbres
  13. Start every new phrase you play, with the ending of the previous play.
  14. Make sure you go beyond only playing pentatonic phrases.
  15. Pinching notes
  16. Whammy bar
  17. Space and silence are important.
    a. Over playing, seems to be a common guitar player’s “disease”.
    b. Experiment having longer silences between phrases
    c. Experiment leaving more silences between phrases.
    d. Play less.
    e. Let your music breath.

  18. Have the occasional intervallic leap within your phrases. Avoid playing in stepwise, scalar motion too much.
  19. String Skip Soloing.
  20. Mutes: percussive hits
  21. Pedal point
  22. Palm mute lines
  23. Open string fun
  24. Chromatic passing notes
  25. Chromatic approach notes
  26. Chromatic passing double stops
  27. Chromatic approach double stops
  28. Triad arpeggios
  29. Arpeggio substitutions
  30. Pent substitution
  31. Make your placement (time) more elastic.
    a. Drag notes behind the beat, push notes in your phrases ahead of the beat
    b. Don’t get locked into the rhythm section. Speak your phrases rhythmically freely over the rhythmic grid the rhythm section provides. You can speak your notes and phrases wherever you feel like over that grid.

  32. Focus on cool rhythmic combinations
    a. Combinations of 8ths, 16ths, tied notes, syncopations, etc.
    b. This might seem obvious, yet it is amazing how very often I hear guitar players (or students) who aren’t very rhythmically creative. It’s all too common to hear solos where too many phrases in a row, consist of perfectly even eight notes only. This sounds unnatural because no-bo-dy-e-ver-talks-like-that. Keep in mind: you’re telling a story when you solo. Soloing is communication.

  33. Combine even rhythmic divisions with the occasional triplet or even quintuplet.
  34. Rhythmic displacement of a phrase
  35. Listen to your band. Listen to the people you play with.
  36. Rely more on your ear when you improvise.
    a. Really focus on crafting great, moving melodies on the spot.
    b. Avoid just playing visual patterns and stock phrases that are merely inspired by scale shapes.

  37. Move around more. Avoid staying in the same range too long for too many notes.
  38. Cool thing to do: jumping 12 fret distances back and forth between a pentatonic shape, and the same shape up/down an octave.
  39. Avoid playing too many phrases in a row in the bass range.
  40. Being more melodic, means… lesser 2-note phrases.
  41. Focus on playing 3-4 note phrases
  42. Vibrato. Makes your notes come to life. You want vibration, not flat lining.
  43. Octave lines
  44. Alternate pick
    a. Avoid only using downstrokes.

  45. Tapping 1: tapping the occasional note in a phrase
  46. Tapping 2: having full fledged tapping sections in a solo
  47. Finger picking your solo
  48. Hybrid picking
  49. Slide guitar
  50. Switch pick ups more often
  51. Harmonics
    a. Natural harmonic
    b. Pinch harmonics
    c. Tapped harmonics
    d. Picked harmonics.
    e. Harp harmonics.

  52. Strive for rhythmic randomness in balancing long sustained vs. short notes. “Avoid playing too many long sustained notes.
  53. Staccato
  54. Soloing with intervals: harmonized lines.
  55. Soloing with chords
  56. Unisons. Hit 2 different versions of the same note on different strings.
  57. Play melodies linearly on 1 string, hitting a neighboring open string.
  58. Try to play a whole solo with only 3 or 4 notes. BB King style.
  59. Playing interval fingerings (i.e. 3rds) melodically (separating the 2 notes),
  60. List of things you can do to make a solo more expressive:
    a. Dynamics
    b. Pinch harmonics
    c. Mutes, muted hits
    d. Palm mute
    e. Legato
    f. Tap notes
    g. Pluck notes with fingers
    h. Pick on different string locations. (closer to bridge, closer to the neck)
    i. Slides from far below
    j. Slides from the scale note below
    k. Slides from far above
    l. Slides from the scale note above
    m. Wide bends
    n. Bends from the note below
    o. Pre bend
    p. Release
    q. Hammer ons
    r. Pull offs
    s. Thrill
    t. Harmonics
    u. Pick tapping
    v. Tremolo picking
    w. Micro bends
    x. Pick scratches
    y. Tapped harmonics
    z. Oblique bends
    aa. Unison bends
    bb. Whammy bar
    cc. Press strings behind the nut
    dd. Vibrato

  61. Incorporating canned phrases/ clichés
  62. Incorporating parts of a well known song in your solo
  63. Incorporating parts taken from other solos
  64. Practice composed lines till they show up in your solo
  65. Composing a solo.

You can download and print the list here as a pdf:

Soloing Improv Techniques

Conclusion

You’re further on your way to becoming awesome at guitar solos.

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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