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:
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.
Overplaying seems to be a common guitar player’s “disease”.
A couple of things to experiment with and be aware of:
- Experiment having longer silences between phrases
- Experiment leaving more silences between phrases.
- Play less.
- Let your music breathe.
- This allows you the time to think before you play, which improves the quality of the melodic phrases you’ll come up with.
- This allows your listeners the time and space to enjoy what you are saying with your guitar.
- 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 the following should give you ideas.
Focus on your breathing: breathe 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 breathe in.
Have the occasional intervallic leap within your phrases.
Avoid playing 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 leaped, sound more melodic.
On the other hand, you also don’t want to go overboard.
Too many intervallic 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 a 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 fretboard.
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.
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