Tips and Tricks To Make Guitar Solos More Melodic & Colorful

How To Make Guitar Solos More Melodic

How do you make guitar solos more melodic?
There are 2 main answers to that question.

1) Outline the chords better. For example: avoid hitting too many F notes on a C chord (the F clashes with the E note in a C chord)
2) Play less scalar in favor of adding more intervallic content to your solo.

After all: solos sound more melodic when they have a more moving melodic curve.
What does that mean?

Well, if on staff paper, you were to transcribe your solo note-for-note, you could think of note heads on the staff lines, like dots that you can connect.
So if you were to draw a line connecting all the note head dots, the more horizontal your line, the more scalar (stepwise) your solo is, the less melodic it’s going to sound.
Conversely: the more vertical your solo moves on the staff, up and down the staff, the more intervallic your solo is, the more melodic your solo will sound.

Motion = more melody = emotion.

However: you want to strike a good balance between scalar and intervallic.
If it gets too intervallic, then your melodies will become more complex than the average listener can handle or even start sounding frantic and all over the place.

Here’s one of Steve Vai’s songs showing the more complex, harder-to-follow nature of melodies that have lesser stepwise note motion.

Listen Better To The Accompaniment

It’s always interesting to note, how very few students actually listen to the musicians they’re playing with while they’re soloing.

When you listen better to the chords the rhythm guitarist is strumming, and outline them better, your solos will automatically sound better.

A great example of this is guitar players who mostly play pentatonic. They oftentimes keep persisting in playing pentatonic when other note choices would make melodies stronger.
As you probably know: the most common chord progression in music is I IV V

In the key of C, those chords are: C F and G

Pentatonic players would use the A minor pentatonic (which is relative to, has the same notes as, C major) to solo over this chord progression.
The notes in the A minor pent: A C D E G

Over the G chord in the chord progression, the best possible, most melodic sounding note you can play, is the B note. Why? Because it is the most important note in that G chord: it’s the 3rd of the chord.

Do you see the problem?

That note is not in the A minor pentatonic scale.
So guitarists who “enforce” that scale over the G chord, miss out on a great opportunity to add a lot of melody to their solos there.

Know Your Arpeggios

THE one factor that makes solos way more melodic is: playing less scalar and more intervallic.
More precisely: you want to add more chord arpeggios in your soloing.

A truly fantastic example that shows how much more melodic solos get when you make them intervallic (or arpeggio based) rather than scalar (stepwise), is Eric Johnson’s solo to “Venus Isle”. Still one of my favorite solos ever.

In order to add more melodic motion to your solos, you need to know your triad shapes or arpeggios well.

Here’s a couple of free lessons I posted about triads:

The Major Triads with urls showing them on all string sets

The Minor Triads with urls to all stringsets

Here’s a couple of free lessons I posted about arpeggios:

The Major Triad Arpeggio Fingerings

How to Practice The Major Triad Arpeggio Fingerings

The Minor Triad Arpeggio Fingerings

You can find more free lessons about arpeggios (7th chord arpeggios, dim and aug arpeggios and so on) by using the search field on the blog page here

Here you can hear how it sound like when you solo with arpeggios. In this case: I only use arpeggios.

Soloing with G7 arpeggios over a G7 groove.

Pedal Point

A pedal-point is a soloing technique that, by its intervallic nature, adds a lot of melody to a solo.

You can find some great examples of pedal point here Pedal point riffs.

More pedal point here:

Melodic sequences with pedal point

Pedal point using the b5

Scale Patterns

The terms “scale pattern” and “melodic sequence” are usually used interchangeably as meaning the same thing.

Here’s some Melodic Sequences

And here’s some more Scale Patterns (melodic sequences)

All top-level improvisers throw in the occasional melodic sequence because doing so adds direction and flow to a solo.
The intervallic nature of melodic sequences also adds more melody to solos.


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Leave a Comment

  1. Darrell Says:

    I had already thought of using parts of a songs melody to sound good, I wanted to see if it was a widely accepted technique..great article for lead guitarists

    January 29th, 2023 at 9:56 pm
  2. vreny Says:

    Hi Darrell,

    Yes, this is going to be one of the points in a book I am scheduled to publish later this year on guitar improvisation. The book will cover absolutely EVERYTHNING there is to know about soloing on guitar, at least within the rock genre, but also broader dabbling into jazz improv etc. Anyhow, yes using known melodies in your own solos is one topic covered in the book. It’s a great way to draw the audience’s attention to your solo live. Now, I am not sure how that would work if you were to do this on an album or any type of recording. I think that might require contacting a copyright lawyer to make sure you don’t run into problems as a result of having used part of a melody of a copyrighted song, even if it is only a couple of bars of melody used in your solo. But live, it’s a great gimmick that really gets the audience’s attention when you suddenly drop the the Smoke On The Water Riff (or any famous riff) right in the middle of your solo, or the melody of Twinkle Little Star (lol, or any melody that is well-known or popular) into your solo. People eat that stuff up haha. It’s one of the performance tricks that 1) shows great craftsmanship as musicians and 2) because of the performance value and perceived quality, helps bands build audiences that keep coming back.

    February 24th, 2023 at 1:31 pm