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What is soloing?

Discussion in 'MyMusic Forum' started by Omar, Oct 16, 2017.

  1. Omar

    Omar Most Inquisitive Junior Jazzer Strat-Talk Supporter

    Aug 9, 2017
    Marbella, Spain
    I know it is a language spoken/transmited through musical instruments. It should have a structure, questions and answers, intro and outro.

    What I would like to know is how to speak the solo language? What skills and techniques I should focus on? Is it only licks? Fast fingers? Good ear? Memorize all scales?

    I like Blues, I find myself in Blues. I jam every week with other fellow members in weekly jams on this forum. The guys there are so supportive and kind, but I’m really after constructive crtiscism and guidance.

    Here is a recent solo I made over 12 Bar Blues. Honestly, I’m proud of it in spite of the hiccups and mistakes. It took me two weeks of continuous practicing on the same track. It was over Am blues pentatonic pattern one, no other patterns. I’ve used 5 licks and some techniques which I’m relatively new to, you’ll notice that ;)

    Please point me to the areas of strength and weakness. Tell me how to become a better solo speaker.

    I look forward to your advice.

    Thank you in advance :thumb:
    circles, Percy, rolandson and 2 others like this.
  2. Groovey

    Groovey Most Honored Senior Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    NC. USA
    A fine 1st attempt. You've got the basic idea. Most important is to keep playing. I know you will.

    One of my tricks when I was learning was to keep the lead moving. I would only get in trouble when I stopped. Stopped a lick on a sour note, that is. I found if I kept the lead moving I could get by. Of course this doesn't help with "phrasing." But you can muscle your way through an overall pattern.

    Its something you can try. While your pining down your phrases. I hope this makes a little sense. Its getting very late for me. I working the midnight shift this week.
    circles and Omar like this.
  3. henderman

    henderman Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 4, 2013
    To speak a language and say what you want to say, you need to learn the language, just like you understand this one.

    Learning "licks" is like going to a foreign country and only knowing how to say "where is the bathroom? or "may I have a coke?" - while useful, it is totally limiting cuz that is not going to help you join a conversation or ask the other questions you may want to, you need to learn to speak freely like we are now.

    Learn music theory starting at square 1 and do not go to square 2 until you are ready, just like any other education.

    Many people think it is crazy hard, but when presented properly it is easier than probably any language on Earth, yet will allow you to communicate with every tribe on the planet.

    There are only 7 letters - and a total of 12 notes, by comparison English has 26 letters, it is so easy even a henderman can learn it.

    I learned more from "Absolutely Understand Guitar" in a shorter period of time than everything and everyone else put together. He starts you off slow and easy and progresses step by step.

    The production is low grade and some people think it is a joke, but he will teach what you need to know pronto and that is what matters. Check it out on the internet and youtube.

    It is about $200 for the full course, I am only a happy customer, I do not get paid to say this and he does not know I say this, but I will always say this.

    No matter where or who you learn from, you will struggle until you can speak the language of music fluently, that is the answer and the only answer, just like with English, French or Swahili.

    You have good timing already so you will be a monster player, remember me when you are a famous musician !
  4. duzie

    duzie Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 1, 2016
    northwest nj
    To me soloing would be complimentary to the rhythm being played, something that I struggle with ...
    Working on your chord voicing and expanding from there is a great place to start from in my opinion.
    amstratnut, Omar and abnormaltoy like this.
  5. Omar

    Omar Most Inquisitive Junior Jazzer Strat-Talk Supporter

    Aug 9, 2017
    Marbella, Spain
    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your reply :) I used to do so, just play random notes non-stop :D but I was told that I should have pauses. As you said, sometimes you stop on a note that sounds odd even if it is within the scale.

    Hi :) Thank you for taking the time to listen and comment.

    This is what I intend to do, just focus on one pattern until I master it. However, what more do I need to master if I know all the notes and can play them up and down? I look up the lesson you told me about.

    Thank you for the compliment ;) If I ever become famous, I will give you a life-time VIP entry ticket to all my concerts :thumb::D

    Hi :) Do you mean arpeggios? I know all open chords, barre chords in E and A shapes. Where should I focus?

    Thank you everyone, I appreciate your input :)
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  6. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Strat-Talk Member

    Jul 26, 2017
    Martinsburg, WV
    A good solo is more than slapping a bunch of licks together. I would recommend finding solos you like and transcribing the entire solos. Put together charts so that you know what is being played over which chords. Once you've got them down start making them your own. Too many 'lessons' on Youtube show you a lick with no context of how to use it.

    I'd also look up Damian Bacci on Youtube. He shows you how to play a solo over an entire verse. If you learn enough of his solos, you can see how to put them together and how he uses the same lick in different solos.

    It's not quick and it's not easy. If you don't have a teacher, I'd get one.
    Omar and abnormaltoy like this.
  7. Twelve8

    Twelve8 Strat-O-Master

    Dec 5, 2015
    Sheffield, UK
    Hi Omar. I can’t comment on the recording, I’m in work right now and can’t do SoundCloud.

    Just want to reiterate what @henderman said about learning the language, he has spoken wisely.

    For many years I played solos based on what was mechanically comfortable for me when I should have been searching for what is pleasing for the ears. The mechanical nature of my playing is a by product of learning badly or rather, learning without supervision. It has taken and will take hundreds of hours to correct and I’m still only 30% of the way there.

    Learn the language and learn the notes. Learn what sounds good harmonically, this is the foundation. You’re technique (speed, dexterity, vibrato etc) will develop over time.

    You’re better off playing the right notes badly then you are the wrong notes really well :)
    Omar, hogrider16 and abnormaltoy like this.
  8. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    I struggled with improvisation at point because I felt everything I played was exactly the same. I was amazed at how some people could pull off the most incredible solos right off the top of their head...and I wanted to be able to do that myself.

    I was taking lessons online and I was going through the blues course. The teacher was amazing. The first thing that amazed me was how much he did with so little. He only used the first pentatonic minor shape, yet it sounded fantastic. This made me realize something important...learning how to do this wasn't going to involve learning more scales, modes, theory, etc. What I needed was already in my hands. This was actually a bit scary...I was going to have to dig deep :). To further illustrate this, he had a lesson called "the one note solo". He played a guitar solo using just one single note. It was really an exercise is squeezing everything you can out of something, but it is a valuable tool that you can use in's used all the time with a single note or a single phrase.

    Something else he would do was when teaching a lick, he would demonstrate ways it could be broken down, deconstructed, and made your own. You were then encouraged to come up with your own variations. THIS is when the lick becomes your own.

    This is not to say that theory and "the language" of music isn't important, just realize that there is much more to it.

    In a discussion I had with him, he suggested a few things. One was to think like a horn player or a need to stop and take a breath at times. Another was to think of presenting a you may vary the volume of your voice or the expression in your voice to emphasize a point.

    I think it's also a great idea to transpose solos that you like. They don't have to be hard or killer solos. The solo from Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" is a good one. It's is short and simple, yet can be a laboratory for developing phrasing techniques...bends, vibrato, slides, volume variation, etc. You can play that solo straight and it would be technically correct, yet fall completely flat. Play it with some expression...vibrato, slides, picking dynamics...and it becomes something quite interesting.

    Another thing you'll notice when looking at great solos is that there is a lot of repetition in it. You can leverage this. To keep it from being boring, you can add variations to some of the repetitions, and think of it like you would in speaking. Think of a passionate situation, an argument person may say "What? I'm sorry, what? What do you want!?!? OMG, WHAT!!" There's 4 ways of saying the same thing...asking "what?". You can do the same thing with musical phrases...and it's done all of the time.

    I'm certainly no master of this and I need to remind myself of a lot of these things sometimes, but I found it really helpful getting over some hurdles and moving to a new level.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
  9. BallisticSquid

    BallisticSquid Senior Stratmaster

    Oct 12, 2016
    I was just now able to listen to your solo...sounds very good! Clearly you've been working hard. You let the track breath and didn't smother it with constant playing which I think is great. One of the things that will help you get better is just keep playing...the more you play the more natural it will all become for you.

    Just don't forget about your rhythm playing...that's important too :).
    Omar and abnormaltoy like this.
  10. Dick Blackmore

    Dick Blackmore Senior Stratmaster

    Jan 10, 2017
    San Diego
    I agree with learning theory but don't let it get it the way of your ear. Its good to learn melodic phrasing from the players you admire. Practicing melodic phrasing is infinitely more useful than running scale patterns. One of the worst things you can do as a player, in my opinion, is play scales and arpeggios straight up and down as practice. That develops bad habits.

    Also, and some people won't like this, don't waste your time learning stuff that is not part of your interests. Studying Buddy Guy is not going to help you play Necrophagist and vice versa. Not saying you should not be versatile but if you are intent on becoming a blues player learning Metallica and Dust in the Wind is probably not going to advance your playing as much as a good study of Sonny Boy Williamson.

    If you decide to study music theory it helps to listen to Bach. Music theory is based on the works of Bach.
  11. ToneRanger

    ToneRanger Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Jun 8, 2009
    Area 51
    Good, memorable solos are pieces of music within themselves - as others have said, it is not just a bunch of "licks" thrown together.

    As you develop your muscle memory and learn where all of the notes on the fretboard are, then try learning to play melodies - you can even sing a short, 5 or 6 notes line and then find it on the neck of the guitar. Try to match the inflections that were in your voice - the more you do this, the more it creates a connection between your fingers and your brain so that in time you can hear a melody in your head, and instead singing it with your vocal chords it can flow out through your fingers. As a matter of fact, watch a lot of the pros as they play and you will see them mouthing along with what they are playing - it's like the guitar is their voice.
  12. AncientAx

    AncientAx Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

    Nov 24, 2010
    I can tell you what bad soloing is ...... I am a master of it !:D
  13. Electgumbo

    Electgumbo Lost Planet Airman Strat-Talk Supporter

    Dec 26, 2010
    Scott La.

    Today there are lots of information available to learn with. Not like the old days when it was just learning stuff off of records or a few books. Simple or basic things to practice are:

    Learn The Names and Location of the notes on the neck... see where they repeat and where they are on all the strings

    Major Scale... Do Ri Mi .. stuff.. use all four fingers... learn and visualize the different ways it can be played.. that's why you need to know the names of the notes.

    Blues boxes and Penatonic Scales.. when your tired of the Major Scale then play these... same thing with the Major Scale ... learn the basic first position then see how it repeats its self over the neck.

    Learn to listen ... and find what your hearing on your guitar.. your ears need to get BIG!

    Learn chords ... lean your Majors, Minors and at least Dominate 7 chords... learn the names of the notes in them and why they are called those different names...

    Find a teacher or at least someone to play with. Playing with others is essential to leaning. Be a pesk an ask questions!

    When your done with this list let me know and we'll move on,.

    Ps.... make sure your guitar plays in tune and is relatively easy to play... if it's too difficult and discouraging.,. It'll just set in the corner... you have to much to learn and should not have to fight with your instrument... so put comfortable strings and a good set up on your guitar.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  14. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 21, 2010
    After 40 years I'm only about halfway down that list... :p
  15. fezz parka

    fezz parka Do you Reach? Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Going to Eden...Hey Brother...
    What is soloing?

    "Soloing" is like the intermission/interlude between the second and third act of a play. It references the narrative (provides counterpoint to the narrative) so that at the end of the intermission/interlude you can take up where you left off in the storyline in act III.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
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  16. abnormaltoy

    abnormaltoy BushBaby Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 28, 2013

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  17. fezz parka

    fezz parka Do you Reach? Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 21, 2011
    Going to Eden...Hey Brother...
    All of these things. It's a journey. Start here:

    First off...There is no shortcut. Learn this. Take your time and digest bits of it slowly:

    Music is a numbers game. You just need to be able to count to seven. For intervals it's 1-7. For chord progressions it's I - vii. For modes, it's the 1st through the 7th. :D

    The basic stuff every guitarist needs to know to be able to play in just about any situation:

    The numbers relating to intervals:
    Scale - Chromatic
    Scale - Major
    Scale - Minor
    Scale - Pentatonic Major
    Scale - Pentatonic Minor

    What notes build chords:

    1-3-5 = major
    1-b3-5 = minor
    1-3-b7 = 7th. (no 5)

    Then these:

    1-3-5-7 = major 7th, triad 1-3-7, 1-5-7
    1-b3-5-b7 = minor 7th, triad 1-b3-b7, 1-5-b7
    1-b3-b5-b7 = m7b5 (half diminished), triad 1-b5-b7
    1-b3-b5 = diminished. For a quad you can add the octave for the root.

    The basic chord progressions are harmonized scales:

    Major triads - I-ii-iii-IV-V-vi-vii*.

    For example, take the major scale in the key of C:

    1-C / 2-D / 3-E / 4-F / 5-G / 6-A / 7-B

    Harmonize the scale with chords:

    I-C / ii-Dm / iii-Em / IV-F / V-G / vi-Am / vii*-Bdim.

    Now C minor:

    1-C / 2-D / b3-Eb / 4-F / 5-G / b6-Ab / b7-Bb

    i-Cm / ii*- Ddim / III- Eb / iv- Fm / v-Gm / VI- Ab / VII- Bb.

    As far as learning scales goes: Major, Minor, the Pent for both, and Chromatic.

    • Triad chord tones are the foundation notes. Completely inside and harmonious. If there is a safe zone, this is it.
    • Two extra pent notes on each chord are great passing notes. Really sweet sounding, consonant extensions between triad tones.
    • The remaining two diatonic scale notes will give a modal color. They make really good passing tones.
    • The last five chromatic notes are outside notes. That dissonant, jazzy sound. These notes are where the rubber meets the road as far as experience using them. It's very easy to get caught "outside" without an umbrella with these. Use them wisely and sparingly as passing notes, and they sound really cool if resolving straight to a chord tone.
    There's more...augmented chords and other extensions, but this is the start of the language of music. Digest what is above. Then you can move on to the relationship between triads and modes. It is the path to harmony. Literally. :D
  18. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

    May 30, 2013
    SE England
  19. abnormaltoy

    abnormaltoy BushBaby Strat-Talk Supporter

    Apr 28, 2013
    Unless...everyone else in the band stops playing, it's not solo. I have started calling them breaks (guitar or lead?), I look at it very much like (but with less sophistication than) Fezz, an interlude..
    I'm not a very fast player and like another thread this week, I always have music playing in my head. I learned by playing along with LPs...I tried to get the main theme but then tried to find a space for something else, without cramming. If the song is a cover...I come close to the original, but played like me. If the song is a jam I just play, as close as I can, what's been singing in my head.
    I may not know the language...but I have a good-ish grasp of the dialect and inflections of that dialect.
  20. hogrider16

    hogrider16 Strat-Talk Member

    Jul 26, 2017
    Martinsburg, WV
    There is a lot of good information in this post, but this really stands out. I'm a huge proponent of knowing your instrument, scales, arpeggios, theory, etc., but there comes a time when you just have to play the thing.