Are there any essential books for learning how to solo better?

TomBombadil

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360
I’m a guitarist in a church band, which is pretty simple music, and as I’ve devoted lots of my time to that, my soloing ability has atrophied and I have almost no vocabulary. I understand it enough, but I’m pretty bad at it and I’d like to brush up on my soloing ability and music theory, specific to soloing. I looked into lessons but they’re a little pricey. Any books that are really good that I could work through?
 

Lephty

Member
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1,557
I'm tempted to say that if you're looking for it in a book, you're barking up the wrong tree (so to speak). But I'm sure people will have some book recommendations for you, and some might be quite helpful.

But when someone tells me they want to learn to solo better, I often find that work is needed in a couple of areas. First, learning the fretboard. Learn pentatonic scales, and then major scales all over the neck, in any key (toward that end, I'd recommend investigating the CAGED system). Second, my guess is that you might need work connecting what your fingers are doing on the fretboard with what you are hearing in your head. I usually recommend that people use backing tracks, and slow down and really listen to how the notes of a scale relate to the chord of the moment. And finally, spend some time studying melody. Learn the melodies of the songs that you are soloing on, and use the melody as a launching point for your solo.

I don't have any real experience playing modern church music (actually I did play in a church folk group for a couple years when I was a teenager), but I'm going to guess that it's not super complicated...you probably don't need to be Allan Holdsworth to play it. Nice, clear melodies using pentatonic and major scales (and the modes) are likely to be what the music calls for. It's not rocket science, but at the same time there's no shortcut. Hit that practice room!
 

TomBombadil

Member
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360
I'm tempted to say that if you're looking for it in a book, you're barking up the wrong tree (so to speak). But I'm sure people will have some book recommendations for you, and some might be quite helpful.

But when someone tells me they want to learn to solo better, I often find that work is needed in a couple of areas. First, learning the fretboard. Learn pentatonic scales, and then major scales all over the neck, in any key (toward that end, I'd recommend investigating the CAGED system). Second, my guess is that you might need work connecting what your fingers are doing on the fretboard with what you are hearing in your head. I usually recommend that people use backing tracks, and slow down and really listen to how the notes of a scale relate to the chord of the moment. And finally, spend some time studying melody. Learn the melodies of the songs that you are soloing on, and use the melody as a launching point for your solo.

I don't have any real experience playing modern church music (actually I did play in a church folk group for a couple years when I was a teenager), but I'm going to guess that it's not super complicated...you probably don't need to be Allan Holdsworth to play it. Nice, clear melodies using pentatonic and major scales (and the modes) are likely to be what the music calls for. It's not rocket science, but at the same time there's no shortcut. Hit that practice room!

i definitely agree with your assessments. Right now I’ve just been playing with a backing track and going through various scales to solo. I guess I just need to keep doing that until I have them burned into my brain and then work on phrasing.

When you say church band, do you mean middle of the road white evangelical stuff like Hillsong/Bethel?

You won't find much in books specifically for those but there are resources.

The MOR white church stuff is just pop music so you could pretty much learn a lot about triads, major and minor pentatonic scale, and the hexatonic scale and probably know more than most players in that world.

There's a zillion books, youtube videos, lesson packages, etc on that stuff.

You could also do what a lot of players of all styles do which is start with variations on the melody and embellish. It's good ear training, will sound nice, and most people don't recoil at hearing the melody played with nice tone/touch/time.


A secret resource you might dig into is the playing of Dann Huff on 90's country pop records. It's melodic, over basic changes, but interesting enough to make you work. I go back to that stuff all the time to get pop soloing ideas. It's a master class in pop soloing. Search out his discography and give it a listen.

You could also check out players like Tim Pierce on youtube. He has a lot of lesson content on pop soloing. It will cover a lot of the sounds you'll need for that style.

One of my friends sent me a recording of a new record by Cory Asbury that has some boss guitar on it. Maybe poke around that record and lift some stuff.

Ultimately, this ain't jazz. It's basic chord changes where major scale stuff will work. Think melody, aim for chord tones, work on your time and touch, rinse, repeat.
Thanks for the resources! Yeah, I mostly play stuff like Hillsong/Bethel/Elevation in church but I’m looking to get better in soloing outside of church music (blues, rock, etc) to just be a well rounded guitarist instead of a church guitarist.
 

TomBombadil

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360
It's just basic pop soloing when you really boil it down. Some guys that do it really well are session musicians like Huff, Shawn Tubbs, Tim Pierce, Tom Bukovac, JT Corenflos (rip), Michael Landau, and even older school guys like Steve Lukather.

They are the masters at pop soloing, in my opinion, and have much to teach. But you'll have to do the work yourself.
Lately I’ve just been playing with backing tracks. Put on a random key and try to find interesting sounds with the appropriate major/minor scale and their pentatonic counterparts. Good way to get used to it?
 

ChampReverb

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11,592
Emphasize the good notes.

Handle the bad notes with care ...use them in passing or for color.

...

You have to be able to map out the fretboard somehow.

It really helps to know what notes are in the chords of the song and how those chords are functioning relative to the key of the moment, the next chord in the chord progression, etc.

CAGED patterns are good for starters (if you take the time to recognize the chord inversions they outline) but every time the chords change you may have to shift the pattern or it may sound less than optimal or really bad.

If the chord is turkey and you apply the gravy pattern it may work nicely but if the chord changes to ice cream and you’re still applying the gravy pattern the end result may not be as appealing.

...

Scales (major/minor/pentatonic) are good.

As I said before, learning the notes on the fretboard is really good.

...

After studying the above, I personally got the most bang for the buck by dropping back and really focusing on adjacent string triads (major/minor, in all three inversions) and learning to play the chord progression with them sndwalk melodic lines through them.

Everyone’s got a different learning style though.

-bEn r.
 

Drewstunes

Member
Messages
97
I also mostly play in my church worship band these days - Bethel / Elevation / Jesus Culture. Fortunately, they give me a bit of leeway and I rock things up and add solos here and there. A few years ago we were doing Lincoln Brewster songs with legit solos but that doesn't seem to be the style anymore.

I also write and record guitar instrumentals with the Satriani / Paul Gilbert / Andy Timmons vibe so I've always tried to keep my technique in order.

There are so many resources these days - books, videos, youtube - it's almost overwhelming so I would suggest this - figure out where you want to get to and what it will take to get there and seek out some youtube videos / channels to help. You may want to work on your bending, hammer ons / pull offs / alternate picking / theory / etc...it's all out there so just find the video that makes sense to you and start there. I recommend checking out Paul Davids channel - he's great and his videos are really well done.

Also, I would recommend checking out Artist Works. I signed up for the Rock School with Paul Gilbert and it's pretty amazing - as of now there are almost 10,000 video exchanges between Paul and the students that you can watch not to mention the initial lessons that will teach a tremendous amount about soloing. I've personally sent a half dozen videos to Paul and he has responded with things for me to work on. Some of these videos are 10 minutes long! He does an excellent job teaching and there is literally a lifetime of material out there to work on.
 
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I tried the route of playing around with a scale for a given chord progression before. The results were never satisfying to me. At best they just sounded like scale picking exercises, which to me are boring. At worst they just sound bad. I think this method doesn't work for me because too much is left to chance, and anything that comes out with a structured sound just sounds like an exercise, which again bores me, esp. after I started hearing exercise-like phrases in other guitarists' solos.

What has been more useful is creating a short melody and practicing it until I can play it in time with the song. The melody could draw notes out of a scale or two, but could also built around chord tones. It's usually a mix. There's no set rule.

If the song in question is one of the songs in my friend's band, and we like the melody enough, I keep it - if I had managed to record it while we were jamming - and start practicing it with the goal of playing it in good time, with good intonation, and refining the control over dynamics, tone, articulation, etc. as much as possible.

If the song is not my friend's song, then I throw away the melody and create a new one, practice that until I can play it in time, throw that one away too to create another one, etc. If I find somebody else's solo/melody/whatever that fits the song in a way that I like, I'll practice that too to add to my vocabulary.
 
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jogogonne

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Just for the record, this is a question every guitarist has, including every one in this thread that is answering this question.

But for where it sounds you are at, if you have nobody else in mind, I would recommend listening to Johnny Lang's Wander this World. The solos and fills are short lyrical phrases, and easy to copy. And the album covers pop/rock/blues styles.

If you copy half the solos from that album, probably within six months to a year, you'll be able to play a solo that can fit into 80% of the songs you hear on the radio.
 

Blahfingers

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559
Guthrie Govan's Creative Guitar books have all the bits and pieces you might want (scales, arpeggios, techniques like legato, bends, tapping etc). Worth reading/practising but at the end of the day it's up to you how you apply those things, and 'stealing' licks from others is definitely worth doing too.

I'd just like to point out also that I win the prize for being the first person to provide a book when the OP asked for a book :banana
 
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Jabberwocky

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1,041
The time-honoured way is to drop the needle on the records of your favourite artists and copy licks till your fingers bleed. Do that enough times and something clicks.

Listening a lot, mimicry through practising a lot works. Sounds like an old canard but It really does help to form the ears and the fingers.
 

guitarjazz

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I recently overdubbed on track Phil Keaggy had played on. Hard to imagine him being old-school. He is still playing his rear off. He wasn’t hiding behind a ‘wash’ of ambient silliness.
 

JonR

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14,878
I’m a guitarist in a church band, which is pretty simple music, and as I’ve devoted lots of my time to that, my soloing ability has atrophied and I have almost no vocabulary. I understand it enough, but I’m pretty bad at it and I’d like to brush up on my soloing ability and music theory, specific to soloing. I looked into lessons but they’re a little pricey. Any books that are really good that I could work through?
Being an atheist myself :Devil, I have zero interest in church music - it just isn't a thing in the UK anyway the way it is in the US - but the principles of soloing are the same in any kind of music.

It's not about learning scales, or learning your fretboard. That ought to go without saying. Building a chair requires a little more than knowing what wood is and how to use a saw.
It's about learning songs - especially learning the melodies. That's where your "vocabulary" comes from. That's where you learn how to make sensible phrases rather than just noodle optimistically.
A secondary source is licks from other people's solos. That's secondary, because they're just spitting out the melodic material they know that they've already chewed over several times. It's worth doing when there's a specific player or players whose style you like, and you want to sound like that. They put a particularly appealing "accent" on the "vocabulary". Borrowing their accents (and combining them) is how you develop our own "voice".

But it all comes from actual music in the first place. Not from damn SCALES. When you improvise on a song, the notes you need are all there in the song, arranged in sensible structures for you. Play the melody, play the chord tones, play around with them. That's "improvisation". Simple. No need to make it more difficult than that.
The difficulty is usually either (a) not knowing your instrument well enough or (b) not knowing the song well enough. No amount of theory or exercises will help you if either of those things apply.
 
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Jon

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1,567
I’m a guitarist in a church band, which is pretty simple music, and as I’ve devoted lots of my time to that, my soloing ability has atrophied and I have almost no vocabulary. I understand it enough, but I’m pretty bad at it and I’d like to brush up on my soloing ability and music theory, specific to soloing. I looked into lessons but they’re a little pricey. Any books that are really good that I could work through?
When people say they can't solo very well I always think a good test is to ask if they can sing/hum a solo ok - if not then it's a question of building a vocabulary, which is probably best done by learning loads and loads of other people's solos and phrases. If they can, but can't translate that to guitar then that's the thing to practice - playing what you hear in your head. Some books may help, but the bulk of it is just doing one of those two things.
 

derekd

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Today's CM music has basically run me off from playing in churches after 40 years.

I've been around P&W since Larry Norman, Rez Band, and the like and I've never heard a more boring, homogenous mess than what Bethel, Hillsong, Vertical, et al are putting out. So many of these tunes are exactly the same tune. Same progressions, same keys, same basic lyrics.

It's really too bad as there are still some great musicians out there (Phil Keaggy, Lincoln Brewster, etc.). The current direction this past decade has the guitarist as more of a textural player, kinda like keys, rather than a solo voice. I understand that as it isn't about us as players in that setting but it would be nice to see more diversity.

Kirk Franklin comes to mind but he ain't getting played in the above settings.
 

Linderflomann

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214
Being an atheist myself :Devil, I have zero interest in church music - it just isn't a thing in the UK anyway the way it is in the US - but the principles of soloing are the same in any kind of music.
As a European it took me a long time to figure out what P&W even stood for... I still don't know what it sounds like since even the people who play it all seem to dislike it.
 

derekd

Silver Supporting Member
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42,750
As a European it took me a long time to figure out what P&W even stood for... I still don't know what it sounds like since even the people who play it all seem to dislike it.
Head to Youtube and search for Bethel, Hillsong, and Vertical Worship.

You will find plenty of examples of what we are talking about. It is simply a different way to approach live music. No amps on stage, friendly volumes, and a different sort of focus than a rock or pop show.
 




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