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HELP! Soloing Advice HELP ME GUYS!!

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by Lucky Dog Guitars, Mar 10, 2008.

  1. Lucky Dog Guitars

    Lucky Dog Guitars Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Foothills of Eastern Tennessee
    Can you guys/girls suggest any certain books, DVD's, websites, or just straight up advice to help me!.. Ive been playing for years but really need some help taking my playing to the next level

    Well Im sad to say, Im a pretty accomplished player around town... but its a good thing the audience doesnt know any better because I REALLY need some help on my soloing!

    I'm stuck with my same ol "bag of tricks & licks" that I often incorporate into every song I play with small changes to mask my lack of ability.

    I mostly play Country Rock, Blues, Rockabilly, & some newer texas style music...


    1. Ability to solo over minor keys... I would say this is my most embarrassing problem.

    2. Ability to play solos that dont just sound like "licks" I want to play solos that almost sound like they are telling a story... and extension of the song... almost like missing words that the vocalist didnt say.. Im sure most of you know what I mean by this...?

    3. Breaking out of the pentatonic box & make more use of the fretboard... I seem to reside inside the Pentanic box a lot... or just below the box (not sure what exactly you call that area.. but there are some notes in the 2-3 frets lower than the pentatonic box that I use a lot... especially on country)

    4. How to move my solos smoothly as the keys change

    Lets just start with that.....

    I've tried Fretboard Logics...didnt really care for it or get much out of it.. and I really spent some time with it...

    Any other suggestions??? I REALLY APPRECIATE EVERYONES HELP!!!
  2. devnulljp

    devnulljp Member

    Feb 13, 2008
    I'm no expert, and have some of the same problems as you mentioned, but one of the things I'm trying to do is get better acquainted with the different positions of the pentatonics and then trying to link them up vertically up and down the neck rather than play horizontally in the box. Try playing the scales with more than 2 notes per string - do threes and fours. I'm finding that's affecting phrasing -- an extreme example is Eric Johnson; look at what he does with pentatonics and string skipping.
    You'll likely get much better advice from much better players than me, so consider this just my 2 Canadian cents worth.
  3. Lucky Dog Guitars

    Lucky Dog Guitars Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Foothills of Eastern Tennessee
    This may help.. if people can kinda see what level I'm at & then they may be able to give me advice that is fitting to my situation.

    here is a video of me playing lead at a gig this past weekend. I would say this is about the MAX of my ability shown in this clip.. so Im trying to break over this point.

    you will notice what Im talking about with my soloing just being "licks" but not really telling a story

  4. elgalad

    elgalad Senior Member

    Feb 27, 2008
    This is a good idea :AOK

    I've heard it described as two ways of thinking about the notes in a given scale - vertically (eg. box pentatonic patterns) and horizontally (notes along a single string). The best way to get out of "the box" is to try and learn the scales both ways, and then incorporate them together into a single understanding of the notes, rather than the individual patterns, if that makes sense.

    Also, learn as many solos as you can find in the style you want to improve on. Don't just learn to play the notes though, try and dissect them - take a look a what notes are being played and what they are being played over. This should start to give you an idea of how it sounds when you play notes that have particular interval relationships to the underlying music.

    Of course, I'll justify this by saying that I'm no expert, and I'm still very much in the process of building my soloing skills, but this is what has been suggested to me by other, and it seems to be improving my ability to play thought-out solos rather than robotic licks ;)

    Hope this helps you out :)
  5. gennation

    gennation Member

    Feb 25, 2006
    Grand Rapids, MI
    With where you're at now, start with my Advanced Pentatonic tutorials. I'll show you how to take what you already know and show you some cool stuff.


    It deals with a lot of stuff that's going to plug directly into to what you played in that video. I think it'll give you the inspiration you need to help you take it to the next level (without learning a whole new language)

    So before you give up on the Pentatonic stuff take a look a how you can open up the doors on it. There's over 50 examples including audio, tab, diagrams, explanations, etc...

    MAKE SURE you read the Introduction!!!

    It's ALL free too. And, there many more topics here: http://lessons.mikedodge.com

    NOTE Fretboard Logic teaches you the logical way to map things across the fretboard, it doesn't really teach any theory, or how to play songs. But, on it's own it's can be a VERY useful tool for understanding the fretboard as it's own entity.
  6. Glide

    Glide Member

    Aug 30, 2006
    Atlanta, Ga.
    Mike - I've read through lesson 1 and it is very compelling. That is good stuff and I am about to go through it all. Thanks for putting it online.
  7. that_brianm_guy

    that_brianm_guy Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2002
    baltimore, md
    the advice about learning the 5 positions of the pentatonic is right on.

    here's a web page with all 5 positions, and how they "stack" on top of each other. http://www.theorylessons.com/pentpos.html

    Get those under your fingers, then head to Mike Dodge's site :)
  8. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2007
    So what you are saying is that you want to be a legend. Cos all teh guys who can do what you are asking for (and they are few enough) are all legends.
    Joking a little, but don't we all wish we could tell a story with a solo.
    I can't, so I'm not going to pretend to tell you how, but I will suggest you study Gilmour, or esp for your style of playing, Mark Knopfler.
    Those guys tell a story !!!!!
  9. Lucky Dog Guitars

    Lucky Dog Guitars Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Foothills of Eastern Tennessee
    Legend.. ha...

    I just want to get a lot better... Ive been at that same level that you see in the video for several years...

    Thanks to Mike Dodge! I will be checking that out this evening

    If anyone else has any suggestions/pointers...bring them on.. I want to take a multi-direction approach to this
  10. therealting

    therealting Member

    May 20, 2004
    London, UK
    Transcribe, transcribe, transcribe. Take some great players you know, and work out what they are doing. It also improves your ear tremendously. Start with something relatively simple, such as the solo from "Comfortably Numb" - it's not fast or technically tricky, but has all the elements you describe. It's fun to work them out, satisfying to be able to play it afterwards, and you'll start to find those elements slipping into your own playing.
  11. JonR

    JonR Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Personally, I think - given the context - that's a great little solo. I like the chromaticism, which stops it being too formulaic (although maybe that's a little trick you're using too often? ;) ). I'd be quite happy if I'd played that. Not ecstatic I guess, but y'know...
    In that particular tune - while it isn't a great show-off performance - it's no more or less than what is required. Straight ahead country rock, no frills, just what the man ordered. Not an inspiring or world-shaking solo, I guess - but not boring either. (Definitely a more interesting part of the tune than the vocal sections.. :)... but maybe that's because I'm a guitarist and not a singer ;) )

    But then I guess what you want is less of the great "little" solos and more of the great "big" ones?

    It looks like you have all the raw material (the chops, the patterns, the knowledge) to take your soloing to the next stage.
    First you need the opportunity! You need to get a bigger chunk of the song - say 2 or 3 choruses instead of one. Then take a deep breath and use some space. Use more repetition; use a few well-chosen long notes, say.
    Plan the outline of a solo. If you have 3 verses/choruses/whatever, start low and simple (say) - not too many notes, plenty of space, like you're limbering up; then move to a mid position, use a different dynamic, get into your stride; on the last chorus, move up to a high position, use more speed, more held long notes; and bring it back down at the end.
    (Technically, try to make sure you can solo comfortably in any key in any position - not just in 2 or 3 places on the neck. This may be where you need to do some woodshedding - I can't tell.)

    If the band only want to give you one chorus (or if that's all you honestly want, or the song needs), just put a bit more bite into what you play. Stop those fingers before they go off on another practised lick. Cut off a phrase before it finishes, and repeat it. Instead of playing the next note you were going to play, leave a space (grunt or something), take a breath, THEN play it.
    Try to imagine the shape of some words - say a phrase from the lyrics - and try and play that.
    Use some different rhythmic devices - eg use some 8th-note triplets here and there (over a basic 16th note rhythm, such as in that tune). Or "hemiolas". A hemiola is where you stick with the basic note values (say 8th notes), but play a phrase of uneven length, then repeat it a few times so that the notes fall in different places in the bar. Eg (crude example) a group of five 8th notes, repeated 4 times, gives you a run of 20 8th notes. Despite the repetition it sounds different each time because the timing changes. (Ideally, leave some space between repetitions, but start on a different beat, or between the beats.)

    This all sounds a bit technical! But it's a simple idea to play. It's all part of taking a step back from what you're doing, forcing yourself to step outside the "rut" you're in, and take a look from a different angle.

    I also agree with violetlove - listen to some of the great guitar players. To Knopfler and Gilmour, I'd add Roy Buchanan, Chet Atkins, Joe Walsh, Albert Lee for country; Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, Muddy Waters for blues; Jimi Hendrix for rock; Wes Montgomery for jazz. (There's obviously an impossibly enormous list of great players, but I think these stand out as individuals, not always technically stunning, but always tasteful and expressive.)
    With any of them, don't think "I'll never be that good". (Of course you won't. None of us will - unless maybe we're 14 years old and just starting out... :rolleyes:. But there's still plenty to learn from them.)
    Listen for particular phrases or licks that stand out for you, and work them out. Record them, find out what it is they're doing. Maybe it's a particular note against that chord? Maybe it's the way they holding or decorating a note? Maybe it's some rhythmic thing? Maybe they're quoting some part of the melody? Or another melody? Or is it to do with the overall shape of the solo? (would that phrase sound as good if it came out of the blue, rather than as the culmination of something else?) Maybe it's their articulation or tone? Or, after all, just the effects they're using? (eg, a lot of reverb, sustain or chorus...)
    There's no magic involved, that's for sure.

    The "telling a story" thing comes from very simple concepts: phrasing; melodic quotation; space and repetition (limiting your choice of notes); overall solo contour or shape (development of simple ideas over time).
    IOW, think big in terms of the total shape of your solo (16 bars, 24, 32, whatever); but think small in terms of initial choice of notes. Experiment with just 3 or 4 notes from a scale, and see if you can make them "speak" by how you use them: different patterns, different rhythms, different durations, dynamics, etc.

    For more emotive effects - eg when playing on ballads - investigate the role of higher chord extensions. Eg, on a major chord, what does a maj7 note sound like? what does a 9th or 6th sound like? On a minor chord, what about a 9th or 11th? These kind of things will sound wrong on a driving rock tune or a country tune; but on anything slow, with plenty of time on any one chord, they will open up the sound palette, take you away from those cliched scale patterns.
    Of course, you do need to know how to find these extensions on any chord shape ;) . If you don't, there are books on it, but you can work the rules out by consulting any chord dictionary, and comparing (say) a "9" chord shape with the triad on the same root.
  12. Lucky Dog Guitars

    Lucky Dog Guitars Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Foothills of Eastern Tennessee
    JonR.. thank you! thats great advice!...
  13. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

    Feb 1, 2006
    Not a hard fix, you just need practice. Get a hold of some backing tracks in minor keys. They are readily available by searching this forum. Emphasizing chord tones helps capture the flavor of the tonality over which you are playing. Minor pentatonic licks (I know you got plenty of these) work well over minor material.

    Join the club. There are numerous approaches. Some things that have helped me:
    1) Transcribing. This teaches new licks, of course, but also trains your ear, which is a key to being able to hear a line in your head and execute on guitar. You also learn what makes certain licks tick. Often, when you transcribe a lick, you discover it is in actuality nothing new to you. But the way it was played or the context provides a lesson that you can transfer to other material. Transcribing is not the same as reading tab. There is an added reward to the process of listening and learning.
    2) Sing. Then play what you sang. Getting good at this closes the gap between the music in your heart and the music in your fingers.
    3) Learn a bunch of melodies. If you know how to execute a lot of melodies, new stuff (a new line that pops into your head, for example) is easier to assimilate.
    4) Listen to a lot of music.

    Something very helpful to me is to learn my stock, standby licks in many different positions. This breaks them out of their usual confines and gives you access across the fingerboard. This practice is a springboard for assimilation of new material.

    For me, being able to nail the chord tones makes this an easier task. Maybe it would be helpful to practice a tune that changes keys by playing over it only using chord tones. When doing this, key changes are trivial because you are tracking the chords, not the key center. I don't necessarily advise playing this way in performance, but it is great practice from which you will get some new ideas.

    One thing we do not talk about enough is the importance of a creative state of mind when playing. You have the technique to execute beautiful music and you have a nice foundation of idiomatic licks to play your chosen style. The question is how do you get the most out of the tools at your disposal. I have a tendency to shut off my mind and revert to just letting my fingers play what they want. I think this is a function of anxiety. There are times however, when my mind/heart/ear takes over and I am connecting directly with the music. The fingers and the guitar itself seem to disappear. It is in these moments that I cease to play stale licks and begin creating music, telling stories.

    My point is that "telling stories" has as much to do with our consiousness as it does the hours we spend woodshedding. Is there a way to practice letting go of our egos and anxieties and letting our higher cognitive functions take over?

    Oh....and I forgot one thing: if it sounds like you ar just playing licks all the time.......then learn more licks!!!
  14. Swain

    Swain Member

    Oct 2, 2005
    N. Little Rock, AR.
    Those are all some GREAT ideas! So, as you now have so much "material" to work through, I'll add an easy-to-do technique. You can do this anywhere music is playing. Even on the way to work!

    Next time you're listening to a tune, try singing (or humming) a lead melody opver the top of the song. Don't do this with an instrument in your hand. Just do it vocally. When you can do this repeatedly over the same tune, then pick up your guitar, and transcribe what you've composed.
    Then, learn to play that melody over the tune, in a real-life situation. With your Band/Duo. Just pick that one tune, and use it as a "Test Bed" for your playing. Once you've exhausted every technique you can think of, start again with another tune. Rinse and repeat.

    Your playing was really good on that tune, I thought. But, you could change it up, for the sake of expanding your pallette.

    I'd definately get an aggressive, gainy tone going for the solo. Then, see if that will inspire you to play a little differently. Not for every tune. Just a couple of them. Don't want to over-do it!

    If a longer (2 or 3 Choruses) break is too daunting, maybe add 1 or 2 more small breaks to the tune. Have each successive break start where the last one left off.

    Also, consider the impact of playing with more syncopation. Learning some of the Drum "Rudiments" and applying them to guitar, is a great way to spice things up. Listen to the phrasing of some really smokin' Drummers, and steal a few licks.

    Happy Hunting!
  15. Lucky Dog Guitars

    Lucky Dog Guitars Member

    Nov 28, 2006
    Foothills of Eastern Tennessee
    I should probably know this.. but can you describe "syncopation" to me somewhat?
  16. cram

    cram Member

    Nov 13, 2006
    Southern NH
    I think you sound pretty good guy...
    I think you need to just build upon it if you're frustrated or bored.
    Take those same licks that you do and pair them against the scales you are based in and take time to pick other notes to follow what you're already doing.
  17. jzilla

    jzilla Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    los angeles, ca
    good suggestions peeps!

    my contribution:
    analyze the licks that you are familiar to you.

    if you understand why the work the way they do you'll be able to modify them, create new ones (eventually on the spot) - and go deeper.

    whey analyzing think about pitch:
    - chord tones,
    - passing tones (notes that connect chord tones - both diatonic (in the key) and non-diatonic),
    - tensions (stacking 3rds above the 7th), articulation (bends, vibrato...),
    - chromaticism

    and VERY important (IMO more than pitch in most styles of american music):
    - where is the feel located (behind the beat, on the beat, in front)
    - articulation
    - certain notes slightly 'off the grid'-INTENTIONALLY?
    - gestural (rhythmic lines)
    - dynamics (it fits in to rhythm when thinking in terms of attack time, sustain, etc.)

    IMO if a player has a dead on rhythmic pocket and is pretty simplistic harmonically they're going to feel good. if a player has an incredible understanding of harmony but is sloppy rhythmically, they will sound like an amateur.

    2 cents.

    this wasn't meant to be so wordy. to sum up: analyze your licks. take nothing for granted.

    good luck (i need to go work on some of this stuff),
  18. bynt

    bynt Member

    May 18, 2006
    Flagstaff, Arizona
    Man cut yourself some slack, that's not bad playing by any means!!! I teach guitar and know a bunch of people who only wish they could play what you play.

    As far as your "dilemma", some good stuff has been shared. I'd say start with the major scale, believe it or not. Just get real familiar with it because that's the basis of most of the other stuff. The major scale put in another context/key is the minor scale and so forth. I like to show folks the g major scale as it's also the e minor scale (I'm sorry if you know this stuff already-not trying to condescend).

    6th string (big fatty E): 3rd fret 5th fret
    5th string: 2nd fret, 3rd fret, 5th fret
    4th string: 2nd, 4th, 5th
    3rd string: 2nd, 4th, 5th
    2nd string: 3rd, 5th
    1st: 2nd, 3rd

    Anyway, if you play that by itself it's the g major scale. But, if you take that EXACT same scale but instead of starting on the note "G", you added your low e string and the second fret and then stopped on the 5th fret on your b string it's now an E MINOR SCALE wich is just the minor pentatonic scale with two notes added.

    That's a great place to start for soloing over minor keys.

    The rule of thumb being that if you know that pattern for the major scale (it's totally moveable- it's a g major because we started on g. If we started the whole thing up a step it would be an a major scale) then it's relative minor is going to be a step and half down.

    So if you know the A major scale, you automatically know the F#minor scale. If you know the C major scale, you know the A minor scale and so forth.

    This is a great place to start getting out of the pentatonic box.

    The cool thing about the major scale is that it's what's used for modes (used to scare the hell out of me) and they tell a story in their own rite.

    Take an e major scale (the one that I showed you- starting on the 12th fret) and it's the first mode, Ionian.

    Take that same pattern down a hole step (still in E) and you're playing in Dorian (basically playing a d major scale in the key of E minor).

    Play a C major scale in E Major and you're playing in "Phrygian"- the "Spanish" scale

    Play a B major scale in E and you're playing "Lydian". This one tells a mean story but it's good to have a chord that has the "raised fourth". So put it over an E major chord but add the note a # somehow.

    Play an A major scale in the key of E and you're playing "Mixolydian"

    A G major scale in e minor is the minor scale: Aeolian.

    And finally, an F major scale in the key of e minor is "Lociran". Some people hate this mode and think it's gross but I like to think of it as the birth of metal.

    So if you can get this one pattern down that I spoke of at the top of this ridiculously long assed post, you can play just an open e string (for your ear-kind of like a rythm section) and move these scales where I pointed out and get some really cool sounds. Then, work the bends in said scales (just bend into the next note in the scale for starters) and you've just expanded a lot as far as vocabulary.

    I hope this makes sense. I feel where you're coming from and this really helped me a great deal. I play a lot of blues and trippy slow blues rock stuff and getting out of my comfort zone was really a good idea. I did the opposite of what you're doing: I got INTO country stuff more. Try music that you normally wouldn't do and then take it back to what you're comfortable with. I hope this makes sense and good luck!!!!
  19. The Captain

    The Captain Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2007
    Syncopation just means an irregular rhythm.
    The other thought I had here is that improvisation is really composition on the spot.
    The great compositions that we all love were mostly not done on the spot, but were rather done over a period of time.
    Maybe stepping away from "improvisation" and doing some composed solos will give you the breathing space you need to break out of the box.
  20. Daniel B.

    Daniel B. Member

    Aug 13, 2006
    Knoxville, TN
    I didn't read all the replies so this might have been mentioned in some form or another. It's a very simple suggestion compared to the other suggestions. Also, I'm no master soloist either.

    Play the song in your head and hear what the solo should sound like. I think too many guitarist rely on their fingers to create the perfect solo. I think the best solos are melodic in nature. It's hard to accomplish a melodic solo when your fingers can't hear. I think this applies to creating songs as a whole. I've gotten out of bed at night on more than one occasion to play out a song I was hearing in my head.

    It's tough because you can take the song anywhere. The reality is - tons of solos would fit in any given song. You just have to come up with one you're happy with.

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