Which approach do you use to play solos?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by GuitarInnovations, Mar 13, 2018.


Which approach do you use to solo?

  1. Modes/Scales

    17 vote(s)
    25.8%
  2. CAGED Method

    4 vote(s)
    6.1%
  3. Random Riffs and Licks

    9 vote(s)
    13.6%
  4. Another Way

    36 vote(s)
    54.5%
  1. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Fwiw, soloing (or, as I prefer: improvising) isn't about a certain technique you apply. Ok, for some flashy passages it most certainly is, but not as a foundation.

    Yes, you need to have a connection to the notes you're going to play - and that connection needs to be built up and established one way or the other. That might happen using a single (unlikely) approach or any mixture of various approaches. Scalar knowledge is one thing and can as well be aquired in different ways, be it via whatever position, 3/4NPS, up/down-the-neck scale patterns you printed out, the infamous CAGED system or just trial and error. Throw in some chord tone etudes for good measure (after all they're somewhat connected to scalar excersizes anyway). Or learn licks, patterns and whatever. Play swing standard heads. Play children song melodies.
    Almost endless options to go for.

    But: All those technical things don't make up for improvisation. They're solely there for you to ingrain whatever material.
    Yes, you make use of the techniques you've learned while soloing. But there's nothing like a "CAGED solo".
    The techniques you've learned will only help you to get the material out. A note G is a note G, regardless of whether you've learned it as the note located on the D string in your A7/E-form barre chord while examining the mighty CAGED system or whether you learned it while playing up and down the D string chromatically or whether you got it from your Cmaj7/3rd position arpeggio etude. The note remains the same. And regardless of your preferred method of "note aquisition" it'll sound the same in the same context - which is the most crucial part of all that stuff, to put things into context.
    To get you there, you will have to listen - which is not per se a part of the pure technical aquisition (even if it's pretty wise to always listen when you do technical excersizes). And you will have to come up with ideas. Again, that's not a part of technical excersizes (even if it's wise to always try to concentrate on musically meaningful excersizes). No "note aquisition system" will teach you which notes to actually play. Ideally, each system will ultimatively allow you to play pretty much any note (or any combination of notes) under any conditions. There's no "money notes" that you can only get because you've done your arpeggio homework. As said, a note G remains the note G, regardless of how you got there (in an equal tempered system at least, but I'll leave it to kimock to enlighten you regarding further options...).

    So, whatever approach you go for, just play around. And listen. And most of all: Play melodies and rhythms (actually, a huge part of a melody is rhythm, in fact the largest factor for most famous melodies to be famous happens to be rhythm).
     
  2. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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    I try to play what I hear in my head, besides the bees buzzing. This has taken a lot of years of listening to music, gig experience, transcribing, understanding how the instrument works, and trying to maintain chops.
     
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  3. ZeyerGTR

    ZeyerGTR Supporting Member

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    I chose "another way" - it's a blend of everything I've learned over the years. I'm really going for melody, rhythm, phrasing, tension/release, harmony/dissonance... playing something fun or interesting that serves whatever song I'm soloing on. I suppose if I had to pick it'd be "scales" but I guess that's because scales are just groups of notes, and ultimately it's just putting notes in time.

    I certainly think (hopefully unconsciously assuming I know the tune well enough) about the chords I'm soloing over; and I pay attention to what the drummer, bassist, or keyboard player are doing as well. I'm definitely not a lick player. I kind of stumbled onto the CAGED system on my own, and while I do see and use patterns like that, it's really secondary to melody and I wouldn't say I think about CAGED shapes when soloing. I might think about, say, the C shape as a major arpeggio starting on the A string.

    I will say that I've gotten a lot out of learning scales, modes, arpeggios, rhythmic devices and all these other tools you can use to build a solo. It's totally worth learning them. Learning anything about music is good, imho. Just don't get stuck on them because they're just tools, not music in and of themselves.
     
  4. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Supporting Member

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    I've been playing 52 years. For a long time I was obsessed with playing fast, cutting heads, all that nonsense.

    These days I try to tell a story. Unfortunately that takes time. I have to spend enough time with a song that it whispers its secrets to me.

    Most of my solos these days are a mixture of improvised and composed elements. I usually have a general idea of the contour, the narrative of the story. How does it start? How does it end? What happens in the middle? What's the heart of the story? I usually try to quote the vocal melody at least a bit (that's often a great way to start). Modes and riffs are just tools to generate ideas. Then as the ideas take shape, I start editing it down. If a phrase is 10 notes long, can I communicate the same emotion with fewer notes? Phrasing, timing all come into greater focus at this point.

    One last thought... People assume that the greats just pull this stuff outta their arse fully formed. David Gilmour took months and months to craft the guitar solos for DSOTM. His process is basically the same one I use. It just takes time, dedication and love.

    Funny thing... I'm working on an original one of the other band members wrote. Theory told me that my part should be an A Dorian thing. I kept trying to make that work but it didn't. It turns out the key to the whole part was subbing an F natural for the F sharp. It made me rethink everything I thought I knew about Dorian mode.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
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  5. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Supporting Member

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    Not at solos are improvised. Just ask any of Paul McCartney's sidemen. Just saying.
     
  6. GovernorSilver

    GovernorSilver Member

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    Depends on the situation.

    With rock bands, I usually compose a solo then play the same one every time - I haven't played with any that do anything harmonically sophisticated, so the solo is usually built off of some major or minor scale, with emphasis on the melody line. Rock songwriters can get pretty protective about their music and get stressed if stuff changes too much. I did have the pleasure though of playing with one who encouraged improvisation - there's always somebody who's got to be the exception. He was so loose that during band rehearsal, a bunch of us improvised since we didn't get any clear direction, then the resident "professor" at the rehearsal (old jazz sax player just sitting in, not one of the main songwriters) yelled at everyone to stop and imposed a structure so we wouldn't sound like white noise on the gig.

    For my jazz studies I learn and practice lines, then try composing my own lines in the style of the ones I studied. I also try composing lines on the fly (basically the same thing as "composing in the style" but sped up to, well, realtime improv). I fail a lot but I just don't see any fun in playing safe all the time and being afraid of making mistakes.

    We have a decent experimental/noise/free improv community here so I've done some jams and shows within this community. In this context, I don't think about any music theory at all and focus entirely on sound and what others around me are doing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  7. Lephty

    Lephty Member

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    Others have touched on this, but to put it succinctly--it sounds like you are thinking of CAGED as a separate thing from scales & modes. All of the notes in those CAGED patterns are there within the scales.

    CAGED can be a bit controversial around here, but IMO when you're first learning to get around the fretboard, the CAGED patterns can give you a quick "map" that helps you locate the chord tones (which are the crux of the sound). The scales & modes are built around those, and those notes add different flavors. That's the way I look at it, anyway.

    Ultimately you do want to be guided by your ear, and not patterns on a grid. But you have to start somewhere. After that, it's nothing that can't be accomplished by spending a decade or so in the practice room.
     
  8. guitarjazz

    guitarjazz Member

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  9. Sascha Franck

    Sascha Franck Member

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    Stop being lazy! You could at least have shown some respect to the authors of the CAGED system by arranging your letters in a meaningful way.
    What about BADGE?
     
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  10. soggy mittens

    soggy mittens Member

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    I only play/write in the key of G so I just slide my finger up around 12th/15th fret and try to avoid the spots i know sound wrong :3

    pffftt j/k I know what I'm doin

    [​IMG]

    narrator: she in fact rarely knows what she's doin and without rehearsals would be pretty much screwed.
     
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  11. Mentat

    Mentat Member

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    All of the above, plus chord tones, and then some.
     
  12. GuitarInnovations

    GuitarInnovations Supporting Member

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    Thanks for clarifying.
     
  13. chopsley

    chopsley Silver Supporting Member

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    It sort of depends on what type of music we're talking about. If I'm playing a jazz standard, I'm going to focus on chord tones; if I'm playing a classic rock tune, maybe I'll think more pentatonic scale; if I'm playing something more out there, then... who knows?
     
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  14. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    I really don't think about scales much when soloing.

    Have plenty of pet licks that are scale based, but I'm using the melody, triads and arpeggios mostly when I think about soloing.
     
  15. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    Just what we needed - another thread on how to solo :p

    Seriously, if you just scroll up and down probably 1/3 of the posts here are vaguely on this topic in one form or another; scales verses chords, etc.

    I actually chose Scale & Modes rather than "Another One" simply because it comes closest of all the options you gave, even though "another one" is more accurate. My real answer would be:

    "By scales and chords based on the key and the chord in play at the time, using my ear to find interesting notes that enrich what the rest of the band is doing."

    I don't think anyone here will answer "caged" - and "random riffs" doesn't really describe a style, so...
     
  16. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    I often use the "BADGE" system - which I would describe as more of a major pentatonic with some mixolydian mixed in, and the occasional m3.
     
  17. Blanket Jackson

    Blanket Jackson Hanging off balconies since 2002 Silver Supporting Member

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    I just stream of consciousness wank on the progression for a while, recording the whole time, until something(s) pop up that sound interesting (in my head at least, not my actual playing). Then I go into my cave and work them over for a while to get a few workable options for each section, then I practice them and finally fire test them at band rehearsal. The stuff that works and the stuff that doesn't becomes apparent pretty quickly. I try to consciously and purposefully avoid scales and chord structures during the stream of consciousness phase, and think about more applied theory at the cave stage. I try to hear in my head what would sound like something I would want to hear, not try to force people to listen to something I think makes sense.
     
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  18. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    Perfect response.
     
  19. Steve73

    Steve73 Member

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    My approach is to melt faces and moisten loins...

    Seriously though, a mix of all, depends on the song and genre. Certain styles, like country, seem very lick dependent to be stylistically correct.
     
  20. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    Dont underestimate learning solos exactly.

    Maybe some guys come out of the womb fully formed in a vacuum.

    Most of us have painstakingly copied and analyzed other players we like.
     

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