Joined: 14 Sep 2004 Posts: 25 Location: A small town in North Wales you've probably never heard of
Posted: Mon Sep 20, 2004 2:14 pm Post subject: Structuring a solo - any advice?
I've decided that I finally need to sort out my woeful lead playing with a focused injection of theory and some direction - no more random noodling on the shape 1 pentatonic for me! I've finally learnt the pentatonic all over the neck, and am learning all the notes on the neck too (though this'll take a while).
The biggest problem I've got to overcome is the feeling that my solos don't have direction. When I improvise, I flop around the scale shapes more or less randomly (though now I've learnt the shapes my random flopping has more scope). This isn't what I want at all - when I listen to others play their solos have direction, a beginning, middle an end, dynamics, and all that stuff. How do I achieve this? I've been listening a lot to Eric Johnson lately, and he's an example of someone who gets really sophisticated and interesting sounds using pentatonics more or less exclusively - I know he uses pentatonic substitution a lot, and this is something I want to get into myself (I understand the concept and how the different scale relates to the tonal centre and so on, I just need to make my ears get their acts together), but most of all I want to understand how to create melodic and interesting solos - the shredding can wait. Any advice, anyone? _________________ Mmmm...Sacrelicious.
Joined: 14 Sep 2004 Posts: 65 Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Posted: Mon Sep 20, 2004 7:47 pm Post subject:
This may seem kind of cliche, but instead of thinking like a guitarist when you're soloing, try and pretending you're playing vocal melodies instead. Chances are if you get in the right mindset you'll start playing much more melodically, thus steering away from the random noodling that you've mentioned. As far as knowing theory, it's great to know what you're doing at a given time. Try maybe following the chords closely with the given progression, and at the same time remember to think vocally and just playing what you feel. The best way to get good at this in my opinion is just by jamming to various styles of music. With your CDs, or with different backing tracks which you can get all over the place.
Joined: 10 Sep 2004 Posts: 2783 Location: Chino, CA
Posted: Wed Sep 22, 2004 6:29 pm Post subject:
This may sound simplistic or obvious, but I think listening is the key. What great players seem to mention often about soloing is that they try to listen to what's going on and think about what they'd like to hear played over the music - chord progression, the rhythm, the harmonic structure, etc. So, in essence, they are thinking ahead about what they want to hear being played.
Obviously, you'd want to know what scales, common tones, arpeggios, etc. can be used and it helps to have these things under your grasp. If you're thinking about a diminished chord that's coming up and you start fumbling around in your mind and with your fingers to find the notes to play, then you're lost and will most likely end up looking like a fool. But as Guthrie mentioned in another thread about going "outside", you're never more than a fret away from the "right note", so that instinctivve reflex of being able to land at the right place can become a very valuable asset.
Lay down some progressions and try to imagine first, without the guitar, what you'd like to hear being played on top of it. Sing the lines out aloud. Don't think about patterns and shapes on the fingerboard. Just think music and what you'd like to listen to. And when you pick up the guitar, play those lines that you've sung or imagined in your head. _________________ Ed Yoon
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when i improvise...i usually begin playing around the minor pentatonic scale....but then i branch off into a mixture or triads, arpeggios and modes(mainly: dorian,mixolydian, phyrigian and aeolian) every now and then to go "outside" i play dorian a half step up and throw some chromatics into the mix as well...minor 7th arpeggios being swept are another useful tool for me.....as far as just noodling around, try and learn the modes (6th and 5th string roots) tons of arpeggios and major and minor triads throughout the fretboard. another useful idea to get you thinking is play all the pentatonic scales and modes in intervals of 2, 3, 4, and 7...very useful!!!
Joined: 22 Sep 2004 Posts: 122 Location: chair, in front of desk
Posted: Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:09 pm Post subject:
Elis - I think one of the best things you can do is listen to lots of players who have a *very* tight structural approach to their solos. Jan Cyrka, (rock era) Pat Travers, David Gilmour etc. It's all about navigating your way through a solo and being aware of how to divide the time up naturally (ie knowing how much you've played; how much space you have left).
A lot of my listening involves players like Zappa and Keneally, and I tend naturally to play in more of a free improvisational way. Listening to players with the opposite approach helps me apply a bit more organisation.
I actually look at it differently. The first step is to be familiar with the notes on the fretboard, shapes,..... which is what you're doing already. Only when you can play any scales at any place on the fretboard that you can start thinking about melody and structure.
Once you know the fretboard well enough, simply playing with a band or backing track will force you to play melodies and good time - if you're aware of that aspect.
Practicing structure before notes is like practicing racing before driving, I think.
You want to build more and more tension, and then release it towards the end.
This usually means to start out slow, maybe repeat a simple musical statement a couple of times.
Then try to build up tension, by gradually playing faster, higher up on the neck and more "out" notes.
Then end your solo by maybe playing the same as you started out with, to create continuity.
This is of course just general suggestions, not rules. Sometimes you'll want to go out with all guns blazing, or "in media res" as the writers would say
A solo can actually be looked at as a good book, with a beginning, a middle part and an ending.
Hope this helps _________________ "Fishing for the right note"
The best way to learn anything is to watch/listen people who's ability you admire and try to assimilate the basic skills that are at work, and then use it as you will. Some might worry their creativity might be stifled and they'll end up sounding like a clone of <insert x player(s) here>, but as long as what you've got at heart is finding your own voice, and you don't just listen to/transcribe the same stuff all the time, I can guarantee it won't be a issue.
When transcribing you must be processing the musical information on many different levels. How the performer expresses themselves in terms of harmony (what they play over a given chord or set ot changes), feel, time, phrasing, overall structure, chops etc.... ALWAYS THINK, EVEN IN YOUR SLEEP.
As far as building solos goes, listen to some Wes Montgomery - incredible playing and not to tricky to jam to or analyse. I'd recommend Smokin' At The Half Note with the Wynton Kelly Trio or Full House.
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