Are you ready to master the guitar solo and wow your friends?
A guitar solo is an art form that doesn’t come as easily as some other things you need to learn when you first pick up the guitar. Basic and barre chords, scales, and riffs are complicated enough for many, but the guitar solo is an entirely different level. If you are a player who watches videos of players like Jimmy Page, Slash, and Eric Clapton soloing on stage, then it doesn’t take long to get the itch to want to do it yourself.
Tip #1: Learn this Scale
To get started, learn the A Minor Pentatonic Scale. It’s a simple but effective scale that is used in 90% of most rock solos and songs.
One reason why this scale is so widely used is that it doesn’t matter if the key is in major or minor – it always works and sounds good. You can even move this Minor Pentatonic Scale down the neck to fit into any key you need. That’s what makes this scale so important when you are learning to solo.
Classic songs like “Amazing Grace,” “My Girl,” and even “Stairway to Heaven” all use the Minor Pentatonic Scale effectively.
Tip #2: Learn About the Root Note
The root note is always your friend when learning and playing guitar solos.
The root note is the first note of a scale. So, for the Minor Pentatonic Scale, it’s the 5th fret of the low E string, which is an A. It is also found on the D string in the 7th fret, and again on the high E string in the 5th fret. Because you are soloing, and most solos revolve around higher sounding notes, that 5th fret on the high E string will become very important.
A great example is the solo to “Hotel California.” There is so much you can learn about phrasing from just this one solo! One particular trick I’d like to point out is hitting B and high E strings simultaneously (5th fret if in the key of A, standard tuning) instead of playing them separately. This way you can achieve the sweet bluesy sound that you can hear so much in the solos of Angus Young, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Slash, and many other great guitarists.
As you begin to explore more scales, you should always figure out the root note first. It will be your guiding light. If you get into trouble later on in your solo, and you are out of key, just return to your root note to get you back on track.
Tip #3: Bend, Bend, Bend
Playing a solo without bending notes is like playing your solo without any emotion. It will sound dull, stagnant, and boring. The vibrato you get from bending the strings will create a livelier solo that will sound much better.
As you get more experienced, you’ll learn about what notes to bend and when to do it. To start, just get familiar with the motion of bending a string and still keeping it in tune. Eventually, you’ll be bending each note to create a more exciting guitar solo.
Tip #4: Learn This ‘Lick’
This tip is very important, and one that can be a lot of fun.
There’s a little guitar riff – or lick – using the Minor Pentatonic Scale that will boost your solos and make them much better. It’s more popularly known as Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode” lick and is a basic but effective little lick that even the pros use:
- G String: 7th fret and bend to 9.
- B String: 5
- High E String: 5
You can either pick the final two notes individually or you can play them together for a strong, heavy chord.
Start with this lick and go from there at the start of any solo and return to this little lick often. It never gets old, always sounds good, and is a reliable little riff that you’ll open with every time you pick up the guitar.
Tip #5: Explore the Notes Outside the Minor Pentatonic Scale
This tip is not exactly for beginners, but I do think it is valuable to keep it in the back of your mind.
As someone who is new to guitar solos, you definitely want to stick to Minor Pentatonic Scale and get comfortable with it. However, as you explore the scale in different places of the neck and get really comfortable with it – it’s time to get to the next level.
See, all great guitar players “break the rules” and include odd notes to their solos. The real truth is that there are really no rules in music and you are only limited by your creativity, not the notes of the scale. However, this is NOT something you should start doing as a beginner.
Tip #6: Hit the Wrong Note? Pretend it was Planned!
Don’t worry. If you’re in the middle of a solo and you play the wrong note, don’t stop. Stay confident. Keep on playing and pretend everything was planned. This way a “wrong” note becomes an “exotic flavor” to your solo.
Here is a great tip that will help you overcome the fear of playing wrong notes in front of a crowd. If you accidentally hit one – bend it up to the right note! (Usually a slight half-step bend is enough.)
This is a trick I learned from watching Slash performing live and it works (and sounds) just awesome. Besides, this simple trick will make you feel less stressed and play more confidently.
Tip #7: Try Your Favorites
If you’re a beginner, it’s important to have some fun, and that means trying to play your favorite solos.
There’s probably a reason you are learning to play guitar solos, whether it be Slash, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, B.B. King, or more. So, try your hand at some of the greatest guitar solos ever.
Learning your favorite solos will keep you excited as you go through the tough process of learning and it’s gratifying to see a solo you love come together at your fingertips. By playing songs you are familiar with, this is also a great way to practice your timing, bending, and figuring out where certain songs land on the fretboard.
A few famous guitar solos for beginners that you will recognize are:
- “Hotel California” by the Eagles
- “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton
- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
- “Let It Be” by The Beatles
- “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd
- “Black Magic Woman” by Santana
There are tons more lifesaving solo tips out there to help you learn how to become a master guitar soloist. There are no wrong or right to becoming a great musician, and the best thing about playing guitar is that there are no rules.
Some people learn to guitar solo by doing it over and over again with a backing track, while other people like to read lots of stuff as they begin. Whatever it is that helps you, just go out there and have some fun with it.