Tips on how to create better guitar solos
Danny Masters here with an on-line guitar lesson to help aspiring soloists to create better solos. If you don't have a great deal of theory knowledge but want to learn how to make a more musical and melodic lead, a good place to start is the 12 bar blues.
One of the key skills of an effective soloist is TARGETING. I am going to assume that you know a basic blues boogie pattern. If you don't know what that is you can check out "Stone Cold Blues" off of my C.D. "Till The Moon Goes Away". The basic riff is a souped-up 12 bar blues in A. Also a slower example of the boogie pattern is the slow intro part to "Bring It On Home" off of Led Zeppelin II.
However that pattern is in E and the first chord riff is extremely elongated through repetition. If we are in A as in "Stone Cold Blues" the first 4 bars or measures outline the A7 chord. That will be called the I chord (Roman Numeral System) from here on out.
Bars 5 & 6 outline a D7 chord, the IV chord in the key of A. (D is the fourth note of an A major scale and D7 is a chromatically altered chord starting on that note. This gives D7 the bluesy sound as opposed to D major 7 which naturally occurs in A major)
Bars 7&8 return to the I chord.
Bar 9 is an E7 or V chord.
Bar 10 is the IV chord.
Bar 11 is the I chord.
Bar 12 is the V chord which turns the progression around to the beginning.
Knowing when the chords change and addressing those changes is a very important skill. As Joe Pass said "When the chords change, so should you". This is targeting. If you play an A minor blues scale over those three chords in that progression you can sound pretty decent assuming you have absorbed the feel of rock/blues /jazz or county through listening. It is thrilling for a new guitarist to make music this way. It is also relatively easy. After awhile it starts to sound lack-luster and guitarists start wondering why they don't really sound like they know what the are doing. The reason is that the notes in this scale need to be adjusted as the chords change. This requires careful listening to how each note of the scale really sounds over each chord.
For instance the note C (5th fret/ g string) sounds tense over the I chord but it sounds resolved over the IV chord and it sounds very tense over the V chord. The reason for this can be understood by analyzing the chord which is in effect being created by the C note.
The notes in an A7 chord are as follows: A is the root, C# is the third, E is the fifth, and G is the flat seventh. So the note C is actually analyzed on paper as a B# creating the overall harmony A7#9. This is a very cool chord. The sound is used as the primary chord in Hendrix's "Purple Haze", "Foxey Lady", and "Voodoo Chile". It creates a color that can sound at rest or in another context like a ii/V/I in jazz can make the V chord to push to the I. Over the IV chord, the C note is found in the chord. This is why the note sounds resolved.
The notes of a D7 chord are as follows: D is the root, F# is the third, A is the fifth and C is the flat seventh. The notes of E7 are as follows: E is the root, G# is the third, B is the fifth and D is the flat seventh. The C note now sounds like a B# which creates the overall harmony of an E7#5. This is called an altered dominant and may be too tense for a melodic blues sound. In lay terms it may sound like a mistake if not played with conviction. This is why targeting helps create a controlled lead line.
When you get to the last note of a solo phrase land on a chord tone. The third and flat seventh are especially desired. These notes aren't always in the A minor blues scale which is exactly the sound you are going to want to find.
Learn where the chord tones are in the fifth fret area and play out of the blues scale into those target notes when the chords change. Start off playing 2-5 note phrases slowly and listen to how the third and seventh of each chord impact you solo.
Compare the notes of each chord to the blues scale (A,C,D,Eb,E and G). The altered sounds are great once you can target the chord tones and purposefully add #5,#9,b5,and b9 to the framework of the basics. You can try playing melodic minor modes once you want to transcend the basic blues sound.
On "Floyd Hill" off of my latest C.D. "Keepers of the Time" I used A Lydian dominant (A,B,C#,D#,E F# and G) over a rocked out A7 boogie pattern and an A Melodic minor scale over D7. This along with the A minor blues scale will give you a more jazz-rock fusion sound.
Hope this is helpful. Till next time- Danny Masters
"...the blues appealed to me, but so did rock. The early rockabilly guitarists like Cliff Gallup and Scotty Moore were just as important to me as the blues guitarists..." - Jimmy Page / Yardbirds / Led Zepplin