Turning Techniques into Amazing Guitar Solos

Hey there guitar fanatics... you know, learning how to improvise and play solos on guitar...while it's one of the most crazy fun things I can think of, I realize it can also be pretty daunting. Sometimes learning guitar seems like a non-stop barrage of MORE; more scales, more arpeggios, more sequences and exercises. Sometimes you just start feeling like you're caught on a hamster wheel -you're running and running to learn more stuff.

But the #1 guitar soloing complaint I hear from students is this - “Now that I've learned all these techniques how do I turn them into actual guitar solos?” So, what I want to talk to you about today is how to take your techniques and turn them into MAGIC – fluid, exciting, smooth sounding guitar solo ideas!!

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Mechanical Guitar Playing

The first issue we face when we've spent time learning techniques is that our playing starts to sound sort of mechanical. I'm here to tell you a LOT of the problem is in the way we learn and practice things as guitarists.

Sometimes it seems like learning something like a scale or some arpeggio shapes becomes the end goal of our playing. For some players it can almost become more important than going really deep into what we already know and making good music with it.

We can get obsessed with the mechanics of playing a scale or some arpeggios perfectly, and its so easy to turn off our creativity and just robotically run through shapes. Guitarists also tend to practice things in isolation; such as practicing scales for 15 minutes, and then arpeggios for 15 minutes etc. The real problem is we don't spend enough practice time COMBINING and INTEGRATING our various skills. Simply put, the reason it's so difficult to “put everything together” is we don't PRACTICE PUTTING THINGS TOGETHER. That may sound overly simple and obvious, but ask yourself this question: How much time have you spent in the last week or even month trying to make interesting licks by finding ways to link two different techniques together?

I'm willing to bet the answer is little or none!

Well let's learn about how to do just that – check out the full YouTube video below:

Soloing Exercises Over Chord Progressions

In the YouTube video lesson, we explore combining different technique over a simple progression of 4 chords from the key of G... Em, C, G and Am. Here are some solid strategies for you to think about and start practicing!!!!

  • Start off easy with some pentatonic scale ideas. For instance, you could play E minor pentatonic scale licks over the entire progression (Pro Tip – E minor pentatonic has the same notes as G Major pentatonic. It works over all the chords from the key of G major).
  • For an easy “level up” try the E minor blues scale over the entire progression!
  • Lastly, try to play the pentatonic scale that matches each chord. Play E minor pentatonic over the Em and G chords (remember E minor pentatonic and G major pentatonic are the same scale). Play A minor pentatonic over the Am and C chords (A minor and C major pentatonics are the same scale).

3 Note Arpeggios - Chord Triads

Let's add another technique into our mix – 3 note arpeggios called Triads! Triads sound great because we are literally playing the notes of the chord one at a time – instant guitar licks! Try these strategies with triads for an instant improvement to your soloing:

  • Start simple with playing 1 triad shape per chord
  • Level up by combining 2 triad “inversions” over each chord for a longer phrase
  • Lastly, start INTEGRATING triads and pentatonic scales. Play a triad over say the Em chord. Switch it up and play a pentatonic lick over the C and G chords. End up by going back to a triad over the Am chord!!
  • Mix things up – change the order, change where you're playing on the neck – challenge yourself and see what you can come up with!

7th Arpeggios

Let's level up again by playing another arpeggio type - 7th arpeggios! 7th arpeggios have 4 notes (and of course you can make longer licks out of them by playing them in 2 or 3 octaves). Because they have more notes, it's easier to make them sound fluid and get some speed going with them. Here are a few ideas you can try:

  • In the YouTube video here https://youtu.be/NPZRrN4LQv8 I show you how to add 1 extra note to 7th arpeggios to make them easier to play.
  • Start off getting familiar with the shapes by playing the matching 7th arpeggio for each chord.
  • As with our other ideas, start to mix things up! Try a 7th arpeggio over the Em chord. Switch to triads over the C. How about a pentatonic scale lick over the G? Finish off by using another 7th arpeggio over the Am.

Remember, it's super easy to get caught up in giving too much importance to learning individual techniques. If you want to play good guitar solos, practice COMBINING and INTEGRATING techniques. With just a few techniques and your imagination, you've got the potential for literally UNLIMITED guitar soloing ideas! Happy guitaring!!!

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