For the beginner guitarist, learning to play solos can be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. They is to understand you are playing music. If it sounds good to you, then you are going in the right direction. If it doesn’t good? Try something different.
Time needed: 5 minutes.
Steps to Play Guitar Solos for Beginners
- Learn the chords to the song
This may seem obvious but it is important. When soloing you want know what chord you are playing over.
When in doubt for a solo, play the notes from the chords.
- Learn the key of the song
Your solo is going to be based on the key of the song. Generally, in rock music, the first chord is going to be the key. Notice I said “generally,” there are exceptions to the rule.
To really know the key of a song, you have to take all of the chords and decide what key they best fit in. This can be tricky when there aren’t too many chords. One famous confusion is “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynrd. The chords are D, C, G. These chords all are in the key of G but can also be in the key of D. Ed King, who played lead guitar on the song, played his solo in D. When Steve Gaines joined the band, he played the solo in G.
If you are not sure of the key you can always look at the sheet music or a site like ultimate-guitar.com.
- Learn the melody
Just to make sure you understand, the melody is the notes the singer hits. Or tries to hit. The best way to learn this is to hum the melody and then try to match on your guitar. Again, if you can read music, you can on sheet music if it is available.
Why learn the melody? First of all, you know the melody notes work in the song. Second, playing the melody catches the listeners ear – they recognize those notes.
Playing the straight melody can be your entire solo! Curt Cobain of Nirvana did this along with many others. But if you want to be a little more original, just use parts of the melody at the beginning, end or throughout your solo.
- Pick a scale
Different genres of music have preferred scales. There are no rules, it is just a generalization – country – major pentatonic, blues – minor pentatonic/blues scale, classic rock – blues scale and minor pentatonic, metal – major scale, aeolian, any really!
Some guitarist (me!) always start with a pentatonic scale and work from there. As you come more advanced, you will have a larger arsenal to choose from.
With the first four steps, you are finding where you are. Now it is time to see what sounds and feels the best. Play something. If the first chord is G – then play a “g” note and go from there.
It is not about playing as many notes as possible. Sometimes a one note solo is fine – ala Cinnamon Girl!
- Revise and repeat
Your first attempt may not be that great. That’s ok, now you know what didn’t work. Try something else. Guitar solos are your way of expressing yourself. You may play the same solo differently depending on your mood. More than anything – have fun.
Keep on Picking!