Writing a guitar solo is an inherently creative process that does not abide by strict rules. That being said, it still helps to choose a few concepts (‘ground rules’) or basic ideas before you start writing a guitar solo. Here’s an inspiration list of 5 (with examples). Clicking on the image will lead you to the youtube video. Let me know if there’s one that made your guitar solo better!
TIP 1 | 'Wait For It' ... (a.k.a. Don't Start On Beat 1)
I know you can’t wait to play that guitar solo. “The band only gave you eight bars to do your thing.” But try waiting a beat before you engage! This helps to weave your solo into the groove of the song. The effect can be significant! The late J.J. Cale was a master at this.
The example above is bar 3 from my Intense Melodic Solo in A minor. When the solo starts, I skip the first beat. There’s nothing as powerful as a little bit of unexpected silence!
TIP 2 | Repeat In Octaves
A great lick is worth repeating! But instead of repeating it identically, play it an octave higher the second time. This adds energy to your guitar solo and gives the audience the sense that you really know what you’re doing 😉
TIP 3 | Play A Pedal Tone Lick
Everybody loves a pedal tone lick! This concept stems from classical music (e.g., Bach) and translates beautifully to guitar. The basic idea is to develop a lick or motif, while continuing to reference a bass note (=pedal), mostly the tonic.
TIP 4 | Target The Third
When writing a solo, playing chord tones will embolden your solo and lock it to the underlying harmony. Especially the third of a chord has a strong ‘color’ to the ear of the listener.
TIP 5 | Start with a 5th interval
At the start of my 80s rock solo (after a pickup), I play a perfect fifth in bar 1. But don’t overdo these big intervals. Big intervals are best followed by smaller ones to stay melodic.