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How To Play Guitar Solos
Master lead guitar patterns and improve your guitar technique by playing rock guitar solos.
How to learn to play a guitar solo
First off, don't get hung up on what you don't know. Just stop the music at each note and try to match it up on the guitar. After you learn a few rock guitar solos, you will learn that there are many common licks that seem to be in almost every guitar solo out there. If you think about the notes you are playing, you will start to notice how the lead guitar notes are just basically taken from the underlying chords. So you can then write or improvise your own solo very easily, just by using the common licks, and focusing on the notes you find in the scale that makes up the key of the song. Again, the "key" in general is just the notes you will find in the backing chords.
I learned all of the lead guitar theory and techniques I use on my own. I've never had a lead guitar lesson. Of course music theory is very important, and while I've had other music lessons, including basic acoustic guitar lessons, it was simply listening closely - playing by ear - and applying common sense using basic music theory that allowed me to understand lead guitar and to recognize all of the common lead guitar licks.
How can I improve as a guitarist?
Make sure you can name any note on your guitar fret board automatically, and think about them often as you play them. Guitar will make sense if you simply think about the names of the notes you are playing in relation to the notes you find in the backing chords. A lot of musicians will want you to believe it's much more complicated, but in 99% of the solos it's really not.
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Is there a secret to understanding guitar?
To me the 'secret' is basically this - name the notes you are playing, and think about how they relate to the notes in the backing chords. Lead guitar has always been based on this simple fact to me.
How to figure out guitar solos by ear
Well, I can only tell you what works for me. First, I try to figure out the chords in the song, to get a basic idea of what key I'm in. To do this, it is usually easiest to try to find a bass note or any prominent guitar note I hear coming through. The goal is to get EXACTLY in tune to the recording. Later it will make finding all the lead notes a lot easier. I find a chord or a note that holds steady for a while, and play the note along with the recording while tuning even more precisely. Then I tune my other strings while holding a chord or something along with the recording. It's basically a process of repetition until it is refined enough.
Once I am precisely in tune, I figure out all the chords in the song. If you just care about the solo, just figure out the chords behind the solo.
Of course after finding the root (bass) note, you want to check if the chord is a major or minor, then if you hear any additional notes coming through, like a 7th or something.
Then every lead guitar lick you go to figure out, just think about what chord is in the background. Go up the neck, looking for a match by trying the notes from that chord, or from other chords in the song - the notes from all the chords make up the scale you are in, if the song is strictly in key.
Then again, you also have to apply common sense. For example, a minor pentatonic blues scale over a major chord will 'break' the rules of the notes being in the underlying chord, but it will sound good because we are accustomed to hearing those type of guitar licks in rock and blues music.
But if an artist is staying strictly on a scale, soloing over the chords behind it, you will find the main notes you're looking for by considering the notes in the backing chords.
I just stop the recording at each note until I can match it up on my guitar. I by no means have 'perfect pitch' hearing. It's just something you work at until you find the note.
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