How To Build Tension In Your Guitar Solos And Make Your Listeners Pay Attention To Every Guitar Phrase You Play

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick

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Wouldn’t it be cool to have a way to instantly pull your listener’s attention to your guitar solo like a magnet even if you don't do anything difficult or fast on your guitar?

One of the simplest (and most effective) ways of doing this is to play phrases that go against your listeners’ ‘musical expectations’. This is easier to do than you think and there are MANY ways to achieve this in your guitar solo phrasing. I will show you how to do it in the video below and help you create your own ideas using the same method in the rest of the article.

In order for you to correctly do the steps that will follow, you MUST watch the explanation of this guitar phrasing concept in this lead guitar playing video. Make sure to do this, because otherwise you won’t get any benefit from reading the rest of this article. Then (after watching the video), continue reading and I will walk you through the steps of creating such cool guitar solo phrasing ideas in your own music. Don’t read any further until you have watched the video.

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

Here are the steps for creating guitar solo phrases that will grab your listeners’ attention:

Step 1. Create a repeating phrase in 4/4 time using an even grouping of 8th or 16th notes. Play this phrase over a track with a 4/4 feel. To make this easy for you, I created a drum track in 4/4 time that you can play your phrase over.

The phrase should be a repeating melodic fragment that ‘starts over’ every 2, 4 or 8 beats (depending on the tempo of the music). TIP: to make this phrasing idea stand out more, I suggest to either use a pedal point style phrase (as shown in the above video) or ‘double pick’ every note of your guitar phrase, like this (example):

(of course you can create your own ideas also)

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Step 2. Start playing the original phrase over the 4/4 backing track, repeating it over and over several times. This step of repeating the original guitar phrasing idea is very important for 2 reasons:

  1. It establishes a more firm expectation in the ears of your listener about how the phrase will repeat next and also that the music will continue in 4/4 time (just like you saw in the video above).
  2. It makes it a lot cooler and more unexpected when you do the next step below.

Step 3. Break away from both of the listener expectations by creating a ‘3 against 4’ feel with your phrase (just like you saw demonstrated in the video above). A simple way to do this is to make the original phrase shorter so that it now fits into any time signature with ‘3’ beats per measure as you continue to play it over the backing track in 4/4. Here is how this could be done using the simple example in the tab above:

Notice that we keep the SAME note values in this variation as the original idea (just like you saw in the video demonstration). In this example, while the rest of the music will continue in 4/4 time, your shortened phrase will play against that - starting over on a different beat than the rest of the music. This creates MASSIVE musical tension that is guaranteed to grab your listeners’ attention instantly!

Step 4. If you continue repeating the shortened version of the phrase in your guitar solo, eventually it will come back to start over on the downbeat with the rest of the music (because we haven't changed the note values) and then you will have to make a choice about whether you want to:

  1. Continue playing the modified version of the phrase maintaining the ‘3 against 4’ feel.
  2. Return back to playing exactly in time with the music (starting to play the original version of your phrase).
  3. Move to a different guitar solo phrase.

Note: even though playing in this way will definitely go against your listeners’ expectations (in a cool way), staying on this idea for too long will establish a NEW set of musical patterns (expectations) for your audience. This means that if you want to maintain the same level of musical interest you cannot stay on any one guitar phrasing idea for too long (no matter how cool it is).

This concept of playing in 3 against 4 can also be used very effectively not only in guitar solo phrases but also in writing rhythm guitar riffs (in the same exact way as you have just learned). There are A LOT of ways to apply this concept into your music to become more creative and there are way more examples of this basic idea than I can fully cover here.

Now that you are familiar with the cool and innovative phrasing technique from this article, begin applying it into your playing to become a more creative guitarist and musician.

To get more help with guitar solo phrasing, get my free tips about guitar soloing.

Improve your guitar phrasing with electric guitar correspondence lessons.


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