One of the best ways to learn how to play killer guitar solos is to study the vocal techniques and phrasing of great singers. Most guitarists never do this and instead focus only on playing fast, learning new guitar licks or playing mindlessly through memorized scale patterns. By giving your guitar solos a vocal-like quality, you will develop a great soloing technique for adding tons of emotion into your playing.
One of the most underrated, great metal singers is King Diamond. Whether or not you are a fan of metal music (or of Kind Diamond's music specifically), you can learn MASSIVE amounts of valuable information from him to improve your guitar solos.
Here are 4 ways you can use King Diamond’s vocal style to greatly improve your ability to write killer guitar solos:
1. Grab Attention With The Very First Note Of Your Guitar Solo
The quickest way to grab the attention of anyone listening to you play guitar is to make the very first note of your solo sound awesome. King Diamond is great at this, and knows exactly how to draw people in as soon as he begins singing a phrase.
Check out 34:39 in this Facebook post to see just one (of many) examples of him doing this:
To apply this to your guitar solos, practice playing one and ONLY one note. Make it sound as expressive as you can. This will be much harder to do well than you think (until you try it) and it will expose the weaknesses in your guitar phrasing that must be improved to enable you to play killer guitar solos.
To make your one note sound as awesome as possible, use different ways to apply vibrato, string bends, slides, string rakes, pinch harmonics, double stops, and any combinations of these techniques. See several examples of how to do this in the video below:
2. Learn To Create Super-Tight Lead Guitar Harmonies
Another element of vocal phrasing that will help you play killer guitar solos is using tight harmonies (2 or more melodies being played at the same time). Adding a harmony underneath (or above) the main guitar solo melody adds a new layer of emotion to your music and sounds totally badass. King Diamond is a master of using this technique in his singing style. One of the elements that make his harmonies sound perfect is his ability to sync up the vibrato on the longer/sustained notes between all the parts of the harmony (check out 13:14 and 7:46-8:08 in the Facebook post above for examples).
To play totally tight harmonies in your guitar solos, you must carefully match the phrasing of the original melody with the phrasing of the melody that is harmonizing it. This is especially important for vibrato. You must begin the vibrato in all parts of the harmony at the exact same time and apply it in the same way (wide, subtle, fast, slow, instant, delayed, etc.).
Look at the tablature below to see (and hear) a harmony containing two guitar parts. Pay close attention to how both parts use consistent vibrato to play the last two notes of the phrase:
Now, listen to this sloppy version of the harmony. (Note: make sure to listen in headphones!) Notice how the vibrato is NOT consistent in this version (it is played one way in the left speaker and another way in the right speaker).
You can hear countless examples of tight harmonies with consistent vibrato being sung by King Diamond in the Facebook post above (one of my favorites is the part beginning at 8:35).
3. Create Truly Memorable Guitar Solo Phrases Instead Of Just Playing Fast
Unlike many guitarists who mindlessly run up and down the fretboard while soloing, great vocalists such as King Diamond do not waste a single note. Since singers cannot sing as fast as guitarists can play, they really have no choice but to put as much emotion as possible into each note. THIS is the key to creating music that is powerful and memorable for the listener (hear examples at 17:39–17:52 and 35:36–35:50 in the Facebook post above). Great/emotional phrasing always sounds great (no matter if played fast or slow). On the other hand, guitar solos with poor phrasing always sound bad (no matter if played fast or slow).
To begin playing more memorable guitar solo phrases, follow these steps:
Pick 3-5 very short phrases (3-6 notes long) in any one of the King Diamond songs from the Facebook post mentioned earlier and transcribe the pitches. Use your ear as much as possible (and use your guitar to help out, if necessary).
After you transcribed the notes, focus on imitating King Diamond’s phrasing nuances (focusing specifically on vibrato, rhythm and emotional bends). Try to imitate them as perfectly as possible, using your guitar to match every nuance and squeeze every drop of emotion from each note.
- Finally, create several variations of the phrases you transcribed. Use different notes and different phrasing techniques to come up with your own highly expressive guitar licks. Get ideas for how to do this in this free guide to playing emotional guitar licks and solos.
4. Fill Your Guitar Solos With Gripping Tension Using Relentless & Repeating Rhythm
Average guitarists think only about the pitches they play in guitar solos. Good guitarists also think about the phrasing of the notes (how the notes are played). GREAT guitarists also pay close attention to the rhythm of the notes in their solos. You can learn how to do this by listening to great singers. In the King Diamond video I posted about on Facebook, listen at 23:44 to hear a slow, repeating rhythm in his vocal line. This rhythm helps to build lots of tension leading into the climax of the phrase.
To give your guitar solos this same level of tension, pay attention to the rhythms you use in your guitar licks and don’t take this musical element for granted.
To get used to this, do the following:
Improvise a short and simple phrase (no more than 8 notes long). Do not play anything fast or difficult.
Create 10-20 variations on this phrase by only varying the rhythm. Keep all the pitches the same!
- Create more new phrases (short and simple ones) and repeat step 2 with each one.
This process will greatly help you with building awareness of rhythm in your guitar solos.
You now know how much there is to learn from applying King Diamond’s (and other singers’) vocal phrasing into your guitar solos. The next step for you is to learn to apply these concepts to actually make your guitar solos improve. To learn how to do this, watch this free video on how to write amazing guitar solos.