How To Play Better Guitar Solos Than You Ever Imagined Possible Part 1: Using Guitar Vibrato Technique To Enhance Your Guitar Solos

by Tom Hess

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Let me ask you a question:
Do you know the one technique that makes or breaks the sound of your guitar solos?
(Hint: it has nothing to do with fast guitar playing.)

The answer is: your guitar vibrato technique.

Your lead guitar solos and licks will sound ‘average’ at best when you make these extremely common mistakes with your guitar vibrato technique:

  1. Using either no guitar vibrato technique or poor, ‘out of tune’ guitar vibrato technique throughout your solo
  2. Beginning your solo in a very ‘weak’ manner by using narrow guitar vibrato technique or no guitar vibrato technique at all
  3. Applying guitar vibrato technique in the ‘exact same way’ every time you use it to play a note

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
The Secret To Adding Fire And Emotion To Your Guitar Playing e-Book

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.

You are about to learn how to use guitar vibrato expressively to play incredible guitar solos (even if you are not an advanced guitar player yet).

But before we start, watch the video below.

It shows you how much better any guitar solo can sound once the guitar vibrato is improved:

Here is how you must practice guitar vibrato technique to improve YOUR guitar solos:

1. Keep Your Vibrato ‘In Tune’ At All Times

While applying guitar vibrato technique to a note, you must ALWAYS make sure to keep the vibrato ‘in tune’.

This is essential! If your guitar vibrato is not in tune, it will totally ruin an otherwise killer solo. Keep your guitar vibrato technique in tune by bending the string all the way up to the target pitch and returning the string back to the original pitch where you began.

For example, while applying guitar vibrato that is a ‘half step’ wide, you must bend the string so that it matches the pitch precisely one fret above the fret you are on. Then release the string so that you return to the original pitch you are playing.

Listen to the two examples below to hear the difference between perfect guitar  vibrato technique and guitar  vibrato technique that is out of tune.

Example 1 - Perfect Guitar Vibrato Technique: Hear It

Example 2 - Out Of Tune Guitar Vibrato Technique: Hear It

How To Best Apply This To Play Killer Guitar Solos Right Now:

First, decide how wide you want to make your guitar vibrato technique (the distance between the original pitch and the pitch you bend to). For example, you can make the vibrato a half step wide or a whole step wide.

Then practice applying this depth of guitar vibrato to several notes on guitar (on a variety of strings/frets), focusing on keeping it in tune as described above. It will be helpful to record your guitar playing to hear your guitar vibrato with full attention to identify which notes were perfectly in tune and which ones weren’t.

2. Make The Depth/Width Of Your Guitar Vibrato Appropriate For The Music You Play

Your guitar solos will sound weak if you ‘always’ begin them by playing the first note with either no guitar vibrato technique or guitar vibrato technique that is very narrow (less than a half step wide).

To give yourself more creative options, practice starting your guitar solos with a ‘punch in the face’ by adding heavy and wide guitar vibrato to the very first note! Using guitar vibrato that is either a half step or a whole step wide is harder to do (well) and having the ability to do it will help you to have more expression and greater variety in your phrasing.

Of course, you don’t have to ‘always’ make your vibrato as wide as possible, just make sure that you also don’t ‘always’ start the solo with little/no vibrato.

Listen to the examples below to hear the difference between narrow, wide and ‘very wide’ guitar vibrato when applied to the same pitch:

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Example 1 - Narrow Guitar Vibrato (less than a half step): Hear It

Note: Keep in mind that using narrow vibrato CAN sound good if the context is right for it.

The problem you must avoid is ‘only’ using this type of vibrato because you lack the ability to make wide vibrato sound good/in tune when the context calls for it.

Example 2 - Wide Guitar Vibrato (half step): Hear It

Example 3 - Very Wide Guitar Vibrato (whole step): Hear It

Note: Using guitar vibrato technique that is a whole step wide isn't necessarily always better than using vibrato that is a half step or less.

While applying guitar vibrato in your guitar playing, pay attention to the musical context to determine which type of vibrato is most appropriate.

For example, the advantage of wide vibrato is that it will add ‘conviction’ in contexts that demand this kind of intensity (something that narrow vibrato cannot achieve), while a more narrow/subtle vibrato is better suited for less intense musical situations.

Make sure to master both narrow and wide guitar vibrato so you can freely express yourself with the technique in any musical context.

Bonus tip:

Study your favorite singers and pay attention to how they use vibrato in their vocal melodies. Very often you can learn more about vibrato from singers than you ever could from guitar players.

How To Play Amazing Guitar Solos

How To Best Apply This To Play Killer Guitar Solos Right Now:

Step 1: Create 2-3 short guitar licks. Make sure the first note of each lick a ‘longer’ duration (such as a quarter note or half note).

Step 2: On the very first note of each guitar lick apply either a half step or whole step guitar vibrato.

Step 3: Repeat step two for each of your licks for 1-2 minutes in a row and continue consistently practicing this over the next several weeks until you have mastered this use of guitar vibrato. After doing this, it will be easy for you to apply this concept every time you begin playing a new guitar solo.

3. Apply Guitar Vibrato In A Variety Of Different Ways

There are 2 main variables to control when playing guitar vibrato technique:

1. ‘How’ the guitar vibrato technique sounds (a combination of how wide it is and how fast its pulses occur)

2. ‘When’ the guitar vibrato technique occurs on a note after the note is played.

Most guitarists use guitar vibrato technique in the exact same way in their guitar solos (either always narrow or always wide), and always apply vibrato in the exact same way every time they use it (usually applying it immediately as the note is played).

When you do this without being aware of it, your licks (and guitar vibrato) will quickly lose their novelty and will sound repetitive and predictable.

To make your guitar solos sound highly unique and creative, apply guitar vibrato in a different manner by ‘delaying’ it for a few seconds after you play a note. This will not only sound unique (compared to the common approach of applying vibrato ‘instantly’), but it will add extra musical tension to the note and sustain it for much longer.

Here is an example of how this sounds:

Example 1 - Instant Guitar Vibrato: Hear It

Example 2 - Delayed Guitar Vibrato: Hear It

To add even more variety to your soloing, delay the guitar vibrato and strike the string again to re-articulate/add extra power to the note. Here is an example of how this sounds:

Example 3 - Delayed Guitar Vibrato With Re-Articulation: Hear It

Example 4 – A short lick combining the 3 vibrato types above and varying the intensity/speed of the guitar vibrato (from very wide/fast in the beginning to very soft/slower on the final note). Hear It

How To Best Apply This To Play Killer Guitar Solos Right Now:

Choose a lick from one of your favorite guitar solos or licks and identify the notes of the lick that are held out longer.

Then record yourself playing this lick for 3 minutes while using guitar vibrato technique that is instantly applied, delayed or delayed with re-articulation.

Use as much variety as possible (apply guitar vibrato technique in different ways to different notes of the lick and keep playing for the entire 3 minutes to force yourself to think as creatively as possible.

The concepts above will help you to begin the process of transforming any ordinary guitar solo into a truly unforgettable one.

However, this is only one (out of many) ways for you to learn how to play awesome guitar solos.

Learn a powerful method for using bends to ‘shape’ your solos in the 2nd part of this article series about playing better guitar solos.

Maximize your guitar playing progress and become a better guitar player much faster.

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