Playing a single note with lots of emotion is great…but if you want to turn your guitar solos into an avalanche of musical expression, you must go deeper to control the emotion in every note of every lick you play.
Note: To understand everything in this article, it’s critical for you to have read part 3 of this series about playing emotional guitar solos. Read it now if you haven’t done so yet, before reading below.
To maximize the emotion of every guitar lick in your solos, you must observe how each note is functioning in the context of the song/chord progression it is played over. Since each note in your guitar solos has a different function (while being played over different chords), you can alter the emotional feeling of an entire lick by combining different notes together. For example, if you are playing notes B, C and E over an A minor chord, each note will function differently (B functions as the 9th, C as the 3rd and E as the 5th). If you replace the E note with an A note, not only will the A note function differently (as the root instead of the 5th), but it will alter the way the entire lick feels.
Think of it like painting with colors. When you play one note over a chord, you can only feel a single emotion (caused by that note’s particular function over that chord). However, when you combine that same note (over that same chord) with 3-4 other notes, it’s like combining different colors together on a canvas to produce many different shades of a new color. You already know that by changing just 1-2 notes in a 3-4 note lick, you create a vastly different feel for the entire lick…now you know why it happens.
To hear exactly how this sounds, check out this guitar soloing video.
To start applying this concept into your guitar solos, use the following audio samples and instructions. Note: each sample was recorded for a whole minute on purpose, to make it easier for you to do the steps below.
Step 1 - Play the audio sample for lick #1 above and strum the following chord progression over it:
C major - G major - E minor - A minor
(Strum each chord 4-8 times to give yourself enough time to identify the way each note of the lick feels over it.)
Step 2 - Identify the function of each note of the lick over each of the chords you played. This will help you to remember WHY a particular lick sounds the way that it does, so you can reproduce that same emotion in other contexts. This is infinitely more useful for you as a musician than knowing simply that “Lick X always sounds cool over Chord Y”.
If you don’t know enough music theory to do the above step, watch this video about how music theory works to get help with this.
Step 3 - Repeat steps 1 - 2 by strumming the chord progression above over the remaining three guitar licks.
Step 4 - Repeat steps 1 - 2 by strumming the following chord progressions over a specified guitar lick from above:
- Play over guitar lick #2: G major - A minor – C major - E minor
- Play over guitar lick #3: A major - G major - F major - E major
- Play over guitar lick #4: A minor - C major - G major - F major
After completing the steps above, you’ll have a much better understanding of how every note you play affects the overall emotional quality of your guitar licks. It’s important that you always pay attention to note choices in your guitar solos, so you can express the specific emotions you want to convey - rather than playing mindlessly and hoping that it will end up sounding good (like many guitarists do).
You will find it even easier to get maximum expression in your guitar solos, when you combine the above concept with using ornaments and creative phrasing nuances that turn average guitar licks into great guitar licks).
When you master the skills of making every note you play sound amazingly expressive and controlling the emotional effect each note has over the music, your guitar solos will reach the level of creativity that other guitarists will only dream about.
To get a lot more help with writing and playingemotional guitar solos, read this page with the most effective methods for creating strong emotions in your music.