Learn How To Improvise Guitar Solos By Starting With 3 Helpful Habits

by Tom Hess

Wish you could improvise guitar solos at will that sound amazing and impress your friends?

Of course! Almost every guitarist wishes they had this power.

Here’s the good news:

This is not a skill that you either have or you don't…

… any guitar player can become great at improvising by focusing on and practicing the right things.

It all begins with setting the right habits so that your guitar improvising gets better by leaps and bounds over time.

There are 3 important habits you should consider taking on in particular in order to improvise better on guitar.

Here they are:

Learning To Improvise Guitar Solos - Habit #1: Make Phrasing A Priority

Improvising guitar solos that sound great is about more than things like memorizing licks, playing fast scales runs or playing with impressive sweep picking technique.


I’ll tell you:

These improvising approaches generally are focused on which notes you choose to play with.

This is just one aspect of playing guitar solos.

Those who are great at improvising on guitar focus on how they play the notes (in addition to which notes they play).

This is what good guitar phrasing is about and what makes your improvising sound expressive – making phrasing an important skill to learn.

Here is a simple way to practice improving your guitar phrasing right now:

Pick any 3 notes on the fretboard that you can comfortably play and repeat them over a backing track.

Next, think of 20 different ways you can repeat these notes to make them feel expressive using vibrato, bends, hammer ons, slides or any other technique and without changing the original 3 notes for 1 minute.

This helps you start developing more expressive solos quickly so you can improvise on guitar much better.

Highly Emotional Guitar Solos

Learning To Improvise Guitar Solos - Habit #2. Practice Vibrato Technique

Making your guitar improvising expressive is a breeze when you master vibrato technique. Practicing it consistently is important for making every solo you play sound musical and emotional.

Here are some ways to master guitar vibrato and use it to make your guitar improvising sound very expressive:

  1. Keep your vibrato technique in tune by bending the string up to your target pitch then release the string to match the pitch you began on. Make this a habit so you don't accidentally release it in between these two points (making it sound sloppy)
  2. Practice vibrato together to the beat of a metronome to make it rhythmically in-time with music you improvise over. For instance: Bend the string up on the first beat and release it down on the next beat or in between beats.
  3. Play emotionally impactful notes using vibrato that is fast and a whole step wide. This is a great way to release tension at the end of a fast lick or the final note of a song.

Learning To Improvise Guitar Solos - Habit #3. Try To Express Specific Emotions While Playing

Improvising guitar solos is easier and more fun when you know the specific emotions you are trying to express versus simply playing the right notes above the right chords.

Just knowing the right notes is only part of the equation.

You make your guitar solos sound more musically expressive by learning the specific emotions that specific notes create when they are played in combination with other chords.

What does this mean?

Here is an example:

The root note of a D minor chord is D. Playing this note has the effect of resolving tension and feels relaxed.

D minor also contains the notes F and A.

Trying playing an E note in a D minor chord and observe the kind of feeling this creates.

What emotion does this feel like to you?

If you are like most people, you will associate this note (a 9th over a minor chord) with a feeling of loneliness or desperation.

Play the other notes of the D minor scale slowly over the D minor chord to see what other emotions you can find. This same process works for any key and helps you develop a greater expressive vocabulary while improvising guitar solos.

Integrating these habits into your guitar playing and you quickly begin to improvise guitar solos that sound great. This is just the beginning though.

Want to learn more about how to improvise amazing guitar solos anytime you want? Learn how to do it right now by watching this guitar improvisation video.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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