The Truth About Playing Lead Guitar With Emotion & A Proven Formula For Writing (And Improvising) Great Guitar Solos
By Tom Hess
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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Would you like a formula for playing breathtaking guitar solos on command?
Here are 3 possible reasons why you might be struggling to make your solos sound good:
Possible Reason #1: You are letting your fingers do all the creating, not your mind. This means your creativity is restricted to playing guitar licks you know.
Possible Reason #2: You don’t practice integrating (combining) your guitar skills together.
Your knowledge and skills are useless if you can’t combine them in creative ways (more on this below).
Possible Reason #3: You can’t tell (by ear) what notes sound good over chords you are playing.
You are about to learn how to overcome these limitations & play guitar solos other guitarists will envy.
Here is the proven 6-step process for playing and improvising better guitar solos:
Step #1: Identify The Specific Emotion(s) You Want To Express In Your Guitar Solo
The first step to playing a great solo is to identify the emotion you want your listeners to feel.
This clarity is the foundation for your entire guitar solo.
Without it, you can only play licks and scales over chords and hope to create something expressive.
Step #2: Transform Emotion Into Sound
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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After you determine what emotion(s) you want to express, your ears find this sound (so your hands can play it).
How can you express the emotion of intense passion?
Answer: by emphasizing the 3rd of a minor triad. What about the feeling of melancholy?
You express it by the 7th of a minor 7th chord. Other emotions are created by other sounds.
Train your ear to learn what sound is needed to express your emotion.
Step #3: Find The Notes To Express The Sound You Hear
Ok, your ears found the right sound to express your emotion.
Now you use music theory to find what notes to play on your guitar to create this sound.
To be clear:
Music theory is NOT “a set of rules” about how music works (or how music should be written).
It exists to explain and predict musical emotion… so you can express the emotions you want, any time you want - exactly the way you want.
Bottom line: invest the time to understand music theory and use it to help your creativity.
Point is: the more music theory you know, the more creative options you have.
Step #4: Find The Right Notes On Your Guitar
What’s the next step after you know what notes to play? It is: to find those notes on guitar as quickly as possible.
There is a special skill that lets you do this. It’s called: fretboard visualization.
Note: fretboard visualization is different from “memorizing note names on guitar”.
It means seeing chord, scale and arpeggio shapes in any key in any area of the guitar easily and fast.
Unfortunately, most guitarists do not practice this skill at all. That is a big reason why they struggle to play great solos.
How do you practice fretboard visualization with scales?
Question: “Tom Hess, is it better to memorize note names on the fretboard or to memorize shapes of scales, chords and arpeggios?”
Answer: Both are important, but visualizing scale/arpeggio shapes helps you play better guitar solos much faster.
Beyond shapes, it’s equally important to understand the function of notes over chords.
Watch this video to see what this means and how to practice it:
Step #5: Play The Notes On Guitar With Perfect Accuracy And Fluency
This is the step most guitarists start on (without doing steps 1-4).
So what happens?
They let their fingers run on autopilot without thinking about expressing anything.
This is why most guitar solos you hear sound robotic and lifeless.
That said, your guitar technique IS one of the keys to playing what you hear in your head.
The better your guitar technique is…
…the more accurate, consistent and reliable you become at expressing yourself in your lead guitar playing.
Step #6: Express Each Note With Maximum Emotion
Ok, so you found the right notes on guitar. And your hands can play them. What’s next?
Refine your guitar lick and play each note with the most expressive guitar phrasing possible.
Pay attention to how you play the notes & squeeze maximum emotion from each lick.
Tip: pay the most attention to the last note of each lick.
Because the last note stands out the most to the listener’s ear.
This means they remember it the most. The better the last note of your lick sounds, the better your playing (and soloing) sounds to your listeners.
Want to see and hear how to make every note you play drip with emotion? Download this free eBook about playing emotional guitar licks and solos & start playing guitar licks that impress everyone who hears you play.
Bonus tip: study (and transcribe) the vocal parts of your favorite singers. Good singers are masters of expressing themselves with only a few notes.
The Key Difference Between Master Guitar Players And Everyone Else:
Master guitar players can do these 6 steps in a fraction of a second (for every lick in their guitar solo).
Most guitar players either skip some of the steps or struggle to go through them quickly enough.
To become a truly great improviser, work on mastering all 6 steps of the creative process as quickly as possible.
If one element is lagging, focus on it like a laser to make it better.
Over time, you reach the level of musical freedom most guitarists only dream about.
Is there a shortcut to going through this process?
Work with a guitar teacher who has already helped other people play guitar the way you want to play. This saves you years (or decades) of frustration from figuring it out on your own.
Disclaimer: You may know that I teach guitar online. But I don’t care if you study guitar with me or someone else. My advice for you is to find any teacher you trust and go all-in to study with him/her :)
The next step to playing better guitar solos is to learn how to add fire and emotion to every note you play. To learn how, download this free eBook to learn lead guitar soloing secrets most guitar players don’t know.
About 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.Learn how to become a great guitar player by studying the best online electric guitar lessons.
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