- Learning solos and fills: The last post covered chord transcription, this post will focus more specifically on the melodic stuff; solos and fills. Transcribing lead solos is hard work, most musicians never get this down. It’s easier to use tabs, videos, sheet music or note detection software. Learning solos is still a good skill to develop; it will make you more independent and improve your ability to hear notes and play them. Here are some tips:
- Start easy! This may seem obvious, but don’t start with a 5 minute long masterpiece that will take 10 pages to write out. Pick short, not too fast, easy to hear solos to begin with. You can move up later.
- Cheat! A phrase trainer will slow solos down to half speed without changing pitch. They also allow you to loop a phrase over and over until you get it. Tascam sells one for CD’s and there are apps, (Tempo Slow). Look up “phrase trainer”, and see what pops up.
- Don’t assume the key! Sometimes solos are in a different key than the rest of the song, it makes them stand out. Always figure out the chords and key for the solo section before you start on the notes. (This will not be a problem for easy songs).
- You can often find fills in the scale notes around the chord a fill is played over. If the fill is over an A chord, just play the notes in that chord along with any other scale notes around it.
- Take it in small bits. You can’t learn a 20 note phrase. Split it into 4 or 5 note sections and learn those. You wouldn’t be intimidated by a 4 note lead solo! This is where the looping feature of a phrase trainer comes in handy. A fast 20 note riff might seem impossible, but a half speed 4 note chunk of it not so much.
You really develop concentration skills when learning to transcribe. You have to blot out everything that went on before and focus only on those few notes. Sometimes when I’m in the middle of transcribing a solo, a student will ask me about some riff 3 seconds before and I have no idea! My book “Take Control: for guitar” has a more in depth look at figuring out songs and analyzing for the key. It’s available on Amazon and you knew that plug was coming!