Getting your 6 riffs: Pick your top 3 lead guitarists, then pick a favorite solo from each. Learn each solo, not just how to play it, but what key it’s in, and the scale positions used. Then pick your 2 favorite riffs from each solo and practice those riffs in all 12 keys using whatever scale position the riff was in. You now have a collection of 6 riffs that reflect your tastes and, more important, nobody else has! ( They might share a couple, but nobody will have the same 6 riffs). Along with a scale pattern or two, these 6 riffs will be the foundation of your soloing style.
Simple, isn’t it! No? You have questions? Most people do, here are the most common…
- How do I figure out these solos? I generally figure out the solos for my students, but I’m not here! Solo transcription is tough (most people never get it). You can use commercially available tabs, guitar transcription software like Guitar Pro, or give up and hire somebody like me. If there is an “official” tab version, buy that. Don’t waste your time with somebody’s free tab, you’re putting in too much effort! Whichever way you learn, work out the scale positions used (what shapes are your fingers playing?). Analyze the key (It’s better to get this from the chords than the key signature). You can jam with these new riffs in different keys, to make sure you’ve analyzed the key/position correctly. Obviously you will need to know all 5 scale positions and it would be nice to know how to analyze keys using chords. This gives me another chance to shamelessly plug my book “Take Control: for guitar” available on Amazon! There, you will find all of this info, plus lists of all the chords/keys for the truly lazy.
- Does it have to be 3 guitarists? No! Other instruments are fine, if you can figure them out and play them. 3 guitarists is an arbitrary number for both guitarists and solos. Stick to 6 riffs for now, this hard enough to get down!
- This sounds too mechanical, where’s the art? True improvisation happens when you can play what you hear in your mind. This will begin to happen as you internalize your scales. Singing along with your scales and riffs, trying to match them exactly helps. Still, many guitarists never get past the riff stage of playing and do just fine. Sounding a bit mechanical beats sucking in my opinion!
Jamming is where you learn how to turn your 6 riffs/patterns into a smoothly flowing solo style. By jamming over different songs and chord progressions you can try out your riffs at different tempos, keys, and feels(blues vs. rock). You will find that different riffs work better for different songs, some combinations work better than others, and that you have to vary the rhythm of the riff to fit the tempo and feel. At first your solos will sound like clumsily strung together riffs, but as you keep jamming you will begin to relax and sound smoother. Remember at first jamming is like a self help session! It takes a lot of time and effort to be a decent lead player. If you’re on a 20 minute a day routine with an hour or two jamming on weekends, you need to be realistic. Don’t pick long, difficult solos for now; stay easy and settle in for the journey. If this was easy, everybody could do it, (and nobody would care)!