Solo Techniques (Guitar Lesson)


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Matt Brown

Solo Techniques

In this lesson, Matt will shows you different techniques used in improvised solos, including: octaves, chromatic escape licks, and repeating licks.

Taught by Matt Brown in Rock Guitar with Matt Brown seriesLength: 12:51Difficulty: 3.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (5:19) Introduction/Octaves Here are some common rock and roll techniques that can add some extra spice to your solos. Various techniques such as bending, playing octaves, and pinch harmonics each provide a unique texture. If you stay with one texture the whole time, the solo will usually sound stagnant. Blending these different techniques or textures tends to keep things interesting for both the listener and the player.

Octaves
On the guitar, a note's higher octave can be found two strings away. The higher of the two notes is two frets up the neck. There are two exceptions to this rule. In the case of the fourth and second string, as well as the third and first string, the higher note is three frets up. Simply play the two strings simultaneously while muting the string between them.

Playing any melody line in octaves has many great advantages. Playing octaves can fatten up the sound by giving it a simultaneous rhythmic/melodic feel. Octaves have a contrasting texture to single note lines. As a result, switching from a single note line to octaves can take a solo in a totally new, fresh direction.

This technique was originally exploited to great effect by jazz great Wes Montgomery. Listen to any of his recordings for countless examples of stellar octave use. Notice how he applies this technique when playing the melody, soloing, and occasionally while accompanying.
Here are some more examples of octave use in a solo:
"My Friends" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Dave Navarro)

"Third Stone from the Sun" by Jimi Hendrix

"H" by Tool (Adam Jones)
Chapter 2: (5:07) Chromatic Escape Licks Start with a short lick in any tonality. Repeat the lick while ascending or descending by a fret at a time. Eventually you'll hit a point on the fretboard where the lick is within the scale once again. This technique is one method that falls under the broad category of "outside playing." Playing within a scale, then briefly stepping outside, and finally returning to it is what is referred to as outside playing. This technique, when used sparsely, can add some extra melodic interest to a solo. Outside notes are points of tension that grab the listener's attention. This is because they shatter the ear's expectations. The listener gets used to hearing material in one tonality. Once the performer steps outside the tonality, it comes as a surprise to the ears. Keep in mind, this can be a good or a bad surprise depending on how it's pulled off! Guitarist Marty Friedman once compared this technique to hanging out in a bad neighborhood. It's really exciting at first, but if you stay there too long, you're bound to get shot! The same is true of playing a solo. Don't linger too long in one spot.

Note: Click the "Supplemental Content" tab for several examples of chromatic escape licks.
Chapter 3: (2:25) Repeating Licks This technique can be applied in two different ways.
1. Come up with a catchy, short lick. Repeat the lick in a different octave (higher or lower).

2. Play a repeating lick (in the same octave) as the chords in the progression continue to change. This is a technique jazz players commonly refer to as "riffing." The lick remains constant, but the way it sounds in relation to the chords is constantly changing.
The challenge to this technique is that the lick must work over each chord. For this reason, it is best to keep repeated licks short and simple. Mastering this technique can provide yet another highlighted point of interest in your solo.

Note: Click the "Supplemental Content" tab for several examples of repeating licks.

Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


midlifemidlife replied on May 28th, 2013

Good example of octaves is Jeff Hanneman's (RIP) cool lick in the intro to Seasons in the Abyss.

mattbrownmattbrown replied on May 29th, 2013

Yeah...He played so many mean solos. His playing is great to study if you want your lead ideas to sound a little more 'outside'. I really like some of Dave Navarro's solos on RHCP's One Hot Minute album. Songs like "My Friends" and "Tearjerker" have great solos with octaves. Nirvana's "Breed" is a good one too. I'm not a big jazz fan, but Wes Montgomery was the master of using octaves.

SodaPopSodaPop replied on March 23rd, 2013

ideas i need ty

mattbrownmattbrown replied on March 26th, 2013

No problem! Glad this was useful. There are a lot more ideas regarding improvised / written solos in the lessons ahead...

patrakis2patrakis2 replied on May 11th, 2010

these lessons are great because it helps me sould less bluesy and a little more ballsy. good tips, please keep em comin

mattbrownmattbrown replied on May 17th, 2010

Glad to hear it! I'll be filming some new rock lessons in about a month. Stay tuned!

kupiakupia replied on May 22nd, 2009

you should teach putting holes in happiness,its a great song. hail Manson!=D

mattbrownmattbrown replied on September 26th, 2008

It should be in there. Some of the examples that I just improvised with quickly are not in the supplemental content though.

kumarkkumark replied on May 19th, 2008

Is it me or we cant see the supplemental content for this lesson?

Rock Guitar with Matt Brown

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Chuck Berry among others pioneered the style of rock and roll in the 1950's. Today, rock and roll remains the most popular genre of music. Over the years the genre has progressed & spawned many sub-genres: soft rock, classic rock, punk rock, and more. Dive into this Phase 2 set of lessons to become a master of rock.



Lesson 1

Proper Practicing

Learn how to get the most out of your time when practicing.

Length: 29:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Introduction to Lead

Matt Brown discusses some of the fundamentals to playing lead.

Length: 15:41 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Figuring Out Notes

Matt shows you the basics of figuring out any note on the guitar.

Length: 7:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Scales

Learn the basic minor, natural, and major scales. Quite a few techniques & ideas start with scales - they're an essential building block.

Length: 34:15 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Major Scales

In this lesson, Matt takes you through the major scales & helps you to understand how they can be used.

Length: 20:25 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Natural Minor Scales

Matt teaches the most common natural minor scale patterns.

Length: 13:24 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Bending

Learn & master the most popular types of bends.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

Sweep Picking & Rakes

Learn sweep picking and string rakes.

Length: 18:36 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Solo Techniques

Learn various techniques to use when improvising / soloing.

Length: 12:51 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Tuning Down

Matt explains the most effective way to tune your guitar down.

Length: 7:18 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

Barre Chords

Learn how to establish finger independence and a few tips and tricks with barre chords.

Length: 37:18 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Rock Licks

In this lesson, Matt Brown introduces a rock lick and shows how several famous players have modified it.

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

Rock Sequences

In this lesson Matt teaches some crucial rock sequences. He also explains how these sequences can be integrated in to your playing.

Length: 34:52 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

String Skipping

Matt Brown focuses on string skipping technique. He provides several exercises designed to improve this aspect of your playing.

Length: 33:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Intervals

Lesson 15 in Matt's rock series is all about intervals.

Length: 34:47 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Rock Lead Guitar

Matt Brown demonstrates lead guitar techniques using Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" as an example.

Length: 29:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Solo Using Diatonic Scales

Matt Brown explains which scales can be used when playing a solo over a diatonic progression in a major key. As an example, he teaches the solo section to Candlebox's song "Far Behind."

Length: 33:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

Diatonic Natural Minor

This lesson covers the natural minor scale and diatonic natural minor progressions. Matt uses the solo section to "Stairway to Heaven" as an example.

Length: 24:55 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 19 Matt provides instruction on developing right hand skills including string skipping.

Length: 26:38 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Non-Diatonic Progressions

In lesson 20, Matt discusses chord progressions that don't follow a diatonic tonality.

Length: 29:07 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Harmonic Minor

Matt begins to discuss and demonstrate the harmonic minor scale.

Length: 29:46 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Improvising Over Harmonic Minor

In lesson 22, Matt continues his discussion of the harmonic minor tonality.

Length: 14:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

Sweet Child O' Mine

In lesson 23, Matt takes a look at the solo section for the song "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Length: 19:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 24

Today

Matt will be taking a look at the solo section from the live version of the Smashing Pumpkins song "Today".

Length: 7:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 25

Back In Black Solo

Matt Brown reviews and discusses the solo section to AC/DC's hit "Back In Black".

Length: 9:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Brother

In lesson 26, Matt covers the solo section from the Alice in Chains song "Brother".

Length: 9:42 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Matt's Rock Manifesto

Matt Brown discusses lead guitarists, what makes a good solo, and tips for your own lead playing.

Length: 41:06 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 28

Legato Playing Exercises

Matt Brown teaches a number of exercises aimed at improving your legato playing technique.

Length: 37:16 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Right Hand Exercises

Matt Brown demonstrates a few exercises to build skill and speed in your right hand.

Length: 15:06 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

String Skipping Etude

Matt Brown teaches Heitor Villa-Lobos' 1st Etude as a lesson in string skipping.

Length: 38:47 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

Three Octave Scales

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play three octave versions of the minor pentatonic and the major scales in all 12 keys.

Length: 16:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

Diatonic Intervals

Matt Brown demonstrates how to play all seven of the diatonic intervals within the framework of a horizontal major scale.

Length: 23:01 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33

Diatonic 7th Arpeggios

Matt Brown discuss diatonic arpeggios as a theory lesson as well as demonstrating the technique.

Length: 9:55 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 34

Diatonic 7ths Across the Neck

Matt Brown explains how to play the diatonic seventh chords of the major scale. Similar to lesson 32, this lesson takes a horizontal approach to the fretboard.

Length: 10:46 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 35

Solo Ideas #1

Matt Brown teaches a progression and accompanying solo to demonstrate ideas for creating your own.

Length: 21:34 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 36

Solo Ideas #2

Matt Brown takes a look at another chord progression and solo.

Length: 17:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Legato Playing Ideas

In lesson 37 of the Rock Series, Matt Brown demonstrates and talks about legato playing ideas.

Length: 21:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Rhythm Concepts

Matt Brown switches gears in lesson 38 to start talking about rhythm concepts for rock playing.

Length: 27:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 39

Compositional Techniques

Matt Brown discusses some often used techniques to build effective rock compositions.

Length: 17:27 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 40

Creative Chord Voicings

Matt Brown shows off some ways to add some creativity and originality to your rock chord voicings.

Length: 11:59 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 41

Lead Approach

Matt Brown takes another look at his approach to soloing. He demonstrates ideas you can use in your own playing.

Length: 12:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 42

Lead Approach #2

Matt Brown adds practice to his lead approach by giving you another chord progression to solo over.

Length: 7:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 43

Lead Approach #3

Matt Brown has another chord progression and solo exercise to go over in this lesson on lead approach.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

String Skipping Revisited

Matt Brown takes another look at string skipping. He breaks down some key areas of Matteo Carcassi's Allegro as an exercise.

Length: 16:29 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Matt Brown View Full Biography Matt Brown began playing the guitar at the age of 11. "It was a rule in my family to learn and play an instrument for at least two years. I had been introduced to a lot of great music at the time by friends and their older siblings. I was really into bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains, and Smashing Pumpkins, so the decision to pick up the guitar came pretty easily."

Matt's musical training has always followed a very structured path. He began studying the guitar with Dayton, Ohio guitar great Danny Voris. I began learning scales, chords, and basic songs like any other guitarist. After breaking his left wrist after playing for only a year, Matt began to study music theory in great detail. I wanted to keep going with my lessons, but I obviously couldn't play at all. Danny basically gave me the equivalent of a freshman year music theory course in the span of two months. These months proved to have a huge impact on Brown's approach to the instrument.

Brown continued his music education at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He completed a degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2002. While at Capital, he also studied jazz guitar and recording techniques in great detail. "I've never had any desire to perform jazz music. Its lack of relevance to modern culture has always turned me off. However, nothing will improve your chops more than studying this music."

Matt Brown currently resides in Dayton, Ohio. He teaches lessons locally as well as at Capital University's Community Music School. Matt's recent projects include writing and recording with his new, as of yet nameless band as well as the formation of a cover band called The Dirty Cunnies.

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