How To Teach Creative Guitar Soloing Techniques

By: Roy Fulton

RGT Guitar Tutor Roy FultonIn this article, performer and RGT Guitar Tutor Roy Fulton explains how he finds using analogies helpful when teaching students to improvise.

As an electric guitar teacher, a common question I get from new students is “how do you go from practising scales to playing guitar solos.”

Often I get students coming to me who can already whizz up and down scales – so dexterity and general ‘hand acrobatics’ are not a problem.

More often than not, it’s not the actual physical ‘doing’ that is the problem, but the thinking behind it.

It is with this in mind that I have developed the following approach to teaching improvisation.


Teach Creative Guitar Soloing Tips

I begin by describing the art of the guitar solo as akin to the art of story telling. There are many comparisons that can be made between the two.

Below are a few analogies that I regularly use when teaching. These have proved effective, and students of all ages seem to find them easy to relate to.

When telling a story, if someone constantly shouts at you, it soon gets sore on your ears. Likewise, if you constantly play in an extreme and manic way, it has the same effect.

At the other end of the spectrum, if someone constantly whispers it can becomes tiring and boring. Likewise, if you constantly play soft and quietly; you could soon find your listeners falling asleep!

A good story teller will use these two extremes, and all the range in-between. I then explain how in music we call this ‘dynamics’: using dynamics keeps the listeners interested, because the whole piece is not monotone – it has light and shade.

I then explain to students that if I started talking and I didn’t use full stops comas question marks or any other means to break the conversation up you would soon shout enough is enough.

I use this technique to stress the point that, just as in conversation, you need ‘natural breaks’ (i.e.phrasing) in a guitar solo. If you constantly bombard the listener with note after note, they will soon shout ‘enough’!

If you wander aimlessly while telling a story, the listener will become confused, and will quickly switch off.

You need a plot, or at least a coherent sequence, to your story. Similarly, without a certain amount of repetition, you can end up wandering blindly around the neck of the guitar.

I explain to students that the ‘plot’ in a guitar solo is called a ‘Motif’: play a phrase; maybe play it again; change it slightly; add something to it; maybe take something away from it.

Just like verbal accents, ’emphasis’ on a note can also be used to create a musical statement. Stressing a selected note can change the whole ‘feel’ of a phrase. This process of selection and emphasis is extremely powerful.

How a word is stated to a person can imply different feelings. A simple word like ‘no’ can be said in so many ways: with regret, anger, worry, etc.

The delivery of the word is as important as the word itself. In fact, in many ways, the word is only a ‘carrier’ for the feeling to be expressed.

This analogy leads me to ‘expression’. I explain how guitarists use various techniques for expression.

These include bends, slides, vibrato, hammer-ons, pull-offs, muting, etc. All of these specialist techniques are really just vehicles for our expression.

In summary, a good guitar solo will, just like a good story, contain dynamics, phrasing, structure, emphasis and expression.

By using this way of explaining improvisation I aim to encourage my students to discover new ways of constructing guitar solos, or at the very least, make them stop and think about what they are playing.

Hopefully they’ll soon realise that ‘scales are for learning – not for playing’.


Do you have a favorite way of how to teach creative guitar soloing techniques? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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