Would you like to have the ability to write guitar solos that are highly melodic, expressive, and passionate? If you are like the majority, then you have a hard time making your lead guitar playing sound exactly how you want it to. A great way to solve this problem is to start listening more closely to your favorite singers. Once you can truly incorporate a singer's vocal style with your current approach to lead guitar playing, you will be able to drastically improve your ability to play great guitar passages. Here is how I totally transformed the way I play:
During the '90s I was auditioning to play guitar for a band. In the end, I didn't make it in the band, but I still have a strong memory of that day. As I was packing up my equipment to leave, the last thing I was told was this: "Don't come back until you can make your guitar sing." In that moment, I felt bad for not making the band, but to tell the truth, this statement was some of best advice I have ever received in music. Unfortunately, at that time I didn't truly understand it, and had no clue how to "make my guitar sing."
As the next few months went by, I became interested in learning all about the singers I listened to. I started to examine the way in which they sang their vocal phrases, the rhythms they used, the techniques they applied, and other subtle distinctions of their styles. Once I began to understand the characteristics specific to a singer's style, I would learn to play their vocal lines on my guitar. I found that I could identify the specific notes of their phrases without much difficulty, but bringing out the subtle parts of the singer's style in my guitar playing was a much larger task.
Later on I was exposed to the first albums from the band Rhapsody Of Fire. For me, this was a huge turning point in my guitar phrasing. At the time I was shocked by the awesome vocals of their lead singer, Fabio Lione. From the first moment I heard his voice, I knew I had to study his style as much as possible so that I could use his powerful ability as a tool in my guitar soloing. I spent many hours analyzing the subtle vocal techniques in all of Rhapsody Of Fire's music.
It didn't really matter what notes (or words) the singer was singing. What made a certain singer stand out were the subtle nuances of 'how' each note was sung. For instance, why so many fantastic vocalists use different levels of volume in their voice for a certain phrase, why they ornament some notes within a melody in a particular way and why they sing with heavy vibrato at the ends of some phrases. At the moment when I truly began to see these subtleties, I started to make massive progress with my guitar soloing ability.
A lot of you know that I was contacted in 2011 by Rhapsody Of Fire and asked to play guitar in the band. Due to my unique ability to play guitar solos with "singing" guitar phrasing, the band took a great interest in adding my guitar playing style to their music.
The ability to make your guitar solos have a "singing" style is a highly valuable concept to learn. Understanding how singers think to create their melodies will help you to become much stronger in your own musical expression. Another great part of this is that when you combine the mindset of a guitarist and a singer, you create a totally new method of creating guitar solos. This will set you apart from the other players out there who all use the same ideas.
Try this out. Listen to your most favorite singer and try to really focus on and understand all the subtleties in the way he/she sings. After you've done this, write a guitar solo while emphasizing these ideas in your guitar phrasing.
Watch this video to see an example of a solo I quickly wrote using this exact process.
Tom Hess is a professional touring guitarist and recording artist. He teaches, trains and mentors musicians from around the world.
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