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What goes through your mind when you write solos


Megadeth420247

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I can play through a few solos and all that good stuff and my friend that can solo showed me a few licks to do. So now I have a handful of licks that I can try in different places. OK that is cool.

 

Now when i try to write a solo I will turn the drum machine on my gnx3 and begin to experiment. I have the drums on so I can know when to stop. However the drums doesnt matter. I have played bass alot longer than guitar and i think that maybe all the rhythm has given me a sort of mental metronome.

 

What I mean is I try to avoid writing the notes so 'on tempo' and more solo sounding but it doesnt seem to work. Everything off beat sounds bad to me, thus making my solo writing take like 20x longer.

 

Anyhow I am curious what you all tend to have running through your mind when you write solos. Maybe I will be able to try something you all do to help me forgot my bass techniques when i play guitar.

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I have never, ever, ever been able to write a solo. I've tried. I can only play off the cuff. I can write TUNES and SONGS all day long. But I cannot write a solo. Probably because I always thought solos were improvised, so when I discovered that in some genres solos were written it threw me. I've been in rock ' roll bands where the members wanted me to "write" a solo either for live or for consistency in the studio. Never could figure out how to do that.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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Well, since you're a Megadeth fan, I'll quote your own Marty Friedman on the issue...

 

Marty said in a GP interview..."Say you've got a session with Sir Paul McCartney. He's gonna say 'Play something beautiful, mate'...he won't want to hear you say 'I've got this arpeggiated string skipping mixolydian thing'. He won't care, and no one else will, either."

 

Wise words. I tend to, as you say, write solos (and here are the key words) for the song. Does it enhance the song? Or is it a bunch of show-offy noodling? Now, don't get me wrong, there are times when show-offy noodling can be exactly what a song calls for, but, speaking of Paul McCartney, listen to his solo in "Maybe I'm Amazed" (yep, ol' Paul played the guitar solo on the original version). IMO one of the greatest guitar solos of all time. It says precisely what needs to be said, no more, no less...

 

Other solos that are masterpieces in simplicity IMO are George Harrison's solo in "Something"..."I Saw The Light" by Todd Rundgren..."Just the Way It Is, Baby" by the Rembrandts (although that one has some neat little kickers in it)...but, solos that are short, sweet, and enhance the song.

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Originally posted by Tedster the Turkey:

I tend to, as you say, write solos (and here are the key words) for the song. Does it enhance the song?

Wiser words have never been said Ted. Well maybe they have but at the moment I can't think of any.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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I find the best way is to improv until you find that perfect melodic compliment. Then I write a solo out note for note.

The trick is to find that little riff that takes the song to the next level. Once you find that riff, the solo will write itself.

I also think a solo should be essentially the same melody as the song. Some of the best solos are just a reworking of the songs main melody.

 

Since I also love to improvise (to a fault), I've also taken the route of writing the first half of a solo and letting nature finish it.

I would say the opening phrase, the peak, and the end phrase are the most important part. Everything in between is up to you.

 

And when I write a solo note for note, it is usually the result of improvising over and over until I've written the solo. Kind of like comping a solo on a DAW, only in my head.

 

Maybe you should just do that. Why not just improv

4 or 5 solos and then piece together the best parts? You have to go back and learn it, but a lot of great solos were written this way.

 

Last but not least, can you sing it?

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Originally posted by henryrobinett:

I have never, ever, ever been able to write a solo. I've tried. I can only play off the cuff. I can write TUNES and SONGS all day long. But I cannot write a solo. Probably because I always thought solos were improvised, so when I discovered that in some genres solos were written it threw me. I've been in rock ' roll bands where the members wanted me to "write" a solo either for live or for consistency in the studio. Never could figure out how to do that.

"write" to tape

the ones you like you have for reference while learning.

have fun now!

whatever the mind of man can concieve & believe it can achieve!

study it as a science/practice it as an art!

luck...that's what happens when preparation & opportunity intersect

properly percieved every situation becomes an opportunity

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Well Daddy Ray, let me just say that I wasn't really thinking that it's a fault that I can't write a solo. Just that I've never really desired too, and have so far been able to work around really having too. I don't like playing worked out solos because, for me, soloing is a personal expression of improvisation. That's just me because of the type of music I love, listen to and study. Doesn't mean it's right or wrong, just means it's the way I like to do it.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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A solo should be a living thing. Writing out a solo is a great way to build your theory/reading skills, but I think a solo should be off the cuff. It needs to bring new life to a tune every time you play it. But i really love jazz. If the solo is the most memorable part of the tune like "Eruption", i guess you should write it down. :)
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Originally posted by henryrobinett:

Originally posted by Tedster the Turkey:

I tend to, as you say, write solos (and here are the key words) for the song. Does it enhance the song?

Wiser words have never been said Ted. Well maybe they have but at the moment I can't think of any.
I am truly humbled, Sir Henry!!!

 

And, like the Stranger...I'll often play backing tracks over and over 'til I get what I want.

 

But, all the arguments here have merit. Some solos aren't meant to be written, they're meant to be improv from the get go. Still others, such as the ones I mentioned in my earlier post, are pretty much stock. So, there are two kinds. I love 'em all...ya know? :D

"Cisco Kid, was a friend of mine"
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Here's what usually goes through my head:

 

What do I want to say?

 

What did I just say?

 

What do I need to say next?

 

And I am constantly thinking: What are we talking about?

 

I think a solo should be like a conversation (I say "conversation" and not "monologue" because the band is talking too. :freak:

 

Mike

Petting Hendrix

 

Do you know what it's like to fall in the mud and get kicked in the head by an iron boot? Of course you don't--no one does--that never happens.

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Not to sound insulting (although this will probably seem so) but the first thing I'd do is listen to a lot of different music than what you may be accustomed to hearing because , really (& as suggested by the other respondents) music is not a bunch of cool licks carried around in your bag to through together randomly over a chord progression or beat.

It takes a long time to develop your personality as a musician (indeed it will take your entire life to develop, fully) so no one faults you for what you don't realize yet, or at any particular point, but the sooner you begin to see/hear things in a more melodic or tuneful way, the sooner you'll be able to actually play something worthwhile.

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Being a metal fan myself, I can relate to how confusing it is of whether or not to improvise, write, or just play.

I find it works best for me to do all three. I've written some solos I really liked by just sitting down and writing, but I've also written some fairly simple, yet beautiful ones by just improvising.

One tip in particular that really helps me, is if I have a solo I KNOW I want to sound a certain way, then sometimes I just sit down and figure it out. Especially with metal, I've noticed if I just "improvise" or "play" I run across the same old licks and melodies. So if I'm looking for something different, than it works better to try working on new licks.

One tip, I can't remember where I heard it, I think it was someone on these forums, anyway it still sticks with me to this day.

"Never forget any licks you come up with."

This means even if its a just a little doobie or whatever and doesn't go with one song, doesn't mean forget about it. Just save it, it'll come in sometime.

Shut up and play.
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I think the only huge focus is to try to not be cliche, which is obviously difficult since music tends to be so cookie cutter.

My favorite quote on that is from J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. "Play it as long as it doesn't suck."

That said, know when you're just wanking and know when to end.

No matter how good something is, there will always be someone blasting away on a forum somewhere about how much they hate it.
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Originally posted by henryrobinett:

Well Daddy Ray, let me just say that I wasn't really thinking that it's a fault that I can't write a solo. Just that I've never really desired too, and have so far been able to work around really having too. I don't like playing worked out solos because, for me, soloing is a personal expression of improvisation. That's just me because of the type of music I love, listen to and study. Doesn't mean it's right or wrong, just means it's the way I like to do it.

exactly...writing to tape doesn't mean you'l end playing by rote...i try to record as many of my practice sessions/jams as possible to capture the occasional lick that i want to be sure to remember. it's quite an exhilerating or humbling experience, depending on the instance, to just sit and listen to playback of oneself noodling along, with the frame of mind: would i listen to any of this if it were someone else playing? some of my favorite stuff has come from my subconsious while playing with no particular goal in mind...it's like yea, this will work for this or that.

have fun now!

whatever the mind of man can concieve & believe it can achieve!

study it as a science/practice it as an art!

luck...that's what happens when preparation & opportunity intersect

properly percieved every situation becomes an opportunity

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Heres an exercise that was used in a class I took a while back, and I thought it was very effective: pick 3 or 4 notes and build your entire solo from those 3 or 4 notes only. You have to play them in the same order too. That means that the only things you can vary during your solo are the rhythmic pattern, accents, volume, the speed, attack, and octave. If the song changes key, you have to use the same notes in the new key. Since youre not thinking about notes, you play without using scales or patterns that you might typically play and really concentrate on creating a mood or flavor with the other elements.

 

Other variations on this type of practice are to play using all notes, but select just one rhythmic pattern through your entire solo, or using "question & answer" type motifs, or using a "whisper-talk-shout" approach, where you start your solo playing extremely quietly, then very gradually increase your attack until you're playing very loud, etc. There are lots of things like these that can be used to help you develop and add interest to your solos. That's not even including scales & arpeggios. Also, listening and emulating the people whose solos you admire is also really important in helping to develop your own style.

 

Paul

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Seriously, I just sit down and start working with various chord progressions and when something I am doing happens to create an image or mood in my head, such as happened when I was experimenting with an alternate tuning, I thought of the journey of the three wise men to the manger where Christ was born and how they might react apon arriving at the site. I visualized the snow gently falling and the serenity and humbleness of the place and how they might take turns picking up and holding the Child briefly in their arms. Then it struck me that while it may have looked like the Baby Jesus was in their arms, it was really the other way around. This gave me the feel I was trying to project in the song and thus was the birth of "In The Arms Of The Babe" that I wrote for our new CD.

 

This was not intended to be a religious discussion, so please don't take it there. This is how I wrote this particular song and generally how it comes about when I do. If you want to hear a clip of that piece, you can go to www.dynrec.com/cof and click on that sample and you can discuss if I was able to generate that image from what is available on that clip.

 

Sorry 'bout that previous attempt at humor... I was really overtired and punchy. :o Boggs

Check out my Rock Beach Guitars page showing guitars I have built and repaired... http://www.rockbeachguitars.com
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Lot's of good, solid replies here! (BTW, Boggs, thank you for going for the joke; I thought of it right away too :rolleyes: ).

 

I work out my solos different ways for different songs. There's no "standard" for me. Sometimes I will work out an entire melody note-for-note, sometimes it's totally off the cuff.

Very often I will repeatedly jam over a recording of the track, and see what things work. Then I kind of "stitch together" those parts in my mind, so there is a general "shape" to the solo. From there I'll take that general shape and play it, letting some imrov become part of it.

May all your thoughts be random!

- Neil

www.McFaddenArts.com

www.MikesGarageRocks.com

 

 

 

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Good stuff everybody. When playing a solo, as opposed to writing one, I think melodically normally. But once again, what ever is appropriate to the song. It has to fit the song and compliment what the song is saying and feeling. I'll listen to the song and the space where the solo will go. Let's say I'm doing a track in a studio. I listen to the other musicians and the emotional/dymanic landscape of the tune. That's when I'll decide what guitar and settings I'll use. Strat? ES-355? Nylon? Steel acoustic? Should I pull out the Paul? Will it be distorted? Bluesy, clean, jazzy? A lot of notes or a very few? Then I think, "Who's going to be listening to this and what might they want to hear?" I'll kind of imagine all of this as I'm listening, long before I plug my guitar in or even strap it on. I imagine the guitar. Then I'll sing the guitar to myself through the song. Then as I strap on and plug in I'll play around with the vibe and area I was imagining. Then we'll go for it. I'll have to take a few spins typically before I get it. Nine times out of ten it's not quite what I was singing or imagining, but seems to work well anyway.

All the best,

 

Henry Robinett

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