Welcome to part 1 in our new blog series looking at Lead Guitar Phrasing. We’ll be studying some of the most beautiful moments in soloing history, from the classic, unforgettables, to the unheard of, obscure gems.
We’re breaking one of our own rules here, as for once, we’re not preaching that “it’s all about the song” – This time it’s all about what we can take from a solo to improve our own playing and phrasing, regardless of our opinion on the song as a whole.
We’re focusing here on solo. 1 at 1:57
This is something of a paradigm of phrasing and soloing for aspiring guitarists. Below is a list of why that might be, and thus what we can take from it to apply to, and improve, our own playing.
– Dramatic entry and exit.
The solo crashes in with a wailing bend with strong vibrato, and exits with an expressive phrase landing on the key centre of D. These are powerful musical bookends.
– Building Throughout
The comedian Louis CK says that when writing and developing a new stand up show, he’ll take his finale, and make it the opening of his routine, so he’s forced to make the show grow from what was previously its peak, and raise the level of the whole act. We can do a similar thing with our Guitar solos, whether composed or improvised. Start strongly, and force yourself to build.
– Leaving Space
It might sound silly to say “You don’t have to play constantly” – But, you really don’t! In fact, it’s much better if you don’t. The analogy here is language, the use of full stops, commas, and the necessary drawing of breath. Guitar wise, it’s impossible to create something memorable, singable or catchy without leaving spaces between phrases, ie. “PHRASING” your solo! “It’s the notes you don’t play” has been attributed to Miles Davis and is often referenced in relation to Eric Clapton, and is seen in action here in this solo. This solo is “singable” – it has all the melody of a great vocal line, but with all the additional expression that Guitar Techniques can provide. Leave Gaps!
– Classic, with unusual twists
On first listen, this solo sounds like a particularly good bit of fairly common Pentatonic/Minor/Blues playing. There’s one major difference, one big factor which makes the solo stand out, a little more difficult to transcribe, and extra-specially beautiful. The point is, every phrase in this solo is so close to being a standard, well-played Rock/Blues lick, but with a twist. With just the smallest amount of string-skipping, or root-note avoiding, or landing on an unusual note, the solo is transformed into one that really stands out. So test yourself! – Improvise over a backing track and ban yourself from ending a phrase on the root note, play all your usual licks but with one note different, ban all full tone bends, etc etc. There’s only one way to get out of a rut! (And get into a slightly more melodic rut! Still, at least you have 2 ruts to choose
Coming up later in this blog series: Hendrix – Over or Under Rated? Mark Knopfler – Could anybody play any less? And many more!
Thanks for reading and good luck!