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Here's a solo I did for a song my band will be recording in the near future.

I know, the guitar tones are shit, and the performance quality way below what it will be when it comes time to record it properly, but oh well! Not bad for my first real stab at a solo I think. I'm pretty much a n00b.


To make this solo, I pretty much dicked around on that keys scale for a while, messed around with a few licks, then did the tapping part, and everything after the tapping part was just improv (scale dicking). I don't know much theory at all, in my experience, if you dick around with the guitar for long enough (read, a few years) you will develop a bit of a musical ear and your hands will develop a bit of a memory of what works and what dosent.

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When it comes to writing and arranging solos for lead instruments like the guitar, we have to break it down into seperate areas to understand. I put together a quick etude for my students that shows how to construct a solo with respect to progression, voicing, instrumentation, and voice leading.

We can break it down into 3 different steps: Harmonic Structure, Solo/Melody "Pivot" Points, and ornanementation, additional and NCTs.

Part One: Harmonic Structure

First the Harmonic structure. A very simple progression. We start on the One chord in first inversion, up to the Four chord, back to One, up to the Dominant 7th chord, to a One Chord in second inversion, up to a Secondary Dominant 7th chord (the V7 of the ii), then resolving that secondary chord to the Two Chord.


FAQs -

Why the inversions?

-If we simply went up 4 notes on a staff to get to the four chord, then our solo notes would have a giant leap in it. We want simple major and minor 2nd intervals between the main notes in our solo. The solo would get 'lost' and have no pivot points, flowing tones, or connection if we simply jump up huge leaps from note to note just to meet a lack of proper chordal voicing (selection of inversion)

Voice Leading?

-If we properly arrange the inversions of the chords in the progression, certain notes (like the highest note in the chords in my example) will lead to the next one by either a major or minor second. Other intervals can be used, but sparingly and only for good reason, not simply to avoid properly arranging the notes in a chord.

Part Two: Arranging Parts and Voicings

Now let's start arranging the main notes in our solo. We'll choose the notes that make our "voice leading in the chord" and remove them from the chord. One guitar will play the main solo notes, the other will play the rest of the notes in the chord, and together, the solo guitar and the rhythm guitar will create the same harmonic structure that the original piece made.


FAQs -

Where did the bass come from?

-Since our harmonic structure had inversions that weren't built on the root but other tones in the chord, I added a bass to play the root below all the other tones and ensure that the sound of the harmonic structure easily conveys the chord being played.

How is the root note located?-This is simply the note that the chord is named after. USUALLY it takes form as the lowest note in the chord (as this creates a sound which can easily identify the chord) though this does NOT have to always be true for the chord to remain the same name. Therefor, we take the name of the chord, and put the chords namesake note down in the bass. IE: If we were playing a G chord which is build of G B D, but we were playing it in the order of BDG, then we can take the G and put it below all those notes by having the bass instrument play it, we are now playing GBDG which IS in root position and easy to identify audibly when all the instruments play together.

Part Three: Final Touches

Now, we have the basis for our solo, though not very exciting, it's a good foundation. Let's add ornamentation, other chordal tones, and non-chord tones (minor seconds, usually linking to other diatonic chords, and in some rare occassions secondary chords) to make it more exciting, making it more of a "solo" in which an instrument shows off it's capabilities that distinguish it from other instruments, rather than an instrument simply just playing a melody.



Where do the non-chord tones come from?

-Anywhere, this is not necessarily set in stone, a lot of creativity can come into play here. Usually these should be within the key unless purposely pushing towards a secondary key in which case they must be very carefully selected (can elaborate if anyone on here has an interest in transposing to a new key in the middle of their solo, but it's a much longer topic so I'll leave it at that for now). Even as we push towards the dominant seventh of the second degree of our key, I am still selecting chord and non-chord tones within our key, not until we actual reach the V7/ii do I actual sharpen the solo note to outside of the key

Can I move the voice leading anywhere?

-Yes and no, certain notes can go anywhere. Depending on the chord, certain notes can be ambiguous and are open to any movement in any direction (assuming that direction leads to a 'pivot' point). But look in our example, we have a G# note in our V7/ii chord being used as our voice leading note. Believe it or not this IS a leading tone, and leading tone's MUST resolve UP.

How is G# a leading tone in the key of G?

-In the structure of V7/ii, E7 is acting as the dominant seventh of the second degree's key, A. E7 is also holding the third note of a G# which IS the leading tone to the A which we are resolving to. This can be present in the Parrallel major of the 2nd degree, OR in the synthetic minor key which we are currently using in this example. As A is Minor in the key of G Major.

And that's my piece for the day. I'm writing this for a high school guitar class, so feel free to tell me where I did well and where I fell short. I'm trying to introduce as many concepts as necessary in a small amount of space. This lesson is a culmination of Lead/Melody playing, Voice Leading, Inversions, Secondary Dominance, and Resolving Secondary 7ths to their Relative Tonic chord. All feedback is greatly appreciated.

Download the lesson or listen to it here:

http://hylertouchstyle.com/music/VoicingSolos.ptb (PowerTab Format)

http://hylertouchstyle.com/music/VoicingSolos.mid (MIDI)

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