Structure A Great Solo – An Illustration of Grace!
This is a deep and personal subject to me. As guitar players we live for the opportunity to solo! But what ingredients make a solo stand out? It’s very simplistic… a good beginning, middle and end. I’ll call it the “BME Method”
Solo’s which exemplify the simplistic “BME Method”, and stood out for me as an early guitar player are Rush’s (Alex Lifeson) solo on Limelight, Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta, Camera Eye, YYZ, and Subdivisions. Pink Floyd’s (David Gilmour) solo on Money, Time and Comfortably Numb… They are melodic and timeless. Another honorable mention belongs to U2’s (The Edge) solo on New Year’s Day.
These solos tell a story using technique, tone, and phrasing. They express heart felt emotion as opposed to a cluster of meaningless notes.
However, it’s more than just the notes you choose, it’s how you use them. A solo I’d written which represents this theory is the song Grace, from the Olive Tree album.
Check out the attached video. The guitar begins as a melody line. I added and augmented it as the tune progresses, becoming a full blown solo. I got the idea from Phil Keaggy’s solo on Marching of the Clouds. He employs the same idea.
When creating a solo, factor in the notes you choose, and how you use them, meaning the type of tone, bending, sliding, hammer-ons, scale, delay, etc. All this determines the outcome. I highly recommend learning a solo that moves you. Learn it as verbatim as possible, discover what makes it great. Technical acrobatics does not make a great solo. David Gilmore of Pink Floyd can do more with one note than some Julliard Graduates can do with a hundred.
Another example is Alex Lifeson’s solo on Limelight. It is haunting, emotional and expressive. I read that Alex got the delay on that lead by placing his amps outside and getting the natural echo form the surrounding mountains… Amazing!
Others on this album Olive Tree worth mentioning are No Compromise, Sephardim and Transcending Barriers.