On first glance this list of “34 Easy Ways to Make Your Guitar Solos and Improvisations More Interesting: For All Levels, Styles and Situations” should seem obvious to many intermediate and advanced players. But a closer look will indicate that you a actually meant focus your attention on any one of these techniques/approaches for an entire solo. For example I am suggesting soloing with only one finger for two to three minutes. Then try a different finger. Then try two to three minutes of only doing slides. Or try restricting yourself to using only three different notes. It is the idea of serious limits that we want to have work within. This demands we as players do at least two things.
1. It makes us become as creative as possible. Just how many different ways can you use grace notes? How many different vibratos can you employ? Can you play an entire melody by bending only one initial note and then coaxing all the other pitches out of that one starting point?
2. It really centers our attention on one seemingly simple idea and you start to realize there is a lot more to any given technique than you thought. After two to three minutes of only performing slides you learn that there is a lot more to a slide then just moving from one fret to another. How many frets should you slide? How fast should you slide? How slow can you slide? How long can you sustain one attack, sliding from note to note to note? How often do you slide with your pinky? Etc. The possibilities of each of these techniques is limitless but only with sustained concentration.
1. Record short chord vamp your choice (or just try Am to D), for two to three minute.
2. Play corresponding scale(s). Ascending and descending. Play the scale a few times with rhythmic variations. If you go with my vamp suggestion Am – D then play the G Major Scale, this will give you a Dorian sound a la Carlos Santana.
3. Solo focusing on only one of the techniques listed below. Take a break after two to three minutes. Try it again with a different technique.
2. Play with a small number of notes: 3, 4, or 5.
4. Staccato: Short notes and phrases
5. Legato: Long phrases and ideas. Let notes ring.
6. Slides (slurs)
7. Hammer-ons & Pull-offs (slurs).
8. Grace and ghost notes (from above and below).
9. Call and response / Question and answer.
13. Sequences: Intervallic, 3rds, 4ths, etc. Groups of 3, etc.
14. Play on one string.
15. Play with only one finger.
16. Large interval leaps.
18. Play in only one position but two octaves: up 12 frets.
19. Repetition licks, ideas and phrases.
21. Approach from a half step below. Half step above.
22. Octaves and triple stop octaves.
25. Don’t play on the “1”. Rest on it, or sustain a note through it.
27. Changing rhythmic phrases measure to measure i.e.: From quarter notes to quarter note triplets to eighth notes to eighth note triplets, etc.
28. Changing dynamics from measure to measure i.e.: soft to loud and as many levels as possible in between.
29. Use only your fingers to attack the strings.
31. Chromatic movement.
32. Playing with a swing feel over a straight groove or vise versa.
33. Playing poly-rhythms: Playing a 3 or 5 note phrase (steady quarter or eight notes) over a 4/4 beat or playing a 4 or 8 note phrase (steady quarter or eight notes) over a 3/4 beat.
34. Think in shapes:
- Jagged lines or Flowing lines
- Broken lines
- Curving waves
- Circles, Squares, Triangles, etc.
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