The SECRET To Making A Climactic And Powerful GUITAR SOLO

The SECRET To Making A Climactic And Powerful GUITAR SOLO

Tommaso Zillio

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  • Do you feel like when you improvise, your solos go straight to 11 with no build-up?

  • Or do you feel like when you are playing a slower melody at the beginning of a solo, that melody isn’t ‘singing’ the way it should?

  • How can you make slower melodies more expressive and interesting?

  • And how can you build up a solo so when you finally go up to 11, it feels more appropriate?

(Gee, these were a lot of questions…)

These are incredibly common situations that many guitar players face… but not many know how to get out of these situations!

And while I’m sure that the incredible advice of “just play slower! Instead of starting the solo fast and full of energy; don’t!” has been a great help in the past (*), you might need something more specific and actionable in order to really solve this problem.

(*) I’m being ironic, of course. If the only thing we needed were “just play slower”, we’d all be guitar virtuosos…

So, what should you do? How can you start your solos with a slow, thought-provoking, expressive intro and then build to an eventual climax?

Well, boy, is it ever your lucky day! Because the video below has excellent advice (if I can say so myself…), and you can use some of these tips right now - zero training required - and improvise better solos immediately.

Looking for some more immediately-actionable tips on soloing? Check out my free eBook called 18 Tips To Make Your Solos Sound More Professional. It’s completely free and contains lots of other tips (18, to be exact) that you can use in your improvising immediately.

Video Transcription

Hello internet; so nice to see you! We all like to play melodies and solos on our guitar, whether you play electric guitar, so you actually play lead, or you play classical guitar, you still have melodies in what you play somewhere. When you play guitar, you are playing melodies, not only maybe playing chords and maybe playing bass lines, but you are playing melodies somewhere. It’s part of what makes this instrument fun.

But how do you make a melody sing? How do you write a melody that sings? How do you create something that is expressive? Or in other words, given what you have right now, how can you play something that is more expressive? How do you connect with the listener?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Okay, so, I’m proposing two solutions today, solution number one, well get these free eBook 18 tips on how you can make your pentatonic solo sound professional. There are a number of tips and tricks, 18 of them, inside here that make your solos great, even if you don’t play pentatonic. Even if you don’t play blues, even if you don’t want to play solos at all, get this ebook and read it through there are things that you can use whatever you play on your guitar, it’s really good. And it’s free. I mean, if I can say so myself, it’s pretty good. And it’s free, completely free. That’s solution number one.

Solution number two, a student asked me exactly how to make the melody more expressive, how to create an arc with the melody, an emotional arc with a melody. And here’s my answer to him.

“Right. So when I improvise, it sounds like I’m starting in the middle of the solo, like, almost about to reach the climax. What I want to do is build a pace slowly up, you know, play phrases that are more like vocal melodies, and then slowly build the pace up and then, like, reach the climax and play faster stuff.

So, if I had to give you an example, like a typical Joe Satriani track, like, um, you know, always with me always with you, you know. So like, it slowly builds a pace up nice, vocal, like expressive melodies in the beginning, and then that when the tapping part comes, its climax. And so that’s what I wanted to. But when I’m soloing, it sounds like I’m getting straight to the tapping part.”

I see that okay. Yeah. So the thing is, you know, already, without the characteristic of a vocal melody, or of the shreddy part, want to paint in the climax, okay, we don’t need to explain that. I mean, we could, we could talk about simple knowns, slower pace, the lower dynamic, and all this kind of thing. But you know, already. So, the question is, if you know already, what is the difference between the beginning of a solo and the middle of a solo? What is preventing you from doing it?”

“Um, one thing that comes to mind is note selections. So. I actually have two questions that kind of relates to the other one, okay, when I’m improvising, I don’t always land on the right notes, especially when the chord changes. And I’m having to either slide up or slide down to get to the consonant pitch, that might be one of the reasons.”

“Okay, yeah. So, what is happening, based on what you say – I haven’t seen you play yet. But based on what you say, you are trying to cover up all the goof-ups you do, because you’re not hitting the right notes. So, you see, it’s important to know why. Okay? Many people do what you’re doing, okay, because they didn’t target the right notes.

So, this solution is to start simpler than you think. Okay, now, that there are literally zero reasons to play the wrong note. Okay, it’s also what we call unforced errors, meaning you can always avoid them. As long as you play slower, or you just don’t play if you don’t know where to play. Okay?

Now, I’m not saying this happens every time, sometimes if you go on stage and they tell you just play the solo and you just improvise, whatever, but when you practice, you should not make those mistakes. If you’re making those mistakes, it means you are going too fast. You’re pushing yourself too much. Okay? And I’m saying this because if it happens, this has to be a reminder for you to slow down and play less. So, what I’m gonna do right now, you’re gonna play, okay? I’m gonna take something simple. How about A minor to G?”

“I’m more comfortable in E major.”

“E major. Okay. So what chords do you want?”

“Up to you.”

“E major, B major, and that’s it?”


“Sure. So, let’s say I am playing the E major. What do you play? Where do you play it?

“Too much. Play only one note.”

“That’s two notes.”

“Okay, we got it. The third time you got it immediately. One note.”

“So, you play that E note. Now make the E note sing. Somehow slide into it, play with vibrato, slide from above, do something like that, whatever. Very good. Now I’m going to move to B, what will you play? You have anything closer? Yeah, good. Okay. Now you just play this. You play the E note on the E major and the F sharp note on the B major. And you just make those sing but you don’t play anything else. Only one note per chord. 1, 2, 3, 4…”

Good. Okay, is that hard to do?


“Great. It’s designed not to be. Let’s pick a different note from the E major chord and a different note for the B major chord. Okay, okay. Pick them now. What do you do for E? Great, that’s a G sharp is the same note what do you do for B? What is that?”


“Okay, now you can use it, it’s the seventh, I mean it’s not on the chord note, but it is usable. If you want to use the B you can use the B, no problem. Just pick one of them. Let’s hear both of them. If you play the A, how does it sound? Okay, and if you play the B how does it sound? Which one do you like best?”

“I like both, but I’ll play B”

“Great, G sharp on E, and B on B.

1, 2, 3, 4…”

“Good, now you have two sets of two notes. So you have the E and F sharp from before, the G sharp and B from now. So now you have the choice, it’s still one note per chord, but on E you can pick the E or the G sharp. And again, simply because it’s the notes you chose before. And on the B, simply the F sharp or the B, because it’s the notes from before.

1, 2, 3, 4…”

“Okay now you are putting them in the same order all the time. What I want is you to change the order in which you play them so you may go here, then here, then here, then here. Okay, so not exactly the same all the time.

1, 2, 3, 4…”

“Good. Now, you notice that you are playing the notes correctly, and you’re putting good phrasing. Don’t change that. That’s amazing. Now, you’re playing all those notes on beat number two. So, change that. Put it on beat one, or beat three, or in between beat three and four. In between beat one and beat two. Okay, make sense? Change rhythmically. Otherwise, it always sounds the same. Try that.

1, 2, 3, 4…”

It starts to sound a little bit better. Okay. You see that you don’t need to use a lot of notes. Now I’m not saying we can do this for 20 minutes. But for the beginning of the solo, that’s exactly what you need. A few notes, chosen well, with good phrasing. The only way to do it is to train yourself to do it. If you always play exercises, the shreddy part, etc. When you start improvising, guess what’s happened? You’re gonna play fast, the shreddy part, okay, and exercise-like parts.

So, you need to train to do this. And that’s exactly how you do it, pick a note, then another note and do it. Use backing tracks that have one or two chords, or make them yourself. Okay, just grab your phone, and record the chords in that. The sound quality is not an issue. So just record however it happens and improvise on top or use a looper pedal. They’re always nice. Okay.

And you just to do this. Okay, and you work on the other elements meaning the phrasing, timing. But you know what notes you’re playing, there is no choice involved in there. Then later change the notes, same two chords, change the notes. And there’s probably a different area of the fretboard. Right, little by little, you get the feeling. Your brain will put all this together. Okay. You mentioned Always With Me, Always With You. First chord in that is B, it’s in the key of B. Right? Those three notes are in the B arpeggio, and then there’s the four. So, it’s one, three, four, five, okay, so it is built on the chord notes.


“Okay. Also, because since he’s playing, the chord here is B major, with an added fourth. And this is a B major, with an added fourth. So he’s literally restating what’s in the backing track. Okay? For the very, very first phrase, okay. That’s how you build those things. You do the obvious thing, you just do it well, right? Okay. And then later you go on the shreddy, fast part.

We are all under the impression at the beginning, that the melody part is the easy part. And so we train furiously to play fast and clean and in time and do all the shred exercises. But the reality is that both parts are hard. The shred part is hard to play clean in time. Under Pressure, maybe okay, it’s hard. But the melody is as hard. It’s a different skill. It’s the skill of making it sing and presenting something that is musically obvious, just chord notes, but inject meaning and emotion into it.

So, for both these things we need to practice, and there must be a balance, you decide the balance. I’m not telling you don’t shred. I’m not telling you. If you don’t play melody, you’re not a musician for me if you want to play exercises all the time, and just do the super fast thing. Fine. It’s the music you want to make. But you asked me how to play melodies. And that’s why I’m telling you. Find the balance, find space in your practice time to do this, and make it sing.

One is the way we just did. Right. The other one is to learn good melodies, and the first part of Always With Me, Always With You is great, all the melodic part of the beginning. It’s just greater and then learn to play and learn to make it sing. Okay, yeah. This is your exercise. That’s what you have to do.”

“It’s a great Simple solution. Thank you for that.”

“It has to be very simple, otherwise we don’t do it. Okay. Fantastic.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Thank you.”

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