I have been invited to try out for a band as a lead guitar player, so this has got me thinking about what is a great lead guitar break. When i was studying music my guitar teacher was a mature jazz player and he started off by giving me all these sax and trumpet solos. He said to go and learn them on the guitar and come back to him. It was a bit like “Karate Kid” – ” Wax on, Wax off”. I had no idea why i was learning solos by brass and woodwind players but i respected him so i did it. After 3 weeks of doing this i finally decided to ask why. His answer has become central to my approach to lead playing. He said they have to breathe, so there are gaps in the music, there are pauses and the really good players think in phrases that they can play in one breath. The solo ends up being something that sounds like singing. There has a purpose and a message to the solo, it communicates something that is part of the songs charcter and adds something to the song that the singer could not.
Before i think of what notes to play i always ask these questions:-
Does the song need a guitar solo?
What is the mood of the song?
What scales best create that mood?
What guitar effect best suits the mood?
When you think in these terms it stops the attitude that produces the “play as many notes as you can, distortion everywhere, scream and wail until there is smoke coming off your fingers, self indulgent guitar solo” to every song that crosses your path.
Believe me i have stood in an audience and thought this guy has amazing technique. That was a brilliantly played solo, more notes than i could dream of. But after the 3rd time i was left feeling there had to be more than this blur of notes and twenty effects running at once. You just end up wanting more.
Now i look for a solo that says something to me, that shares emotions and paints a picture.
I have always been inspired by B.B.King because he gives me time to enjoy his playing before playing the next bit. He breathes into his solos and the audience do too. He is passionate about communication.
Below is him doing what he does best. Enjoy.