Sometimes an awesome guitar solo can add a new level of energy and fun to a song. In some cases, particularly in songs from guitar-focused bands like The Black Crowes and Van Halen, the guitar solo can be the defining moment of a song. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a bad solo can really bring a song down with it. Imagine that just when you are really getting into a song, suddenly a lame solo completely takes you out of it–and once you’re gone, the song may never recover.
It’s important, then, to be sure you’re laying down a sweet solo whenever you record your song–a solo that will enhance it and not hinder it. Here are some tips for recording the ultimate guitar solo!
To improvise or not to improvise?
Even before you go to record your guitar solo, you have some decisions to make. Do you want to sit down and write a solo beforehand or are you planning on improvising one on the spot? Unless you’re a seasoned improviser and you’re playing music that typically involves heavy ad-libbing (like jam band music or jazz), I would recommend at least outlining a sketch of your solo beforehand. You don’t have to plan it lick-for-lick, but it’s a good idea to come up with some basic guidelines: how long you’ll play in one position before shifting up an octave, what bar you want to play a cool arpeggio over, where you’re going to fit in that really catchy lick you came up with, etc.
When I was recording the solo to a song that had a particularly complicated chord progression, I knew I needed to work out what I would play ahead of time, because I probably wouldn’t improvise anything memorable on the spot. I was really glad that I did–the solo that I ended up writing was much more thoughtful and interesting than what I would have made up, and it became a signature musical moment for my band.