"All my solos sound the same."
"I keep going back to the same old licks and patterns."
"I want to play fresh guitar solos, but everything sounds stale."
One of the most common issues I work on with my more advanced students is how to break out of soloing ruts.
Here are 5 practice methods that I've seen work time and time again. The common theme is limitation. Each exercise forces you to focus on one single aspect of your improvisations. This laser-sharp focus is what will propel you forward faster than you ever thought possible.
1. Rhythmic Limitation - Choose a rhythmic motif to employ for your entire solo. This could be as simple as straight quarter notes. Or you could come up with a syncopated 2 bar phrase to repeat throughout the duration of your solo. This exercise is tougher than it seems. Be patient with yourself.
2. Play in One Position on Two Adjacent Strings - Choose a position of the neck and a pair of adjacent strings - for example, 9th position B and G strings. Now play a solo using only the notes on those strings in that position. With such a limited number of notes to work with, you'll be forced to develop good phrasing to keep your solo interesting.
3. Only Play on Non-Adjacent Strings - This is similar to the exercise above, but now you can only play on strings that are not next to each other. Try playing a solo using just the 1st and 3rd strings. Then play a solo using just the 2nd and 4th strings. This will open your eyes and ears to larger interval jumps within your solos. This is a great exercise for those of you who struggle with running up and down scales in your solos.
4. Mandatory Rests - This exercise will help you with your phrasing because it forces you to add space to your solos. Choose a pattern for playing vs resting and stick to it for your entire solo. Start with alternating measures of playing and resting, then get more complex as you see fit.
5. Use Double Stops - A double stop is when you play two notes at once. It's easy to forget that double stops are an option when soloing. To get started, try playing diatonic (in the key) 3rds on adjacent strings. Another idea to explore are the double stops contained in pentatonic box patterns. Take your favorite pentatonic scale and play two strings at a time for some colorful sounds.
Have fun with these exercises. And remember, don't try to work on all of these exercises in one practice session. Take your time with each one. If you put in the focused effort, the results will come.
Let me know how these exercises work out for you.
Do you have any other ideas for breaking out of soloing ruts? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.
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