The guitar solo is the part where the guitarist is on the spot and expected to show his abilities. Thus, easy guitar solos are less common than say, easy guitar riffs.
Some guitarists do play fast and complex riffs at times, but even guitarists who play super fast like James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett (Metallica) have a lot of riffs that a beginner or an intermediate guitar student can learn.
Easy guitar solos are less abundant, though there are many available too. On the top of my head I would suggest these easy guitar solos if you want to learn a famous solo:
Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana)
Californication (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
A Hard Day’s Night (Beatles)
Sweet Child of Mine (Guns N Roses)
What we’ll be doing in this lesson is to go through 5 easy guitar solos I have written for you.
The intent behind learning these solos shouldn’t be to add another guitar solo to your repertoire (It’s more worth learning a solo from Slash or Kurt Cobain than from me if that’s your only goal).
Rather, the goal here is to understand common techniques used in guitar solos which will help you to:
- Identify them when they appear in different forms and variations in the guitar solos that you’re learning. This will make the learning process easier.
- Emulate them when creating your own solos. If you’re a beginner you may need to improve a bit before you start creating guitar solos, but if you’re an intermediate player you should be making your first attempts. (It’s not hard. I take you through a step by step process to improvising solos in this lesson).
In any case, the techniques you will learn here have been used millions of times in guitar solos and can be used by yourself. (If you’re asking why the same things don’t sound boring after being repeated so much, it has mostly to do with the concept of variation).
There are just a dozen commonly used guitar techniques and only 12 notes in music, yet the amount of music that can be made using them is infinite.
Easy guitar solo 1:
Though simple and easy to play, this solo introduces two of the most important techniques used in guitar soloing. Hammer-ons/pull offs and vibrato. These will be discussed below the solo.
- Hammer ons/pull offs
The small arch over the notes in the first beat of Bar 1 indicates that rather than hitting both notes with your picking hand, you only pick the first note and pull off the string with your left hand finger which temporarily takes the role of the pick.
We have the arch again on the first beat of Bar 2 but this time we’re going to use a hammer on. The first note below the arch should be picked while the second “hammered” with your left hand finger.
Which one of these sister techniques should be used depends on the position of the notes. If you’re going from a lower note to a higher note, use a hammer on. If you’re going from a higher note to a lower note, use a pull off.
In this lesson I explore this important guitar technique in more depth.
Vibrato is mostly used by advanced guitar players but here’s the good news:
The reason many guitar students don’t start working on their vibrato earlier on is not because it’s very hard, but because they underestimate how powerful it is.
You execute vibrato by making a lot of rapid mini-bends over the note you want this technique applied to.
If done right vibrato will give the note a sweet sound and catch the ear of the listener.
At first your vibrato will sound messy. Don’t let that bother you. We all started like that. You will eventually get good sounding vibrato if you keep working on it.
A very important thing when practicing vibrato is to bend the string the same width every time, as well as to take it back to the original point every time.
Failure to do so will this make your vibrato sound out of tune.
Easy guitar solo 2
This solo introduces another highly effective guitar technique: String bending.
String bending is another technique you can’t do without if you want to learn guitar solos.
In this solo we use two types of bends:
- Full upward bend: In the first bend in the solo, the note is bent up two frets and doesn’t get released. In this case a short period of silence, called a rest, follows it.
- Full bend and release: In the second bend in the solo, the note is bent up two frets but is released before moving to the next note.
Other types of bends include:
Half bends – The note is bent up one fret.
1 ½ bends – Bend up three frets. Make sure you have mastered the half and the full bend before trying this.
Pre bend and release: You bend the string to the target note first (without making a sound), pick the note and release it.
Once again, only try this bend if you’re fluent in upward bends and bend and release. In this lesson I explore the different types of bends you can use in more detail.
Easy guitar solo 3
The next solo introduces slides, sixteenth notes and consecutive hammer-ons and pull offs.
Notated as a line between the notes, the slide is another popular guitar soloing technique.
As the name suggests, it is executed by sliding from a note to the next with the tip of your finger, picking only the first note.
- Sixteenth notes
Another new element used in this riff is dividing the beat into four sixteenth notes (also called semiquavers).
Using sixteenth notes, either exclusively (the first four notes of bars 3, 4 and 5) or combined with eight notes (the first three notes in Bars 1 and 2) gives the guitarist a lot of rhythmic choices he can use in his solos.
Thus, you should expect to meet sixteenth note groupings a lot when learning guitar solos. In this lesson, I explore the rhythmic options one has when using sixteenth notes.
- Consecutive hammer ons and pull offs
The last thing I want you to get from this guitar solo is the use of consecutive hammer ons and pull offs on the first three notes.
In this case it is just a hammer on and a pull off. We’re going to limit it to three consecutive notes in these solos to keep things easy. Keep in mind that advanced guitar players can play up to any number of consecutive hammer ons and pull offs.
For instance Steve Vai can use them (along with other techniques, like slides) to the extent that he can shred on the guitar with just one hand!
Easy guitar solo 4:
The next solo introduces string skipping technique, double stops, staccato and more rhythmic complexity.
- String skipping
It comes as natural to many guitar players to play notes that fall on adjacent strings.
There’s nothing wrong with this – one can write a great guitar solo even on one string – but learning how to skip strings gives you more options when soloing on guitar and practicing the technique will make it easier every time you encounter string skipping in guitar solos.
In the guitar solo above, string skipping, is used in Bars 1, 3 and 5.
- Double stops
Double stops, two notes played at the same time are only used once in this guitar solo, in Bar 1. This option some guitar soloists use is explored in depth in this lesson.
Another technique used in this solo is staccato. This is indicated by a small dot below a note and is found in bars 2 and 3.
Staccato simply means cut the note shortly, rather than let it sound for its entire duration.
- Rhythmic complexity
The last thing I want you to notice about this solo is the rhythm, which is more challenging than the ones before. It is important to learn the elements of rhythm well. This will help you recognize and figure them out easily when you encounter them, as well as to know what options you have when creating your own music.
Easy guitar solo 5
Rather than introduce anything new, the last solo makes use of the techniques we’ve explored above to help you practice them in different contexts.
Conclusion: Where to go from here
If you’re in love with the craft of the guitar solo, you should consider this lesson as a general introduction to this fascinating aspect of guitar playing.
Apart from learning more solos, these are some areas I suggest you go through if you want to start composing your own guitar solos:
- Applied music theory. Learn about intervals, scales, arpeggios, modes, consonance and dissonance and the many other music theory elements you can use in your solos (or identify in the ones you learn).
- Rhythmic elements: We briefly touched upon this topic. A strong foundation of rhythm, as well as playing on time if vital for any guitar soloist.
- Technique mastery/more techniques: We’ve touched on quite some important techniques in this lesson, though surely not all.
Keep in mind that technique is not something you learn once and you’re done with. Vibrato can always be perfected. Hammer-ons and pull offs can sound more clean, or be played faster. There are many small nuances you can apply to bends to get different sounds. So on and so forth.
This means that while you should be learning new techniques, you should also improve the ones you know as well as learn how to use them in different contexts.
- Train your ear: One of the “secrets” of great guitar soloists is that they’re able to hear the next note (or group of notes) before they play it. This ability is acquired through ear training, whether studied formally or picked through practicing.
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