Sunday, April 7, 2013

The secret to creating memorable guitar solos by Tommy Merry

A very wise musician once said, "now that you know all of your theory, scales and modes....forget them all!"  And its true, knowledge on guitar is power, but that knowledge can only take you so far.  Look at all of the work you have been doing all these years, as just the training wheels of your craft.  If you've done all your homework, its time to leave it all behind now and begin the journey to the mastery of your instrument.

Are you ready for a change?...Then lets begin.

 You need to consider yourself from this moment on as an artist.  Not a guitarist.

Imagine for a moment you are a painter.  Your guitar is your brush, your knowledge of your instrument is your palette, and the listeners ears are your canvas.  A painter would never paint the way guitarists play.  "Let me see I'll paint this shape, connect it to this shape and then do something really cool with my brush that will be very flashy and the people who see it will be wowed!"

Being a true artist of any craft requires getting in touch with ones soul, living with it, understanding it, and then letting it pour out of you like a dam breaking!

Here is some food for thought:

How do you stop playing riffs, scales and modes, and get on with the melody and feeling?

How do you tap your anger, your fears, yours sorrows, and your joys and put them into a song the that Smuckers packs jelly into jars?

Why does some music change our mood so drastically that it can turn happy into introspective, or moody into optimistic?

The answer is emotion!  Every feeling you have ever felt, expressed, or ever will feel can be placed into solos and songs.  The formula is so basic that many overlook it.

Your emotion-->Your solo. -->The listeners ears. --> The listeners emotion.

If this technique is polished, they will feel, what you feel when you are playing.  This is probably the closest thing to mind reading there is.

A personal story:

I once wrote a song about a place that I often vacationed to as a child. The song was called "Cambria" Cambria was an ocean town, and the mood I wanted to portray was the way I felt while down by the seaside.  I wanted the listener of this instrumental song to be able to smell the sea.  I did this by constantly visualizing Cambria in my mind while writing the song and formulating the solo.

The end result?  Several people who have no idea as to what the song was written about told me that the song had a fluid quality and reminded them of THE OCEAN!!

This was the first time that my theory had been tested and proven.  And anyone can use the same concept to enhance or be the root quality of any song or solo.

Flea, the bass player for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, came up with an amazing technique for harnessing emotions in one's playing.  The following is my version of his concept.  Like many exercises, it is deceptively simple in its description.  But trying it is a whole different ball game.  So don't just read the exercises, go through them, and then invent your own versions of them.  Also try not to be self conscious, just let it out!!

First:  Pick up your guitar, plug it in and get ready to solo.

Next:  The object is to play on the guitar the feelings you are experiencing.

1.  Your girlfriend (or boyfriend) told you that after 5 years together they want to break up with you.  Now, play that feeling on guitar.  Live it, visualize it, feel it, and externalize those feelings on your instrument.  Play each exercise for about one minute.

Other ones to try:

2.    The way you felt when you had your first kiss.
3.    The flavor of your favorite food
4.    Riding on a rollercoaster.
5.    Prejudice
6.    Looking up at the sky on a warm and starry nightl
7.    The feeling of being really drunk(not for guitarists under the age of 21 hee hee)
8.    A slap in the face.
9.    A heated argument.
10.  Jumping into an ice cold lake.

Make up some of your own, then play them.

If you keep experimenting with this exercise you will soon see how easy it is to express your feelings on guitar.  Use this technique to take your listeners on a ride of emotions and sensations.

Here's two more variations of this

A) Get together with another guitar player friend.  Pick a topic from the list above (or make up one), then trade off playing the feeling/riff and try to outdo each other =)

B) Again with a fellow guitarist:  Write down 10 ideas/feelings on a sheet of paper.  Each secretly chooses a feeling of idea off the list and solos to it.  Then the other tries to guess which one it is!  Then switch roles.  This is a total blast and the guitarist in last band and I used to do this from time to time.

Try to not get self-conscious about it...just have fun!

Regarding playing emotions on your guitar: Steve Vai uses a similar technique, but just the opposite.  He tries to express the emotions outwardly that his guitar is playing (speaking).  I read this a long time ago about him, and if you have ever seen the master play, you can see every note becomes his whole persona.

No matter what style of music you play, rock, thrash, country, whatever...Always remember that guitar is just a tool to express your feelings.  The true instrument is you!

 © 2002 T. Merry

I would personally like to that Tommy Merry for letting me post this wonderful article.  Please be sure and check out his website @