Solo guitar is kind of an advanced level, when it comes to guitar playing. If you have decided to go for it, but don’t quite know where to start, don’t worry. You don’t want to be restricted to playing other people’s arrangements? No problem. The good news is, there are only three main things that you have to keep in mind, besides having a good ear for music, of course. Let’s check out these three things now.
The first one is
Rhythm – the root of all things in music
It’s our first and probably most important pillar. Once you are able to keep a steady groove, you are already being loved by at least half of the audience. Sounds like a cute little exaggeration, right? Well, it isn’t. You would be surprised how easy it is to create good sounding music with even some wrong notes, if you have great time. On the other hand – and it might sound sacrilege to some of the traditionalists – if you can play the most complex jazz chords but all you do is noodle in rubato all the time without a focused rhythm, most people will find it boring. You will notice how easily you are able to make them fall asleep. In no time (pun!). Yes there is a place for rubato, but it should not be the only thing a jazz – or any other style for that matter – solo guitarist can play. In other words, you shouldn’t use it as an excuse for not having to learn how to keep the groove going. A nice, steady, pumping rhythm is the secret of the universe.
Now let’s move on to our second pillar, which is
Melody – ear candy
It’s the sweet part of our music, the candy on the stick. The gist of it all, if you will. You have to be able to fret all – or at least most – of the notes that form the melody line of the song you want to play. It helps if you already know where those notes are on the fretboard, but it will come with time, trust me. You just have to keep at it. Don’t forget to embellish your lines whenever it’s possible. Make it sound nice and alive.
So we arrived to our third and last element. It is
Bass line – the support
When you play solo guitar, you have to realize it’s not always easy to create the incredible groovy bass line you have in mind. It’s because you also have to play the melody, as well as keeping a steady rhythm at the same time. So if all you can do is plant the root notes, it’s perfectly okay to do so. Sometimes you’ll arrive to less busy parts anyway. Parts when there’s no melody or rhythm happening in parallel. In those moments you can make some of the more interesting bass activity happening. No one will expect you to actually sound like a real, full blown band. You only have to keep up the illusion.
Find your own voice in playing solo guitar. It’s worth to be unique.