33 Guitar Solo Ideas
1. Phrase your solo like you’re a wind instrument player: exhale with each note, and pause whenever you take a breath.
2. Pitch shift feedback with a Whammy pedal.
3. Use polyrhythms to build tension. Release by coming down hard on the 1.
4. For fluid, horn-like tone that hardly sounds like a guitar at all, turn on a volume pedal, saturate with reverb, and use a slide.
5. Repeat a phrase now and then to give shape to your solo.
6. Aim television remote controls at your guitar’s pickups and press buttons.
7. Use delay to gradually build storm clouds of sound that swell, rumble, and fade.
8. Take out your instrument cable and touch its tip while manipulating your pedalboard.
9. Musically mimic what the bass is doing, then elaborate on it.
10. Play the current song’s vocal melody, with variations.
11. Play your entire solo without a single note: use your guitar as a percussion instrument. Mute the strings and use a wah wah in combination with other effects like delay. Overdrive changes the texture.
12. Stick to the lower register for the first 2/3 of your solo. Creep only gradually into the higher octaves.
13. Thread paper through the strings near the bridge.
14. Place a slide over the 5th, 7th, or 12th fret and pick behind the slide for a chilling ethereal effect.
15. Quote the coolest parts of the previous soloist’s solo. Build your own solo around them.
16. Improvise a catchy hook on the spot. Sample, loop it, and use it as accompaniment for the rest of your solo.
17. Study the lyrics of a song before the show. Use the imagery and situations from the song as your guide; play like you’re scoring those scenes.
18. Sing everything you play. Let a little of this singing bleed into your mic and blend with your guitar’s sound.
19. Play the entire solo with your fingers, no pick.
20. Drum on the strings with paintbrushes.
21. Stubbornly play in a different time signature than the rest of the band is using.
22. Hold a chord and thump the body of the guitar to jostle the strings into vibrating.
23. Restrict yourself to just three different notes for your entire solo.
24. Play call-and-response with yourself: high, low; dirty, clean. Explore opposites. Especially fun if you can pan between two amps on opposite sides of the stage.
25. Trade short licks with a bandmate.
26. Play the same series of 5 notes in order over and over. Vary the rhythms, speed, and articulation.
27. Play only on the weak beats.
28. Leave notes out of scales to create exotic patterns with large leaps between notes. Less is more.
30. Use chord theory to extend, alter, and rethink the song’s chord progression (you can do this ahead of time).
31. Restrict yourself to whole and half notes. Breathe. Choose each note carefully and deliberately.
32. Make crazy faces.
33. Play it like a drunk falling down a stairwell.