by Andrea Basiola

personally think that knowing how to create musical ideas is something that should belong to every musician, and not only to guitarists, so this article is addressed to anyone who would like to make their playing more interesting and complete.

However what do we exactly mean by “musical”?

To me an idea is “musical” when it meets these requirements:

- it’s pleasant to listen to: it has to be well played, in time, and with no bum notes. It has to flow with the music.

- it’s rememberable: this is a very important point to me. When you can remember a melody that means you created something musical. People tend to sing or whistle !
melodies, if they do, you are catching their attention.

- it’s singable: when you can sing it like a vocal line or melody.

Every time I want to create a solo, or a melody I normally tend to respect these rules. !
This depends also on which style of music you are playing and in particular which songs, meaning that your ideas have always to be in the context of the piece and never sound “out of place”.

Here is how I personally approach the creation of a solo or a musical phrase.

  1. LISTEN CAREFULLY TO THE BACKING TRACK many times until you are confident with that and you can master it. By doing this you can more easily find the right notes and melodies
  2. SING THE NOTES, this is essential. If you do it, you are not gonna go wrong, you are going straight to the point in finding only the notes that you need. Sometimes you might not find them immediately and it might take a while, but will also come up with more options for your composition.
  3. TRANSPOSE THE NOTES ON THE GUITAR: you’ll find out that if you sing the notes, you will find them much faster on your fretboard.

I still notice now how finding the right melody can vary from day to day. Sometimes it comes immediately and sometimes it takes hours or even days. It depends also on the inspiration, and how you are feeling on that particular moment.

In order to create a good musical solo, we can also use techniques and tricks that will make our composition really stand out:
1 – SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE. Playing hundreds of notes at high speeds isn’t always the right choice. If we use some rests, pauses, and even different note values, we will give something special and different to our solo.

EXAMPLE: Have a listen to the solo in “Goodbye to Romance” by Ozzy Osbourne. It starts with a slow melody and it speeds up later on. This solo is a great example because it has everything in it,with the right amount of notes and dynamics.

2 – DYNAMICS. These can be given by using different playing techniques: palm muting, bending, volume swells,, etc
You should also consider 2 key points : TENSION and RELEASE.
When a moment of release follows a moment of tension you are creating dynamics and you are actually “telling a story” with your solo.

EXAMPLE: This particular phrase is taken from the solo of the song “Took the message” from the upcoming album of my band Future Shock. It’s an idea I often use in my solos. It starts with a quite fast run up , using the A minor blues scale, and ending with a powerful bending on the 8th fret on the B string, which resolves to the root note of A.
|————————————2-5p2— |2——5—7p5—5-8-7-5———————|!
|—3-5-6-5-3—3-5-6——————— |—————————————————|!
|5—————5————————— |—————————————————! !
3. KNOWING YOUR LIMITS. When you are in the process of creating something, you always want the best. Too often we are not satisfied with our ideas, and we keep on looking for new ones, ending up in a endless vicious circle.
It’s very easy to lose the feeling and the nature of the solo. Once we find an idea that we like, we should stick to that one.

4 – THEORY CAN HELP: Knowing some basic music theory can really help you to take the “right path” in your compositions. Choosing the right scales, chords, etc… can make the difference and it will prove that you know
what you are doing and what you want to achieve.

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