How To Play Badass Guitar Solos Part 3: Expressing Emotions In Your Solos

By Tom Hess

If you are like most guitarists, you don’t know how to play emotional guitar solos. Fortunately, it’s easier to do than you think. Let’s test your current knowledge…

Choose one pair of notes that has the most similar ‘feeling’ to one another:

Pair #1: a C major chord in the rhythm with a G note being played over it in the lead – immediately followed with an E minor chord and a G note played in the lead.

Pair #2: a D major chord in the rhythm with an A note being played over it in the lead – immediately followed with an G major chord and a D note played in the lead.

If you are like many guitarists, you answered the first pair as the one that sounds most similar. However, this answer is way off! Here is why this answer is wrong:

Pair #1 has a G note being played over both the E minor and C major chords. Although the same pitch (G) is being used, this pitch does NOT sound/feel the same when played over each chord. The reason why is the G note is functioning differently: It functions as the fifth over C major and the third over E minor. The fifth and the third sound completely different.

On the other hand, the A and D notes in pair two actually ‘feel’ exactly the same (in spite of being different pitches). This is because they are both fifths – A is the 5th of a D major chord and D is the fifth of the G major chord.

To hear tons of examples of this, so you can fully understand this concept, check out the video below:

How To Quickly Make Your Guitar Solos Sound More Emotional Using This Concept

First, download the .mp3 file below. This .mp3 is simply made of a single note (E) that is played continuously for four minutes. Use this file to complete the steps below:

Click this link to play the audio sample

First Step: Allow the E note backing track to continue playing while you play these chords on top of it (let each chord sustain for 5-10 seconds): B major, F major, F# minor, F# major, E major, E minor, A major, A minor, C# minor, C major, D major, D minor. Imagine this like playing a single note guitar solo above every chord.

Second Step: If you already know how to build chords, you understand that the E note has an entirely different function when played above each chord from the first step. The next step is to figure out the function of the pitch as it is played over each chord. Here is an example: If you notice that you like the way an E note sounds while being played over a C# minor chord and you know that it is functioning as a ‘third’, you will recognize a third whenever you hear it being played over any minor chord. As you found out by watching the video above, the function of a note will always feel/sound the same no matter which note or chord you are using.

With this in mind, it is important to learn how to recognize the sound of other note functions as well (not just your favorites). However, you should begin by identifying the ones you like first, then expand and learn the others.

If you aren’t familiar with chord construction, do this:

  • Pay very close attention to how the E note above ‘feels’ when it is played over the different chords from the first step. After you learn more about music theory, you will be able to understand more about why each chord creates a totally separate feeling over the same note. This will help you apply the information so that you can create emotional guitar solos any time you pick up your instrument. For now, simply get accustomed to the different feelings that occur when the E note is played over each chord change.
  • Study with a great guitar teacher to learn more about music and quickly reach your guitar playing goals.

Third Step: Clearly identify the particular emotions that are created from each pitch function from above. Simply identify the emotions YOU feel – don’t worry about whether or not you have identified the ‘correct’ emotion. Start by asking yourself how it feels when a third, fifth, root, etc. is played over a certain chord (minor or major). This step is critical as it will help you memorize the unique sound/feeling of each function. This is essential for being able to play emotional guitar solos.

Once you have taken the steps above and have a solid grasp on the ‘feeling’ of each note function, begin seeking new ways to apply this idea into your guitar soloing. One exercise you can use to do this is to analyze the notes in the chords of the backing tracks you usually play over. Identify which note goes with which chord and find out what notes the chords have in common.

For example, imagine that this is the chord progression in your favorite backing track: E major, C# minor and G# minor. The E note is present in both the E major and C# minor chords. E functions as a root in E major and a third in C# minor. In addition, the G# note functions as a root over G# minor and a fifth over C# minor. If you were to solo above these chords, it would be to your advantage to use the common tones in each chord (as tools for easily changing the emotion being expressed). One way this is done is to sustain the shared notes over the chord change. This will instantly surprise anyone listening by generating a completely different emotion as the note is changing its function.

Of course, you should not ‘always’ be using this method in your solos. Doing this all the time will cause your soloing to become predictable and stale.

Although the concept you learned in this article IS very powerful and will help you improve the quality of your guitar solos… it is only the beginning! If you really want to become a killer lead guitar player, you must master the ability to make your listeners ‘feel’ exactly how you want them to feel with every note you play. Learn how by reading this page about creating intense emotion in your guitar playing.



About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resourcesguitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

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