Watch the Strategy 1: Consider Character online guitar lesson by Jon Herington from Ear IQ: Soloing Strategies

Whenever I sit down to record a solo on a tune, the first thing I do is listen with the idea of zeroing in on the overall character of the song. I do a sort of a general assessment of the style (is it some kind of rock, blues, jazz, country, folk, roller disco, or some mix of them, etc.), and try to get an idea of the attitude of the song by listening to the lyrics if there are any (is it earnest, funny, ironic, angry, etc.). Once I have a sense of the world I'm going to add something to, I start to imagine an approach to the sound I want to make. A lot of times I'll get some direction about sound and style if I'm hired by someone to play, but a lot of the time I'm free to make those choices myself. But this idea of getting the right character is really critical to me - I like to look for the answer to the question: what is the music asking me to play?

Though I'm as happy as anybody to try to bring something personal to any music I play on if there's room for it, it's not my priority. I find it much more satisfying to try to help make the music do what it's doing just that much better if I can - if I do this, each new song becomes a real adventure, and never an automatic exercise.

The first tune we're going to look at is a Donald Fagen tune loaded with character called "H Gang". Let's dive in.