Watch the Strategy 4: End Well online guitar lesson by Jon Herington from Ear IQ: Soloing Strategies

So, let's take a closer look. It starts simply enough, with some simple blues stuff in the first couple of bars. But, as you can hear, I like to get right inside the harmony if I can, and on the E7, rather than stay with the same bluesy stuff I'm again outlining the notes in the chord, connecting them with other notes, but really aiming for chord tones in specific places in the time, starting from the D, the seventh, through the B, the fifth, to the G#, the third, up to E, then back to the D where I started.

Next comes the fast "lick" - naturally, when Donald said to play something fast I resorted to something I'd played before, something that was deep in my muscle memory, and to do that felt different and not as good or natural to do, because I really prefer trying to "sing" my way through a solo, in other words, invent a melody in my head and try to play that, but hey - when you're hired to do a job, and the boss says jump, if you can, you do! That passage basically uses a six note collection of tones - it's probably easiest to think of it starting on the G: G, A, Bb, D, E, F#. So, it includes the root of the G minor chord, the second or ninth, if you prefer to think of it like that, the minor third, the fifth, the sixth, and the major seventh. If you built a chord out of all those notes, it would be called a Gmi6/9(ma7). Not so easy to play on the guitar, but a very rich sound.

After the fast line, I tried to recover my composure and resumed my attempts to "sing" my way through the rest of the tune, and the solo eases up a bit in that long ascending approach to the E on the downbeat of the Fma7 chord. That E is a chord tone, again, in this case the major seventh of the F chord.

So up until now, the solo section has been sort of sitting comfortably in its groove - each chord has lasted for two bars, and there's not much feeling of it moving around - it sounds like it's kind of content to stay where it is without much drama. But somehow, with the arrival of the E7 flat 5 chord, there's all of a sudden some drama and a sense of direction, like we're about to go somewhere else. And that's what I want to look at in this particular solo, because even though this was improvised, somehow it sets up the ending of the solo in a very effective way for me. I'd like you to notice again the way choosing to move to a higher register at that point somehow matches or even enhances that feeling that we're going somewhere else now. And the ascending line has a kind of powerful directional force, probably because of the quality of the chord I'm thinking of and trying to outline there, an altered E7 chord with a sharp 9, a flat 9, and a sharp 5 and a flat 5, too, which really wants to resolve to the A minor chord.

When we arrive at the A minor chord, it feels like the dramatic peak of the solo, and I played that high A there, the highest note in the solo, which felt right to me. At the very end, there's that little transitional passage that gets us back to the key of E minor for the next section after the solo. It felt right to do something that came back down after the climax, and I chose to outline the triads in that passage, then end with a line based on a B7#5 chord leading nicely to the E minor chord, sort of recalling the E7 of a few bars earlier, but this time winding down instead of gearing up.

So, to sum up, even on tunes that sort of sit there, there's a benefit to thinking about the overall arc or shape of the solo, and a benefit to coming up with a strong ending. It's sort of an old show biz adage, I think, that concern with an ending - after all, the last thing you say or play is probably what the audience will remember. Get in clean and get out clean.