Watch the Strategy 7: Consider Tradition online guitar lesson by Jon Herington from Ear IQ: Soloing Strategies
When I had the good fortune to be asked to play guitar for Steely Dan many years ago, I jumped at the chance, naturally. But I soon found myself quite overwhelmed. I had an unbelievable amount of material to learn in a very short time, and the band has never been one of those bands that rehearses for a month or two before going out on the road - a few days is more typical for them. So, I was kind of freaking out. I did what I could to muddle through the first few months of work with the band, but since I had a sense of the depth of opportunity there was in the lead guitar chair of that band, I was trying to find every moment I could to get a handle on how I wanted to approach so many of those classic solo sections on Steely Dan tunes. In a way, it might have helped early on if Walter and Donald had given me some clear instructions, but they never did. As a result, I was left free to make choices about how to play totally on my own, which, of course, looking back on it now, especially, was a great opportunity and a great gift.
Mostly I wanted my playing to serve the music as a whole, and be true to the character and quality of the records, because I really loved those records, and they were the product of great work by many great people. But I didn't want to be a mimic - I wanted to serve the music and not disappoint people who loved the records, but I also wanted the freedom to improvise, and to make the music my own, to put my own spin on it. And this much I knew about Donald and Walter - they weren't looking to recreate the records. They had high standards for musicianship: they wanted things in tune, in time, they wanted things to sound good and feel good, but they expected each night to be alive and different form every other night. So it was clear to me that I had work to do. It wasn't always easy to find the balance between honoring the original solos and finding room of my own. This next solo is an example of the results of one of my attempts.