From a listener’s perspective, solos with a lyrical, vocal-like quality tend to be the most memorable and evocative. As guitarists, however, we tend to play many notes, across a wide range of octaves, with our technical guns blazing -- the very opposite of a lyrical approach.
Adam Levy’s Lyrical Solos edition of Take 5 is an accelerated curriculum designed to impart the essential technical and conceptual approaches you’ll need to craft engaging lyrical solos and improvisations.
”Quite often when we practice the guitar, we practice in positions and scales, going across the six strings. And, if you think about how the human voice works, it's really nothing like that at all - certainly no strings and pick involved. In this course, we’ll be exploring the things that we can do to bring out the lyrical quality in a technical way, but also in a conceptual way, as that's really as much of a part of it as well.”
Adam kicks off the course with a lyrical soloing primer where he explains how to craft lyrical solos with expressive techniques like legato slurs, slides, bends and vibrato. He’ll also cover conceptual approaches like repetition, vocal-like phrasing, and limiting the overall range of notes.
Adam will then guide you through five Lyrical Solo performance studies, from basic to more sophisticated approaches. Adam will first perform the studies over a backing track and then break them down emphasizing the key technical and conceptual approaches being applied.
Level 1: Lyrical Soloing ”This is an old-school R&B vibe solo, maybe a Wilson Pickett kind of groove. It's in the key of Bb, with the changes being fairly straightforward — it's just a I-IV-V with a slight twist. We're keeping things simple here. I'll think you'll have a good time with this one. The primary technique for this first solo is an octave limitation. "Why?", you may wonder. As this course is about learning to play guitar lyrically — that is, more like a singer — limiting a solo to a one-octave range is a great exercise because most vocal melodies are within an octave or just a bit more. Guitar is, by its nature, very different. Within any given position, you've got more than two octaves within easy reach. To play lyrically, you'll have to narrow your focus. This groove and chord progression was inspired by Alvin Robinson's recording of Something You Got.”
Level 2: Lyrical Soloing ”This solo is called "Heavy Boots". It's in the key of G, and the chord progression might sound familiar to you, as it's based on John Mayer's “Gravity”. This solo is literally lyrical. I found the lyrics to John Mayer's song "Gravity" online and studied them (you should do the same). Then, I composed a solo based on his words, set to a new melody, using a similar chord progression. Try this with any song you love. You're bound to construct a solo that feels closely related to the song but is also fresh and original.”
Level 3: Lyrical Soloing ”This solo is called "Three More". It's an upbeat country groove, with the chord progression being reminiscent of something Willie Nelson might play. It's an AAB that's different from the other solos we've had here so far. Let's take a listen. The technical focus here is on hammer-ons and pull-offs. To manifest a lyrical quality, most of the hammers and pulls bridge weak beats to strong beats. For example, in measures 1 and 2, there are hammers on the "and" of beat 4 into beat 1 of the following measure. This is even more prevalent in measures 11 and 12 and elsewhere as the solo goes on. If you ignore the slur marks here and pick every note instead, you'll sound just like a guitarist. That's not bad — you are a guitarist. However, a few thoughtfully employed hammers and pulls can really get your instrument singing.”
Level 4: Lyrical Soloing ”This solo is called "A Mule to Ride", and is in the key of A with an old-school R&B backing to it. Kind of an Albert King vibe. The chord progression in bluesy, but it's not a 12-bar blues. Let's check it out. Bends and slides are the lyrical skills used for this solo. Such techniques will be familiar to any guitarist who has played the blues. However, you won't find any tired pentatonic clichés here. The bends and slides are in the service of making music, developing ideas, telling a wordless story.”
Level 5: Lyrical Soloing ”This solo has a straight-ahead backbeat feel, but the chord changes are kind of jazzy here. When you're using more sophisticated chords, you want to make sure that you're staying in the lyrical soloing mindset. We're also going to be using ALL of the techniques that we've used so far in this one. Let's take a look. Lyrical soloing is not about playing guitaristically. It's about emphasizing melody and dynamic expression, as a vocalist would. So, as you play the solos in this course, minimize your use of vibrato. Not because vocalists don't use vibrato — they do — but because they generally use it differently than we do.”
All of the performance studies are tabbed and notated and you’ll have the jam tracks to work with on your own. You can loop and slow down the videos so that you can work with the lessons at your own pace.
Grab your guitar and let’s get lyrical with Adam Levy!