My first guitar teacher used to show me small licks or note patterns that had that special quality of arousing interest during a solo improvisation. They were essentially "tools" in my soloing "toolbox" that I could go to when improving. In other words, they added to my vocabulary of musical phrases that could stand out during a solo.


What are good ways to develop your soloing vocabulary, or add "tools" to your soloing toolbox?

  • Also: Since this my first question, I'd greatly appreciate feedback on my question. I'd like to start using this site a lot.
    – Jared275
    Jun 28, 2012 at 19:37
  • Hey Jared, welcome to the site! I'm not sure the question in its current form is particularly answerable, just because I'm not sure "ways to learn tools" is really a thing, and certainly very subjective. This is interesting though. Perhaps you could ask for the tools themselves -- what kinds of things are useful to learn and practice. That way you can get an answer in something of the same vein as what your teacher would tell you, with resources as supplements rather than the focus of the answers.
    – user28
    Jun 28, 2012 at 20:02
  • 1
    The kind of answers I'm thinking of are things like "Try switching to the harmonic minor after building on the melodic, <site> has good examples of the places where this kind of switch creates and releases tension" (making that up completely). Basically the goal would be to structure your question to elicit that sort of detail, though honestly I'm not sure myself how to do that. Others may have suggestions :)
    – user28
    Jun 28, 2012 at 20:06
  • Thanks for the feedback. I think if I change the title to "How to develop soloing vocabulary" and modify the question a little be it may work towards your suggestions better.
    – Jared275
    Jun 28, 2012 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


Unless you attend training with a skilled teacher, I think the best method to build your vocabulary is to listen to tunes played by renowned musicians from various genres, and play along.

It's a bit like what you have done already, but actively seek out new or challenging styles. For example, if you are a blues guitarist, get yourself a stack of jazz music, learn the licks and solos, listen to the chord and harmony changes and then understand why those solos fit where they do.

You will then have these in your toolbox and be able to apply them appropriately in your own music in the future.

Additionally, learning these licks will help you produce your own.

  • I've heard from several music teachers that the first step is imitation. After a while, you'll have enough experience to develop your own sound and improvisational feel.
    – Babu
    Jun 29, 2012 at 1:25

Develop your ear and your sense of melody, phrasing and time.

I did this by figuring out songs I wanted to play, by EAR. No tab and no how-to-play-x lessons from youtube. You have to develop your ear for music.

That said, there are some lick lesson type things that can help with your vocabulary.

  • Jeff McErlain has several 50 licks type lessons on Truefire that I like. He covers stuff others don't, like licks/riffs in the style of David Grissom. Grissom is hard for me to pick out by ear so I found that valuable.
  • Greg Koch's lessons are thorough, accurate and useful. His Country Guitar and Blues Guitar method books would be good for beginner to intermediate guitar players IMHO.
  • If you like heavier rock or metal, Curt Mitchell does a great job of explaining stuff so his song lessons end up teaching you things beyond the song itself.

Also, make sure you learn at least a few things from outside your favored style. It helps add spice and little touches that otherwise would not show up in your playing. I started as a blues and blues rock (Free, Bad Co, Led Zeppelin, Stones, Joe Walsh) guy but ended up learning some country stuff (Roy Nichols, Johnny Cash, Early Eagles) that really changed the way I approached the instrument.

Learning all the fills and solos to the Amazing Rhythm Aces - Third Rate Romance was a big turning point for my solo and rhythm work.


In addition to what Dr Mayhem has mentioned, I would also suggest you to search in internet too for some guitar site specifically having a good colection of licks.

For example, I found Guitar Solo pretty useful.
Give it a try and if you find it useful add it to your toolkit :)

Few other links:

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