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I'm a keyboardist and sole composer in a band, and usually I write organ/keyboard solos, but I wanted to write a guitar solo for one of the songs. I would let the guitarist make his solo, but he is a primarily rhythm guitarist without lead experience. So, I tasked myself with writing the solo.

I wanted to know differences when writing for guitar compared to keyboards. I know the basics, such as range, speed, chord voicing, and interval limitations, however I don't really understand how to phrase for guitar, and how to apply the textural changes, such as bending, vibrato, hammer-ons/pull-offs, etc.

I'm aware that this question is super wide and not specific at all, but I don't really know what I don't know. When I search on YouTube how to write a guitar solo, they tend to be broad tips on how to construct a solo and not instrument specific. I don't know where to begin, and when I try to write for keyboard and move it to guitar, it doesn't sound like it belongs on guitar. If there is a clarification needed, feel free to leave a comment, and I'll try to add more information.

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    The solo will be greatly influenced by the kind of music that is to be played. There could be a dozen different answers at the moment - none of which may help! More info. please. Having a dabble on guitar will be advantageous. – Tim Aug 16 at 7:21
  • It’s a progressive rock band, and the tone is meant to be dark. It is in 5/8 in Phrygian. I want the solo to be more about the melody and rhythm rather than note density/virtuosity. – hvksh Aug 16 at 8:43
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    The chord sequence for the solo helps to develop that solo. Maybe post that? – Tim Aug 16 at 8:51
  • Some would say a solo should not be written, but I suppose it depends on the style of music. – ggcg Aug 16 at 12:53
  • When you say 'writing' the solo, do you mean actually writing the part out, or just coming up with some ideas on keyboard that the guitar can elaborate on? There's a big difference! – Tim Aug 16 at 15:01
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The best way to write for an instrument you are unfamiliar is, is to work together with whoever is going to be playing the part.
Start by writing the piece as you imagine it, in a way that you think will work. Then show this to your guitarist and get them to play it for you. You'll get plenty of feedback on what works and what doesn't, and things you can improve. Modify your piece and try again. After a couple of iterations of this, you'll probably have something that works well and sounds good.
In general just writing the notes you want is a good start. A guitar player will know how to phrase the music and when to use things like bends or vibrato. They'll use those effects automatically

  • Also, if you get used to playing solo parts on a keyboard with the feel of a guitar — for example, using pitch bend and mod along with solo-type sounds — then some of that may come naturally. – gidds Aug 16 at 17:18
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''I don't really understand how to phrase for guitar, and how to apply the textural changes, such as bending, vibrato, hammer-ons/pull-offs, etc.''

Well, you can't turn the keyboard into a guitar. However it's easy enough to emulate (and a surrogate emulation it is) a guitar solo on keyboard: use the pitch wheel for bending, some overdrive or distortion (yuck! this will sound quite bad as keyboards use digital distortion, whereas proper guitar sounds use tube amp distortion), and also use the pentatonic scale more than other scales, and hey presto. You have a great emulation of a guitar solo. :)

The best way to emulate it would be actually to learn a simpler guitar solo on keyboard, one that isn't too difficult, such as the ones found in 'Hotel California' or such songs. It will sound poor, again you can't turn a keyboard into the sound of Jimmy Page and his Marshall amp. As for phrasing your solos, that's a whole other field. If you can't phrase nicely, no solo will ever sound really that good, on any instrument.

And of course, don't forget Amazon. Surely many other keyboardists wrote books about how to do what you want to learn to do on keyboard.

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