Many of you know I play guitar. As such I have a particular fancy for the so-called guitar solo, also widely known as the “electric” guitar solo. This beauty was a staple of 80′s hair metal, but it’s musical role is a device that transcends all styles and genres of music.
Today the term guitar solo is commonly taken to refer specifically to the idiom of rock music. Although solo passages for guitar are found in many musical genres, the ‘guitar solo’ has an almost iconic place in rock, and particularly in the subgenres called hard rock or heavy metal.
Although in principle any kind of guitar can be used in a rock guitar solo, and counter-examples abound, the characteristic solo sound is created using an electric guitar with the timbral effect known as distortion…
- Guitar solo, Wikipedia.org
All music undergoes various movements and shifts of energy and rhythm. There needs to be highs and lows, louds and softs for the piece to be able to accentuate the finer qualities of tonal and vocal communication.
The guitar solo helps the development of most rock and harder pop pieces by serving as a break from the main lyrical content and often offering opportunity to incorporate a new chord progression or rhythm breakdown. The guitar solo is like the month of March… it can come in like a lamb and go out like a lion, or vice versa, or be all lamb or all lion.
Probably most important, a good guitar solo will emote a significant and tangible message to a song. Great solos are extensions of the lyrical and musical intent of the song itself and are tailored to fit the overall composition. A given solo would not have the same effect if lifted out of one song and placed into another.
Here are just a very few of my favorite guitar solos that I think are nearly perfect examples of form, expression, and song fit. Keep in mind that this is just a tiny smattering of the list I could generate and that these are not necessarily my favorite songs… this is a list for the solos (guitarist — song — artists/group — album):