Arts & Entertainment, Music

Building a Rock Solo From the Blues


Lesson time 06:22 min

Learn how to write a guitar solo by drawing inspiration from simple scales and blues chords. Get inspired to start improvising on your guitar with tips and tricks from Metallica’s lead guitarist, Kirk Hammett.

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Topics include: Record Your Improvisations


[MUSIC PLAYING] KIRK HAMMETT: My concept of a solo is a musical opportunity to make a statement. [GUITAR SOLO] It can be like an emotional statement. It can be an exciting statement full of energy and bombast. It can be a real morose statement. A solo could be really anything. A lot of times in the past I felt like I had to compose all the guitar solos and sometimes it felt like I was trying to fit ideas that didn't necessarily work for the song and I'd be frustrated and have to go somewhere else and end up improvising in the studio. [PLAYING NOTES] And for me, it was really important to be able to improvise because a lot of the people that I listened to back in the late '70s were electric blues guitar players. Basically they were playing hard rock. People like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix. And I was well aware of the fact that they were able to play solos just, like, very spontaneously and smoothly and off the cuff. And that's what I wanted to do. That was my goal was to become a lead guitar player who was able to play rhythm guitar and lead guitar and be able to just improvise on the spot and have it sounding good and aesthetically pleasing. [GUITAR SOLO] And so the first scale that I ever learned is a really common scale that everyone knows, everyone uses. I use it to this day and it's-- you know, it's called the box pattern or the blues minor pentatonic scale. Really simple key of C. [PLAYING NOTES] And from those tones comes so much expression and so much emotion and you can do so much with it. Just that simple group of notes. Some of the most basic lead guitar stuff that was formulated in the '50s came from that scale, like Chuck Berry stuff. [PLAYING NOTES] Stuff like that. Once I learned that scale and knew that that was a scale that a lot of my heroes were using it was like unlocking a key, and then all of a sudden I was able to like, you know, just go-- plug in an amp and just play like really simple blues. Just like, you know-- [PLAYING NOTES] I'm going to play you a real basic blues lick in A pentatonic scale. [PLAYING NOTES] So that can be used in so many ways, like-- [PLAYING NOTES] And from there, you know, there's so much you can do because you can play that anywhere in the neck. The rock version of that would be probably played up high with a lot more distortion and a lot more velocity and energy behind it. Something like courtesy of, like, Jimmy Page would be like-- [PLAYING NOTES] Same licks, very appropriate for, like, the harder, faster tempos of hard rock. [MUSIC PLAYING] What I found is that when I hear a song for the very first time, the first three or four guitar solos I play are basically the best improvisation I could do on those songs because it's just fresh and it's new and I don't really have any real comfort zones to go to because I'm not that familiar with the song, ...

About the Instructor

With 28 albums, 8 Grammy Awards, and a home in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Metallica have been creating iconic music together for over 40 years. Now, they’re teaching what it takes to build and sustain success as a group. Get an exclusive look into their process for songwriting, building an album, and performing, and how they took charge of their creative destiny so you can do the same.

Featured Masterclass Instructor


8x Grammy Award–winning rock band Metallica teaches you the keys to communicating, collaborating, and successfully creating as a group.

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