Learning how to solo on the guitar is difficult.
It's hard to know where to start, what the structures are, or what exactly you should be studying when you begin.
Should you just learn actual guitar solos from songs?
Or should you work on scales and music theory? What about developing speed and dexterity? Where does that come in?
Most aspiring lead guitar players need some help when they set out to learn guitar soloing. Some clarity, some organization, and a push in the right direction are extremely helpful when you get to this point. And that's what this round up is for: Pulling together resources and educators that are awesome at showing you how to pull off creative guitar solos.
I've curated eight resources that are all available on the internet, and that focus on courses and content specifically for teaching you how to master the art of guitar soloing.
Some of these are courses or lessons within larger courses and programs that I've highlighted specifically for their focus on this topic.
1. Cybernetic Shred by Stephanie Bradley
Stephanie Bradley is one of the best lead guitar players I've ever come across, which has landed her an entire course on JamPlay. I've been through the course myself and it's one of my favorites, particularly for those wanting to build fretboard speed in a functional and efficient manner. For general speed development and getting deep into lead guitar, this is one of my top recommendations.
Read more: Best guitar lessons for shredding
2. Guitar Tricks Alternate Picking Levels One and Two
There are two alternate picking lessons (with several videos each) in the Guitar Tricks program, both taught by Ben Lindholm. Lindholm is a solid teacher and does a good job of explaining the fundamentals of picking and how alternate picking can help make you a better lead player. Getting your picking technique right is critical to learning how to solo well.
Read more: Guitar Tricks review
3. Blue Highways by Josh Smith (TrueFire Course)
Learning how to solo in a blues context is an intuitive learning path, because it gives you a ton of structure to work with. At the same time it allows you to carve your own style, which is exactly what the Blue Highways course by Josh Smith does. It gives you structure and a pathway to follow while leaving room to explore and build creativity. Smith is also just a fantastic lead guitarist, and one of my favorite teachers for this particular genre.
Read more: TrueFire review
4. Blues Speak: Playing the Changes by Matt Schofield (TrueFire Course)
Matt Schofield's "Playing the Changes" course gets you out of the minor pentatonic rut and into more creative, melodic soloing patterns. This course is geared towards intermediate and advanced players, boasting plenty of artist/performance studies with an extremely in-depth look at solo-building over scale patterns and chord changes. For those who feel like their blues soloing has gotten a bit stale, this course is a great place to level up.
5. Justin Sandercoe's Blues Lead 1 (Justinguitar)
Sticking with the blues study path, Justin Sandercoe's Blues Lead 1 Module is completely free and provides over five hours of content. Like the two TrueFire courses, Sandercoe focuses on a blend of building patterns and implementing technique, giving you a solid foundation to work with as you start to build your own guitar solos.
Read more: Justinguitar review
6. The Nita Strauss Rock Fundamentals Course
For those wanting to get into more of a heavy rock and speed-focused playing style, I'm a big fan of what Nita Strauss is doing with her Rock Fundamentals course. It's about 35 videos but you get the course for life, along with all future updates that Nita makes to the material. For building chops and advanced speed technique, it's a great place to jump in.
7. Chris Zoupa's YouTube channel
Chris Zoupa focuses mostly on teaching solos from specific songs and walking you through each note. Since it's a YouTube channel, organization isn't ideal, but for those wanting to focus on cover songs or learning from actual solos, Zoupa's channel is a great place to explore and hang out. Be aware that he focuses more on the rock and heavy metal side.
8. How to Start Improvising by Michael Palmisano
Michael Palmisano's content always does a good job of focusing on foundational music theory while still giving you practical, applicable material to get you playing. In this eight minute intro, Michael covers the basics of soloing and improvising, all of which is completely free on his YouTube channel.
Read more: What is the CAGED system?
How long does it take to learn how to solo?
This is an extremely difficult question to answer, partly because what people mean by "guitar solo" can change a lot, depending on what skill level you are and what kind of music you're into.
Assuming you have access to good resources - like the ones listed here - getting good at guitar soloing will probably take a couple of years.
That assumes you play consistently and go through the work of building finger strength, dexterity, and muscle memory.
Once you start to learn scales and you're able to play through them - which takes about six months - it'll likely take one more year to build chops and get your fingers moving freely. From that point, it's just a matter of getting good at improvising and/or learning specific solos from actual songs.
Read more: How long does it take to learn guitar?
What are some easy guitar solos to help me get started?
I've actually put together a list of over 50 easy guitar solos that you can get started on if you have a basic understanding of the guitar and the fretboard.
What are the most important guitar soloing techniques?
Once you learn the structure of guitar solos and how to navigate the fretboard, you'll start to apply technique to your solos, in the form of the following:
- String bending
While there are other types of technique, these are the most commonly implemented when you're in the early process of learning how to play guitar solos.
Soloing on an Acoustic Guitar
Is it possible to learn soloing on an acoustic guitar?
It's certainly a good idea to practice with an acoustic, just because it's harder and more challenging. However, I wouldn't recommend viewing the acoustic guitar as a functional soloing instrument.
They typically have a heavier string gauge and are just more difficult to play in general.
If lead guitar is your focus, stick with the electric guitar when possible.
Best String Gauge for Soloing
Speaking of string gauge:
What is the most functional string gauge for guitar solos and lead guitar? What gauge lets you play faster and learn soloing quicker?
My advice would be to stay at or under .042 for your low E.
You can get even smaller string sets where the low E is at .038, though the smaller you get, the harder it is to get a heavier rhythm tone. Somewhere between .038 and .042 is going to be your best bet.
These are some of the best resources I know to recommend for those trying to learn guitar soloing on their own. While it's hard to replicate the effectiveness of in-person guitar lessons, these internet resources do a fantastic job of communicating the method being the fretboard madness. In other words, they show you how to understand the fretboard, how it connects together, and how you can use it to build your own solos.
However, I wouldn't recommend trying to get through all of them.
Pick a couple that look particularly good to you and focus on them. Give yourself over to the material and spend some time with just a couple resources that you really like.
For example, if you like the blues material, maybe go with Justin Sandercoe and the Schofield course.
Or, if you're more into speed, go with Nita Strauss's program or the JamPlay lessons.
Either way, just find something that fits and work on it.
If you give it plenty of time and practice, you're almost certainly going to see some amazing results.
For questions about the material, drop a line in the comments section and I'll jump in.