Flatpicking Guitar Magazine has published a comprehensive manual on developing solos for acoustic guitar. Written by FGM publisher Dan Miller, The Guitar Player’s Guide to Developing Creative Solos runs to 260 pages and includes a pair of audio CDs covering what the author describes as three different approaches to building solos.
The first method is based on what is often called the Carter style, based on finding the melodies to songs by working around familiar chord shapes. By holding down the chords you already know, this style involves either lifting a finger in the chord to expose an open string, or simply striking a fretted note or a note on a nearby adjacent fret, to pick out the tune of most simple folk songs. Examples are shown for 14 jam favorites.
Dan then explores the concept of soloing based on scales and a basic knowledge of music theory to guide in the selection of notes in building solos. Five scale types are demonstrated: major, minor pentatonic, major blues, minor blues, and chromatic. These are applied to dozens of examples in standard songs, along with suggestions for how to mix the scales types in a single solo.
Finally, the book turns to what is called an “intuitive approach,” where the player starts to trust their own skill and knowledge, and combining these various pathways already discussed into a method for much more free improvisation. Of course examples for doing so can’t really be given, since learning free playing can only come from doing, but several ways of thinking about it are presented.
All in all, more than 150 song arrangements are shown, all played on the two audio CDs packaged with the book. You can see a table of contents on the FGM web site, showing just how complete and in depth this material is handled.
This isn’t a songbook, but instead a roadmap to these three ways to approach building solos in a flatpicking style.
The Guitar Player’s Guide to Developing Creative Solos is offered for $29.95 in hardcover, and $24.95 for the digital edition.