Last night I saw Iron Maiden at Nottingham Trent FM Arena and it was great. I grew up listening to Iron Maiden, Metallica, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and every other rock and metal band under the sun so this was a real nostalgia trip for me. However, I’ve since been comparing my music tastes to back then and now and comparing what makes a song really stand out to me and I kind of came to one conclusion: Guitar solos are kind of annoying.
This might be a sacrilegious or an inflammatory statement to some people but these days, I listen to barely any music that even uses a guitar solo any more and going back to them I realised that I don’t miss them. But why is that? I used to worship guitarists like Adrian Smith and Dave Murray, I’ve seen both Joe Satriani and Steve Vai live and loved it but when I was watching Iron Maiden’s support act Shinedown last night I was struck by how many artists use a solo section as more of a “well here you go there’s the obligatory solo, Yeah we can do that”, which is just not good song writing.
The Problem I had with Shinedown was that every solo was in roughly the same place in every song, just after or instead of the bridge, and every solo was just crazy shredding over one scale with a big ass bend to let you know he’s finished shredding. It was formulaic and passionless and added nothing to the songs. Which I think is my major problem with solo sections in a lot of songs, is that they don’t add or change the direction of the song. It’s like they are there for the ego of the guitarist or because they felt that it was just the thing to do.
Back in uni, there was a guy in another year that would just sweep pick the same 4 arpeggios over his solo’s regardless of the song. Yeah I guess that’s cool m8 but it’s also boring as fuck yano?
I feel that the solo section is the point in the song where an instrumentalist gets to add a perspective to the emotional content of the song that wasn’t there before. To bring in a new voice to compliment or enhance what already exists. If your solo doesn’t do this then maybe the song is better off without it. I know that I get such a bigger rise out of songs that would introduce a huge fucking riff out of no where over a solo. In many ways, what I enjoy most in music right now is singular moments within songs that make you stop and go back to appreciate it. A sudden signature change or extra development of what is already happening is more about musicians having fun with their craft and raising the stakes within the song with out adhering to any formula. Which is probably why I’m so obsessed with Math-Rock at the moment.
So now I feel bad because the 14 year old me would be extremely disappointed in every thing I’ve just written. There are solo’s that do everything I’ve said and more and maybe I’m generalizing a lot of bands into one category, although I think the formulaic nature of guitar wankery and the desire to rip off ‘November Rain’ exists in every genre not just Metal, Rock and Pop. One guitarist that springs instantly to mind is Tom Monda from ‘Thank you Scientist’, his solo’s are goddamn art. However funnily enough, Iron Maiden are a band that actually do solo’s in interesting ways a lot of the time. They play with harmony, they use a lot of modal scales, they are emotive and usually take existing material from the song and advance it in some way (Although 5 solos in one song is a bit much guys). I’m not saying bands that use guitar solos in their songs are shit, but I think a lot of bands don’t think about the reasoning of having the solo in the song in the first place.
My advice: Just write a big tasty riff and be done with it.
One Love x