The Guitar Solo is Dead

CBC had an interesting article on the state of guitar solos in recorded music. Guitar solos are dead.

Warren Kinsella, a musical genius in his own right with this band, had this to say about the reason for the demise of guitar solos:

… because they suck. They represent the zenith of rock ”™n”™ roll onanism. Because they are boring. Because they add nothing to the melody.

The CBC article goes on to say that while soloing might be impressive, it”™s an activity that guys do alone in their bedrooms. This clip, which is actually quite good, is served up as an example of isolationist shredding.

When I posted on the top 100 guitarists of all time, I received a significant amount of email and comments. There were lots of opinions on the best guitarists. And, pretty much without exception, soloing was a significant aspect of the player’s talent.

Perhaps the demise of the guitar solo mirrors the demise of pop music generally.

Meanwhile, here is a list of the greatest rock guitar solos. And a picture of one of my favourite guitarists, Larry Carlton. He was born on the same day as me, March 2nd, although he is nine years older. Larry is still going strong at 58.

Larry Carlton

4 replies
  1. Rob
    Rob says:

    Richard,

    Now you’ve hit the mark – Larry is my favourite all time player ”“ and he”™s playing my guitar! I have been following him and his technique for well over 20 years. Some time back I acquired his signature ES-335 which is not only of high quality construction, it plays well and sounds wonderful. (I have one of the early pilot runs)

    While Larry is known to include solos, they are much more reduced from years gone by – they are short, tasteful and ‘fit in’ with the song, as opposed to taking the song to a different place than it should.

    Another player to take the same approach is U2”™s “The Edge”?. He is a fabulous rhythm player and not known to take extravagant solos. His timing and percussive rhythm is exceptional.

    Reply
  2. Stephen Meyer
    Stephen Meyer says:

    I don’t consider myself a jazz musician, but I really appreciate the genre. One thing I find it that soloing within jazz (as well as blues) is used to add to the melody but also as a break to possibly take the song somewhere else, to explore another possibility for what the song could be in, tempo, chord progression, or rhythmically. I think this can be a pivitol point in the expression of music as an art, and probably why you don’t find it in pop music today.

    Reply
  3. Matt S
    Matt S says:

    “guitarists like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen played like speed-addicted bumblebees”

    I think Yngwie fits that characterization more often than not, but Vai? He’s often put into the same category by those who aren’t in the know. There are few guitarists as stylistically diverse, unique, or technically adept (in every way imaginable, not just speed!). Not to mention he has great tone, and produces all of his work in his home studio! All that said, it’s been years since I have listened to him regulary, but I have a huge respect for his work.

    Of course, if guitar solos are truly ‘dead’ I wouldn’t have seen Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson in April….and all of the classic rock groups wouldn’t be touring and charging obscene ticket prices. On the radio, I always hear a mix of artists who do and don’t put solos in their songs, and I think adamantly including solos in every song (old metallica) is as ridiculous as vowing to never include them.(new metallica)

    If people like Larry Carlton, Joe Pass, Pat Martino, and Metheny are still eating, that speaks loads as well. hehe. Of course, as Zappa pointed out, ‘Jazz Isn’t Dead, It Just Smells Funny.”

    Maybe guitar solos just smell funny right now as well.

    Reply
  4. JP
    JP says:

    In one sense, the folks who start sayings such as, The Guitar Solo is Dead, are probably representing other genres.

    The fact remains that the guitar is the largest selling musical instrument in the world. There are more magazines and publications devoted to guitar than any other instrument.

    On the other hand, the last 3 decades gave us an enormous amount of guitar solos to digest. After a large holiday meal, you usually don’t want to think about food for awhile. But your appetite eventually returns.

    Based on the guitar market, earthlings still have a strong appetite for guitars, and that includes the guitar solo. What should I give up guitar solos for anyway– rap? Not my idea of a meal replacement.

    Reply

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