Modal Soloing – What You Are Missing!

Soloing over a modal background can in many ways be more difficult than playing over a song with changes. The main reason being that if the chords are moving, you can fall back on that to introduce something new in the solo while you just follow the changes. When you solo over a one chord vamp you have to work harder to make variations and keep the listeners attention.

This lesson is introducing some techniques and aspects that you can use to create more interesting modal solos.


Connect your phrases

The first two are melodic approaches that should help you keep the solo as a long story instead of a random set of phrases over one chord.


Using motifs and motif development is a great way to play melodies that for the listener sounds recognizable and if you develop them also as evolving melodies that tell a story.

Using motifs has been a part of music since we started playing music. Think about the 5th symphony of Beethoven or the music from the Star wars films to have an idea about what motifs sound like in music.


Call-response is probably something you already know from blues music. Thinking like that when playing a solo can be very useful. In the solo in the video I am using different registers to separate the question and answers of the melody. Of course you can do other things as well, like alternating lines and chords or different types of phrasing.

The main advantage is that you listen to what you just played, and then try to come up with a response to that. In that way it is a great exercise to connect your lines. 

Adding variation to your solo

You have to be able to connect you lines and make the solo flow in a natural way without sounding like a collection of random bits and pieces. But you also need to make sure that everything does not sound the same, because that is boring as well.

In this next part of the video I talk about some ideas that you can use to vary how you approach the solo. Of course the list of options for this is almost endless, so I just took out a few that I found useful. Feel free to add come up with your own.

Interval Size

In the solo where I demonstrate this I try to demonstrate how you can have melodies which are very scale like and as a contrast you can have phrases that have a lot of large intervals. The two sound very different, and if you are doing one for a long time in a solo then the effect can be quite dramatic when you change.

Phrase Length

Using different lengths of phrases is a nice way to have a sort of melodic tension and release in your solo. In my solo the alternates between short stabbing phrases and longer phrases that really sit in the groove.  


Using rhythm to create different feels in a solo is also a great tool. In the solo that I play in the video I first state a motif that I play a few times in the groove and then almost completely syncopate it. This way of taking a melody and then first having it in the groove and then taking it away from the groove. You can of course use rhythm in many ways but the idea of tension and release is often overlooked.

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