When you think of a guitar solo, it’s rarely some anemic-sounding acoustic guitar poking through your mix. It’s a rambunctious, overtly in-your-face behemoth of a guitar, tearing through your headphones or speakers.
We’ve got so many words to define a good guitar solo: rips, shreds, tears, juicy, warm, etc.
Regardless of how you define it, guitar solos are made to be larger-than-life, and there are two common tools that will get you there.
Using Time to Your Advantage
Just like great lead vocals, a guitar solo benefits from time-based effects – and generally speaking, the wetter the better!
It all comes back to the pseudoscience of where you’re used to hearing these things. A great performance deserves a great venue, with the majority of over-the-top solos bringing to mind massive, sold-out arena shows.
You need to recreate that stadium in your mix for your solo to really shine.
Create Some Depth
Reverb is a great effect to place your instruments in a specific space. While traditional instruments can be bussed to a few smaller room settings, your guitar solo is likely coming at the apex of your song – you need to break down those walls.
Most critical listening to your favorite solos will do just that. As you listen, you can hear the guitar break out of the mix. This can be accomplished by adding a larger reverb than you’d find on any other track, giving your solo a longer tail and more depth.
PRO TIP: Try stacking multiple reverbs on your solo. This can add to the complexity of the effect in some cases, and subtly sit your solo back into your mix if some of those delays are shared with other instruments. Experiment – you don’t want to overdo it, or your solo will lose its presence in the mix.
Widen Your Solo And Make It Pop!
Once you’ve got depth to your solo, you’re still going to want to spread it out over the mix and give it some dimensionality. Given the raw talent and emotion that goes into a good solo, you’ll need a delay that accentuates those characteristics.
We love using good tape delays on solos since they add to the complexity and saturation of the performance. In the example below, Fluff’s use of JST SOAR shows the approach we like taking to add juicy, wide delay to nearly every solo:
It’s Your Solo, Make It UniqueEvery solo is going to need some caressing to balance it in the mix, but once it’s sitting where it needs to, helping it spill over and out of your mix can take any solo from good to great.
Make your own tweaks to our process – whatever works, works.
If you find something exceptionally effective at making your solo pop, share it with us over on the Joey Sturgis Tones Forum. Our community is always looking for new techniques and approaches, and there are plenty already sharing new techniques you could be trying on your next project.