Metal guitar solos are the product of an age where young men used the guitar as a way of venting their rage and at the same time attracting chicks. These men formed groups with such names as Black Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, Mottley Crue and Metallica. A feature of these groups is the guitar solo which was in direct competition with the lead vocalist for the attention of the audience.
Metal guitar solos are not as difficult to play as you might think. If you have some experience at learning guitar scales of any kind then you have some material to work with. Blues and rock are the ancestors of metal, so if you know something about these musical styles you will have an advantage when you start to play metal solos.
Metal bands promote the image of wild and crazy guys letting loose with their inspired songs and guitar solos, so can a guitarist with not much training and not much musical talent play metal guitar solos. In a word, yes. Some heavy metal guitar bands may have learnt three chords and gone on to fame and fortune, but I cannot recall hearing of any. Barre chords, pentatonic scales, memorizing the notes on the fretboard are all elements of the metal guitar solo player’s education.
The first thing you need to know is that playing metal guitar solos will cost you some money for equipment. You will be playing on a solid body guitar possibly fitted with locking whammy bar to keep your guitar in tune during heavy workouts. To truly get in the spirit of heavy metal solos you will probably be better off with a Gibson Flying V or a similarly attention-grabbing model. You also might want to consider a double cutaway model guitar to make sure you are playing at frets other guitar players never knew existed.
Feedback is extremely important in heavy metal solos so you will be always playing at maximum volume. To enhance you solos you will need some basic effects like echo and distortion. The Leslie speaker effect of the days of Jimi Hendrix and Dave Gilmour has never really gone out of fashion and if this is your bag you can go for the Univibe. For that real touch of authenticity buy yourself a tube amplifier.
Now you have your heavy metal guitar and amp set up, what techniques do you need at your fingertips to play metal guitar solos? Well, hammer-ons, pull-offs and tapping are your basics. Sweep picking makes you sound like a virtuoso but requires some work to learn. The techniques you use might be standard but how you use then depends on who your heavy metal role model is. There is a vast difference between Jimmy Page and Van Halen.
Alternate tunings you might want to experiment with for your metal guitar solos are: dropped B which is B-F#-B-e-g#-c# and dropped A – A-E-A-d-f#-b. You will need heavy gauge strings for these tunings and you might find that they are not really what you want but it is worthwhile to give them a try to check out how they sound.