Category Archives: Solos

Progress Report: Shine On You Crazy Diamond

I know it’s been a while since I posted, and the truth is I’ve been heads down learning this solo. I feel really good about where I am, and I recorded this video in the anticipation of it being the final performance video, but I’m not quite there yet.

The issue is that David Gilmour is a frustratingly precise guitarist. His timing is really hard to match, and with the clean sound of the guitar, any mistake is glaringly obvious. While there aren’t too many mistakes in this performance, there are enough that I’m not satisfied with it. I’m going to work on it for another week and see where I am.

Thanks again to George Coller for the Strat loaner. I think it sounds awesome on this song.

Solo #7 Pink Floyd Shine On You Crazy Diamond 5:12 – 6:28

There isn’t a good YouTube link to the whole studio version, but this live version is as close as it gets. Here is just the solo in case you don’t want to sit through a 13-minute song: Shine On You Crazy Diamond Solo

I heard my first Pink Floyd song sitting on the red carpet of my family room in Madison, Wisconsin, when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I wasn’t a fan at first — my Dad played Dark Side of the Moon for me and my brother and I thought it was long and boring, and some parts were downright creepy — the ticking clocks, and heartbeats and screaming maniacs and all that. But my Dad was a huge Pink Floyd fan, and he bought each new album and played them for us as they came out.

The next Pink Floyd album my Dad played caught my attention, though. The opening song on Wish You Were Here began with a slow, methodical build with subtle organ tones, with sparse bluesy guitar licks layered over. The first nine minutes of the song were all solo, alternating guitar and keyboard, and David Gilmour’s clean, poetic style made a huge impression on me. His solos were like verses unto themselves, and when the vocals did come in, his interspersed guitar work played like a counter-melody that was haunting and brilliant.

Over the years, I’ve grown to love Pink Floyd, and David Gilmour has become my favorite guitarist. Others might have faster licks, but his brutally clean tone and silky smooth playing makes each solo a story. I can’t even hope to match his style, but I hope to get close enough to do the song justice, and I’m very excited to be learning some of his techniques.


David is known for this signature black Fender Stratocaster. I no longer own a Strat. I have been playing a Gibson Les Paul Studio for all the previous solos, but there’s just no way to get the same tone out of my Les Paul, especially since a tremolo bar is required to match the solo. My good friend George graciously let me borrow his reissue ’57 Strat, so I can come closer to the Gilmour sound. It’s been a joy noodling around on the Strat so far, and I can’t wait to dive more fully into the solo.


Backing Track:


Instructional Video:


Pink Floyd performing the song live, sans Roger Waters:

Performance: More Than a Feeling

I loved learning this solo. It’s such a classic song, that everyone knows, and it’s hard enough that I feel like I’ve really accomplished something. Because this solo has a harmony part, I recorded it twice and have included both parts through the magic of “picture in picture”, which thankfully iMovie makes ridiculously easy.

I think I got pretty close to Tom Sholz signature “Boston Sound” using the Ampkit+ app on my iPad. It really makes practicing and recording these solos a breeze. Let me know how it sounds. I’ll be announcing solo #7 in the next few days.

Progress Report: More Than a Feeling

I’ve been working on this solo for about four days, and I’m loving it. This is why I started this project!

Here’s an audio mix of where I am on the solo currently. It’s in pretty good shape, but I really need to get it cleaner and more polished. This also shows how I am able to record the harmony parts and mix the solo together so that it sounds closer to what’s on the album.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I record the video — I guess I could split screen it if I can figure out how to do that in iMovie, but either way I think it’s going to turn out very nice. Take a listen:

Solo #6 Boston More Than a Feeling 2:27 – 3:02

Listen to the song here.

Boston’s 1976 debut album was already 4 years old when I first heard it as a high-school freshman. It was an album built for a turntable, with the epic “Foreplay/Long Time” capping off the first side. I was already a big fan of other arena-rock icons like Styx, Journey and Foreigner, but Boston had a sound that was unique and mesmerizing. No other song typifies that sound better than More Than a Feeling.

The main reason for that unique sound was guitarist Tom Sholz, who pulled an amazing tone out of his 1957 Gibson Goldtop and the “Rockman” preamps and equalizers that he invented. The signature “Boston” sound is maddeningly hard to recreate, especially in the solos, where Tom layered harmony leads over the main lead to give the guitar a full, rich sound that is literally impossible to create with one guitar.

I’m going to go ahead and learn the harmony parts and play and record the solo twice to try to match the sound as close as possible. The vibrato during the bends is going to be the hardest for me, but that’s a technique that I need to master for some of the more challenging solos that are coming up.

I find it interesting and ironic that “More Than a Feeling” has become self-referential. It has become that “old song they used to play” that makes me nostalgic and instantly brings me back to my teenage years. It’s songs like this that planted the seed in me to become a guitarist, and playing the solo is going to be like living out a fantasy. I sincerely hope to do it justice.


Instructional Video:,7149,1.html

Harmony lesson:


More tabs:

Backing Track:


The original music video. I firmly believe Boston’s drummer Sib Hashian was the inspiration for “Animal” from the Muppets.

Rare video of Boston performing “More Than a Feeling” live in 1979:

A demonstration of the “Rockman” sound:

Performance: Take It on the Run

Gary Richrath, REO’s lead guitarist, is the king of string bending. The hardest part for me in this solo was getting the bends to the proper pitch, plus the very difficult 2 step bend at the very end of the solo, which was necessary because my guitar only has 22 frets, and Gary’s has 24.

I’ve very pleased with the pace that I’m learning these solos. It’s a side-effect of practicing every day — it’s accelerating for each solo, even though they are getting more difficult. Originally, when I planned this project, I gave myself an average of 1 month per solo, which would have taken me a little over 2 years for the whole project. I think it’s going to go faster, and that’s exciting to me.

Solo #5 REO Speedwagon Take It on the Run 2:05 – 2:55

This solo came about in a roundabout way. It may take me a while to explain it all, so be patient with this post.

I originally had chosen “Keep on Loving You”, the 1981 #1 hit that I wore out on my cassette deck as I cruised slowly around the parking lot of San Marcos High School. That song, in many ways, symbolized my high school days. It was at once cheesy and powerful, an anthem to a young man’s inability to understand the workings of the female mind, and to the powerlessness we all feel when we are compelled to stay with the one person we just know we should not be with. The song has a lot of meaning for me, and a lot of memories, so I felt that it was a great solo to put in my list of 25 songs.

The problem arose when I sat down to learn it. It came too easy. I had memorized it after about 10 minutes. After 30 minutes (still in the same practice session), I had it pretty much down. After an hour with it with it, I could have recorded it. It’s only 20 seconds long, a fraction of the length of Mississippi Queen. I love the solo, but I just didn’t feel right picking a solo that I could learn in less than a day.

So I listened to some more REO Speedwagon songs to try to find another solo that would fit into the #5 slot. “Riding the Storm Out” seemed like a good possibility — it hearkens back to a time before the big REO sellout, where they became synonymous with ball-less ballads, competing for cultural mind-share and physical shelf space with Air Supply. But listening to the solo, I felt that was a bridge too far for me to tackle at this stage in this journey. I took a listen to “Roll with the Changes,” — this is a classic REO song and one that definitely defines their early success, but there’s not a single, powerful solo that stands out among the several amazing solos that punctuate the song.

If you’ve never heard the name Gary Richrath, you’re probably not alone. Most people who are not REO Speedwagon fanatics probably haven’t. He’s the man behind the pretty amazing lead guitar work on the early REO albums, and a vastly underrated guitarist. I wanted an REO song to fill this slot, but Gary’s amazing work was making it difficult to find a song that 1) was meaningful to me, 2) was challenging enough that I couldn’t learn it in a day or two, and 3) wasn’t so challenging that I wasn’t ready for it.

I found that song today — “Take It on the Run.” Appropriately enough, the song was actually written by Richrath and was the second big single off the Hi Infidelity album, after “Keep on Loving You”. The solo is around 50 seconds and is certainly challenging, but I think it’s reachable at this stage. The warm up is over. It’s time for me to move on to the next level, and I think this solo does it. Listen to the full song here. The solo starts at 2:05.

Here is Gary’s 1960 Sunburst Les Paul that he used for most of his career. It’s a undeniable classic, and he used it to record some amazing licks. I hope I can come close to capturing his tone and style. It’s going to be a lot of fun trying.


Instructional Video:,11278,1.html

Tabs (not completely accurate):

Backing Track: This is my own backing track that I made using Rock Band 2, recording out of my stereo into the mic input of my video camera. The sound is not great, but there isn’t another backing track anywhere on the internet that I can find.

Performance: Mississippi Queen

So, I feel a little foolish. Yesterday, I posted a whiny rant about how long it’s taking me to learn this solo, and then one day and two practices later, I have it pretty much down. I hit one or two questionable notes in this performance, but nothing I would worry too much about if I were playing live.

What I love about the solo is it’s deceptive simplicity. There’s nothing intrinsically hard about each individual element, but the way they are put together requires constant thinking about what’s coming up next. I thoroughly enjoyed learning it, and feel a great satisfaction in the fact that I learned the entire song. In just two weeks, I’ve added a whole new song to my repertoire.

Now I can form that Mountain tribute band I’ve always wanted to start.

Solo #4 Mountain Mississippi Queen 0:00 – 2:29

Here’s the song. I’m just going to learn the whole thing since it’s short and mostly solo anyway.

I don’t have a heartwarming story about the first time I heard this song. Its popularity had already waned by the time I got into Rock music and I don’t remember any association with it as a teenager, although I’m sure I heard it played on the radio from time to time. My love for this song came much more recently.

My son Carson is a video game fanatic and a huge Rock Band fan. For a 7-year-old, he is quite good. He plays most songs on hard or expert level and has really developed a taste for classic rock songs. One of his favorites is Mississippi Queen. Watching him rock out, even with a plastic guitar controller, is one my life’s greatest joys. I’ve grown to love the song as much as he does.

Since I decided to do this solo, I’ve done some research on Leslie West, the guitarist behind Mountain. While Mountain was kind of a one-hit wonder, Leslie is a well-known and popular guitarist — a true “Mountain” of a man — who still plays festivals and shows, and hasn’t lost any of his skill. Check out the Inspiration section below for a great recent video of West playing the classic riff from Mississippi Queen.

Leslie West played a number of guitars over his career, but the one shown here is the guitar he used to record much of his early work, including Mississippi Queen. The original hangs in the Hard Rock Cafe. It’s a Gibson Les Paul Jr., which West is widely credited for boosting in popularity.


Instructional Video (2 parts) —,6673,1.html

Tabs —

Backing Track —


The Mountain Man himself playing some licks from Mississippi Queen —

Leslie West, Joe Satriani and John Petrucci (from Dream Theater) jamming out to Goin’ Down. Way too much guitar talent on that stage. —

Performance: Go Your Own Way

I have to say I’m in awe of Lindsey Buckingham. He makes a simple solo so rich and full of character, and he does it effortlessly. I could spend months on this one and still not approach the silky smooth transitions that he has. I feel good about it though. A full week of practicing 30 minutes to an hour a day got me to the point where I would feel comfortably performing this in public.

I admit that I played this with a pick. I practiced it with fingering for a while, but I have used a pick for years and it’s too much of a change just to learn this one song. It would have taken much longer to get it anywhere near this level. It’s also not an exact replica of the recorded solo, but given the way Lindsey improvises on stage, I felt I was entitled to a few small liberties.

I really feel like the techniques I’m learning at this stage are really going to pay off later, when I get to some of the really hard ones. On to solo #4, which I’ll announce tomorrow.