What is the best way to improve your ability to figure out guitar solos by ear?
- Use a slow downer app, such as Transcribe (available on Windows and Mac, but not IOS), or Anytune (available on Mac and IOS). I own both and use them all the time. Transcribe has the added feature of being able to slow down video as well, which is super helpful in cases where you have a video of the guitarist playing the solo (Anytune can slow down the audio portion of the video but won’t show you the actual video playing in slowmo whereas Transcribe will give the audio with the video).
- Learn your major, minor and major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales all over the neck, in all the common keys. You don’t have to memorise them all just yet. Google for scale diagrams for each of the above mentioned and keep the diagrams somewhere handy. When tackling a song, know that most pop and rock music is in one key for the entire song. So once you figure out the key, you have a pretty good idea that most of the solo is probably taking notes from one of those aforementioned scales. Since you have the scale diagrams handy, you won’t have to aimlessly peck at each note on the neck trying to find one that matches the solo – you will realize that the solo probably follows certain predictable patterns that correspond to the scale the guitarist is using.
- There are deviations from #2 but that will get you there for probably at least 80% of the cases. Now Jazz solos are a whole other story, but I am guessing you are asking more from a rock and pop angle.
Ultimately, the more you do it, the better your ear will become. You will surprise yourself what you can figure out with time, especially with the help of the slow downer apps!