Kurt Cobain is certainly not your typical lead guitar player, and it's for exactly this reason that this unit will be so interesting to study. He had a completely unique lead guitar style and did not shy away from soloing in his songs. The solos are melodic, full of energy, and are approached in a completely different way from the normal blues rock style that we've studied so many times. So, get your guitar ready, get the distortion pedals out, and let's dive into this epic unit!
Our aim over the next few videos is to turn a very basic solo into a Kurt Cobain-style solo. Our first task, therefore, is to learn the absolute basic solo. As with all Kurt Cobain solos, this is essentially a vocal melody line played on the guitar. Let's take a look at it... (You can also find the tab in the Guitar Tabs section)
Let's tackle the basics here. we are looping a very simple progression underneath this solo. The progression uses some of the ideas from the previous unit as well so we can see how those ideas work in practice.
The key of the song is D minor, which means we can use our D minor pentatonic scale to play through the whole thing! This is very common in Kurt's soloing, as the pentatonic scale is a really great tool for writing melodies! For this solo, we are using the D minor pentatonic box 4, which you can see in the Fretboard Diagrams.
Take your time getting this solo together, in time with the drum beat like Franco does in the video. This is our basis to build from, so it's important the rhythm is bang on!
With the basic solo learnt, let's now add a few more elements that will make it sound like Kurt Cobain is playing it. The main focus today is moving out of the box shape and up the neck.
To work out how we do this movement to the other strings, we can reference our pentatonic shapes. I have highlighted the notes we are using so you can clearly see how they appear in both shape 4 and shape 5 and 1.
Finally, for this lesson, we're going to make sure that we do only down picks, to add more aggression. This switches us to a 16th note right-hand pattern, as Franco talks you through in the video.
Let's add even more detail to the main solo to make it sound more like Kurt Cobain playing. In this lesson we really go to town adding the final touches!
Let's make the guitar scream!! Really attack the guitar with your right hand, and turn on your distortion and chorus effects to bring the whole thing to life. Remember, this is grunge, so the dirtier the sound the better!
The next piece of spice is the drone. This solo is in the key of D minor, so using the D open string is a great way to make the sound dirtier and more Cobain-like. There is no specific time at which you play the drone note, it can be once per loop, twice, three times... Whatever feels good to you.
This quote brings us nicely to the idea of energy and the final step. To get that energy into your fretting hand, we can add a tonne of vibrato. Franco goes really extreme with this vibrato, and you can do it as well! Be sure to watch Franco play around with this in the video to see just how loose this can be! Energy is the most important thing, above all else!
We will now, in a genius move from Franco, take the classic melody "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" and turn it into a Kurt Cobain solo! So to do that, we need to work out the melody first in one position and then follow those steps. So let's highlight the steps for you here...
This is a big ear training exercise to round off the unit. Your task is to sing a very simple melody and then use your basic scales to find the melody. We recommend choosing a key first and starting on the root note of that key. In this example, Franco uses the key of D minor and starts on a D note to sing.
NOTE: Singing this first note might take some time all in itself. Even if it takes the entire practice to find this pitch with your voice, I recommend continuing to work with it. Being able to hum the notes is a huge game-changer on the guitar!
Once you've found the simple melody on the guitar (and be gentle with yourself here, this could take a long time!!), try to then go through the process we talked about in the last lesson! Before you know it, you'll be writing your own melodies for your songs, bands and compositions! Plus, you'll be working out other solos much quicker!
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