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5 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

Guitar Solo

Delivering a face melting guitar solo isn’t just about pulling it off, it’s also about making sure that your guitar sound comes through loud and clear to really let your playing shine. Oftentimes, the tone you dialed in for a nice crunchy rhythm guitar just doesn’t translate to a searing lead tone. While it may be simply an issue of volume in some cases, it may be that you need a significantly different sound for your solo to cut through. To avoid playing the most rocking solo of your life with no one in the audience actually hearing it, try these tips.

  1. Use a clean boost. A clean boost is a very simple tool that makes your signal louder, ideally while leaving the original tone intact and not adding more distortion. Many of the Carvin amplifiers have boost knobs with footswitch control just for this purpose. These are located after the input preamp like a second master volume for a clean boost. A stompbox boost is another route and some models even have EQ controls or an additional gain knob for further tone shaping, so you may have to do some shopping and experimentation to find the right one. You will also have to look at where you place a boost stompbox, because when placed up front going into a dirty channel it may not increase your volume, but instead make your amp even more distorted. This may sound cool at home, but it may leave your solo lost in the mix with the band. Try it in the effects loop. This will boost your preamp tone instead of over driving it. When your solo hits, switch on your clean boost for a nice bump in volume.
  2. Switch on an overdrive. Many guitarists use numerous overdrive pedals for a range of dynamic distortion sounds. Stacking dirt pedals is a great way to create huge, layered guitar sounds to fit different parts of different songs, and is extremely useful in shaping a good lead tone. Similar to using a clean boost, switching on a separate overdrive- especially in conjunction with another overdrive that’s already on- can result in a volume and tone boost that is sure to get you heard.
  3. Use your guitar’s volume knob. Your guitar’s volume knob has a huge effect on the overall tone (despite the fact that it’s labeled “volume”!) Rolling back this knob and then going through an overdrive pedal will result in a saggy, brown sound with less overdrive- you will likely have to turn up the volume on your amp to compensate. This may be what you’re after if you want a lo-fi, bluesy tone, but may not work for players who want a higher gain overdrive sound. When the solo hits, dial up the volume knob and it’s an instant volume boost for your solo. This free, practical method is worth trying.
  4. Use an amp with switchable channels. A versatile, multi-channel amp like the Carvin Audio V3 is really helpful in dialing in separate rhythm and lead tones as well as setting overall volume levels for each. Since each overdrive channel comes with its own set of EQ, gain, and tone shaping controls, you can dial in noticeably different tones for rhythm and lead or the same tone with a bump in volume, and toggle between them with a footswitch. This method allows for tremendous flexibility.

V3 100W 3 Channel All Tube Amp

V3 100W 3 Channel All Tube Amp

When it’s time to step into the limelight, what are your tricks for getting your guitar solo heard? Let us know in the comments!


  • Posted On November 09, 2016 by Brian Henderlong

    I prefer the Legacy 3 with 3 channels and a separate boost. The boost is variable up to 6db. I’ve never been able to convince a sound man to turn up a solo.

  • Posted On November 08, 2016 by Scott

    I would also recommend an EQ pedal.

  • Posted On November 08, 2016 by Steve Gray

    Use an excellent PA system and put a microphone on your guitar amplifier speaker. The idea of using guitar stacks to get the sound across is 1960s thinking. With today’s excellent PA systems, you can get near studio quality sound in a live setting.

  • Posted On November 08, 2016 by Dylan McGuire

    I recently started using a Klon-type overdrive pedal (which can do a great clean boost or add more dirt) AFTER my other overdrive and fuzz pedals. It seems to add the right amount of boost and tone shaping. I used to have it before the other dirt boxes, but it just made it more distorted like the article said…

  • Posted On November 08, 2016 by Steve Beaudoin

    I kick in a second (small combo) amp.

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