Is The Guitar Solo Dead?

Posted 23 Jul 2008 in Music, Musings

Canada’s current affairs magazine, Maclean’s, poses the question – in the eyes of today’s bands and pop music, is the guitar solo effectively dead?  A number of so-called rock musicians and guitarists are alleging that if you play one in a rock song right now, it’s almost laughable and taboo – very different to the rock anthems of the 80’s and 90’s when the guitar solo was almost what “made” the song.

The reasons for this are manifold, ranging from musicians focusing to lyrics and singability, to reluctance in putting in time and efforts to learn and produce solos, to lack of appreciation of solos and the thought of their wasting “airtime” in a song.  Says Julien Kasper, a professional guitarist and associate professor of guitar at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass.:


Over-the-top “hair bands” of the ’80s turned people off solos when they became more about showing off than about adding an interlude that really fit with the song. It was a stark contrast to the more “singable” and blues-influenced solos of legends like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton. Lyrically focused mega-hits from hip-hop producers, divas, and boy bands (now soloists) have been the go-to popular music from the mid-’90s to today.

“When a lot of pop tunes on the radio stopped having guitar solos, probably the powers-that-be at the labels realized, ‘Hey, guitar solos aren’t necessary, it just wastes time,’ ” says Kasper. “You weren’t just losing guitar solos, you were losing everything to samples and beats.”


What do you think about this?  Is the guitar solo really dead?  I know that in the contemporary christian praise and worship music that I play every week, guitar solos are certainly present, but they usually consist of a short instrumental interlude which is used to build up the song to a crescendo before heading into the bridge.  I for one, not only cherish but look forward to a good solo, so long as it contributes towards the overall song and is not just a platform for the lead guitarist to strut his stuff…


  1. Trevor (14 Apr 2009, 5:19)

    Indeed, the old fashion school guitar solo is dead. In order to evoke interest in the guitar solo again, someone has to come up with an original playing style and a fresh- non vintage- sound. No worries, it will happen.

  2. Shredhead (20 Jun 2009, 18:34)

    It isn’t that the guitar solo is dead, it’s the lack of taste for quality when it comes to the expectations of today’s music.
    In the eighties, almost every neighborhood had a kid who could play guitar, it was a competition to see who could burn up the fretboard in the style of your favorite hair head famous guitarist.

    Then once Grunge bands came on the scene in in the 90’s, music declined, every garage band out of Seattle that could only play power chords got a record deal.
    Only musicians and people who appreciated quality guitar soloing from guys like Satch and Eddie seemed to miss it, the majority of tone deaf kids and greedy record producers conditioned to the three minute demo tape with the attention span and patience of a mule set the trend.

    Even worse than that was the popularity of Hip Hop and Rap, all lyrics and drum machine beats with no instrument talent whatsoever.
    It’s like the fake wandering minstrel guiding masses of zombies into a trance of misguided utopia.

  3. trippin (22 Nov 2009, 2:48)

    Who would rely on the money grubbers that program radio to set the standards for taste?

    People who enjoy music will gravitate to talent; people who try to out-hip each other will gravitate to what’s marketed as popular — as it always has been and always will be.

    Seldom has true talent ever been recognized, and conversely, seldom are those who are recognized talented.

    There’s a lot of fantastic guitar playing going on right now. If you’re missing it, well, shame on you. Don’t expect it to be spoon fed to you by the marketing department of mega-media conglomerates — you must seek it out in spite of what they’re pushing.

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