Using Licks to Create a Bluegrass Solo

by Stacy Phillips

The bulk of my "Complete Country Fiddler" (MB #94696) deals with learning to create your own solos in the typical fiddle styles of today - bluegrass, blues, swing and commercial country.

This month i have included an example from that book concerning building a bluegrass solo. The history of bluegrass fiddling is documented in the recordings of the great players of the genre. The typical way to get started is to become familiar with the canon of riffs, double stop harmonies and embellishments that they have contributed. Everyone starts by copying. This is not an end in itself, though it can be a lot of fun.

In "Complete Country Fiddler" one of the tunes that I use as a template to illustrate the modular placement of typical licks is "Pig in the Pen".

Listen to a sample

Example 1 is the skeletal melody.

Another Audio Sample

Example 2 goes through two choruses. Each begins with an embellished couple of measures of the melody. The basic melody is there but it has been varied. Besides the obvious licks, look for changes in its rhythm, the use of slides and added notes that surround the skeleton.

For a detailed discussion of this solo, the use (and misuse) of riffs, and many more examples and tunes check out a copy of "Complete Country Fiddler". You also may be interested in my video/DVD, "Bluegrass Fiddle Boot Camp".

Stacy Phillips

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