Learn the Guitar Solo in Livin' On A Prayer
This post is a tutorial on how to play the guitar solo in Bon Jovi's Livin' On A Prayer. I’ve rated this solo at about a 3/10 difficulty level, so don't attempt it if you're brand new to solo guitar. Actually, if you have about 10-15 guitar solos under your belt, this tutorial will be fairly easy for you. As it is with many of the lovely and gratuitous guitar solos from the 80's, this solo is played on electric guitar.
What skills are required?
This guitar solo is fairly easy for the more experienced guitar soloist, but challenging in some ways to those who aren't as familiar. The last chunk of the solo you requires a lot of familiarity with alternate picking that crosses three strings. Second, being familiar with pinch harmonics, bends, and (believe it or not) strumming will all be useful.
What are the benefits to learning this guitar solo?
One major benefit of learning this solo is that you have a good introduction to alternate picking, ie fast movements of notes that cross strings while your pick strictly adheres to down and up motion. There isn't too much alternate picking, nor is there too little. It's just right.
Also, for guitarists who aren't as familiar with bends, this solo offers a good chance to get used to both half step and full step bends alike.
Recommended: Download the song
This tutorial is based off of the recorded version of Livin' On A Prayer. I strongly recommend downloading a MP3 copy of this song for yourself:
Getting familiar with this guitar solo
I don't mind writing this until I've sincerely lost all of my imagination (which definitely happens when you repeat yourself too much): Being able to sing, hum, mumble, dance to, or otherwise to just be super familiar with it before you start learning this guitar solo will make your job 10x easier. That, and it'll make your life 10x easier, because you'll be spending less time practicing and more time playing this solo!
Before I forget, I've put together an accurate tab of this solo that includes all of my picking. If you're interested in exactly how I play this solo, you might want to consider downloading it.
Breaking the solo into chunks
We're going to break the guitar solo up into five simple chunks. I'll show you the fingerings as we're going through the chunks, and then I'll share some general tips in the troubleshooting section later on in this blog entry.
Here's where you can find all the particular chunks on the YouTube video, (posted below for your convenience):
- Chunk #1 — 3:03
- Chunk #2 — 4:26
- Chunk #3 — 5:30
- Chunk #4 — 7:02
- Chunk #5 — 8:16
Don't forget that having a solid tab for this solo as you're learning the parts can be a big time-saver.
Combine all of the chunks
If you have all the chunks together on their own, and at a moderately slow tempo, it's definitely time to start combining them. The most rational way is to combine the first and second chunks, then you could do the second and third parts, and etc. I think you get the idea. Next, you could combine chunks one, two, and three and create larger chunks. Do this until you have the entire solo together.
Take it slow to solidify the mechanics
Once the entire solo is together, don't take it too fast! You need a little time to get used to the mechanics, and going fast will mess with you. Instead, I'd say play it slower than you want to. This is a great step for solidifying all of the work you did so far with this solo.
Push the tempo to master the solo
Make sure that you can play this note-perfectly at a slow tempo before you speed it up. Why? Well, if you speed up a mistake, it'll still be a mistake. Wouldn't you rather you play it right? Once you have it at about 10-15 BPM faster than the record, I'd say that this is a good tempo to be at, since you could easily play along with the recorded version of the solo at that point.
Troubleshooting this guitar solo
"Chunk #5 is really hard for me! My picking and my fingering don't sync up..."
Playing chunk #5 really fast before you get the mechanics down will not give you satisfaction! Instead, my recommendation is to slow it down. If you're stuck on quite how to do this, try the Capo 10 workflow or Metronome 10 workflow. These will give you a spectacular chance to get better at the picking and the syncing mechanics.
After you're done slowing it down, you could try to speed it up again. Once again, if you're stuck for ideas, try the Up 10 Down 5 workflow or High Edge workflow as that is a very gentle way of speeding up any guitar lick.
"My bends sound terrible!"
Bends are one of the more subtle things in lead guitar. Keep your chin up: These take some time to get together. The only advice I can give you is to simply listen to this song at a slower tempo (Capo for iOS can help you do this, and it's an excellent practice tool) and try to emulate what he's doing
"The strumming part in chunk #3 is difficult to get into rhythm. Any hints?"
I love taking things slow. There are two workflows that I have specifically for taking things slower: The Metronome 10 workflow is a very structured workflow that can help you get a stronger sense of rhythm in this part. The Capo 10 workflow allows you to play along with the recording and gives you a deeper insight into how it's actually played.
"I can play this solo slowly, but playing it faster is really difficult. Any ideas?"
First, you might want to get your hands on a metronome. Pro Metronome is an excellent metronome app and I reviewed it on my blog here. Second, it's not just that you have a metronome but that you know how to use it that matters. I would suggest trying out the Up 10 Down 5 workflow to help you speed it up only after you have solved the mechanic issues you are facing. If that doesn't work, try the High Edge workflow, as that one will really get you playing faster.
"How are you getting that sound?"
I love the Line 6 Pod. Get it here.
"How will I know if I've mastered this solo?"
Here’s the way I know it: When I can play along with the recorded version of any solo from start to finish without a single thought entering my mind, I've got it! The trick is thoughtlessness. If you can play without thought, you’ve got it, and congrats!