An emotional guitar solo evokes emotion, whether it’s awe, inspiration, sadness, happiness, or any other feeling in between. While many guitarists can play technically proficient solos, it takes a great guitarist to create an emotional connection with their audience.
Guitar solos are usually a chance for the guitarist to show off their technical abilities, but some solos put emotion over technique. Here are five of the most emotional guitar solos ever recorded:
5 Emotional Guitar Solos To Learn About
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
Comfortably Numb is a song by English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, written by David Gilmour and singer Roger Waters. The song was released as a single in 1980, and it is one of their most popular songs. Comfortably Numb appears on their 1979 album The Wall and it peaked at number 21 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and number 18 on UK Singles Chart.
What David Gilmour pulls off during his solo is a masterclass in emotions. This solo was played with just 4 notes, 3 main and one passing note; yet anyone who listens to it knows exactly how David felt while playing it.
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
Formed in 1967, Funkadelic was one of George Clinton’s funk-rock bands and arguably one of his most famous acts. Their hit song Maggot Brain peaked at number two on Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles chart in 1973.
The song is a 10-minute bluesy ballad with audacity and emotion. It begins with short, eccentric poetry from George Clinton, but the song’s overall focus is on Hazel’s expansive fretwork, which has since become a legendary guitar solo. In 2012, a Rolling Stone reader poll voted it the best guitar solo of all time. It beat out solos by Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton.
Guns N’ Roses – November Rain
In a list of Top 5 emotional guitar solos, there’s simply no way you can leave out Guns N’ Roses and their classic November Rain. Slash delivers one of his best performances on this nine-minute epic from Use Your Illusion I. The song’s story speaks about the pain of being separated from a loved one, and Slash’s solo reflects that anguish through its anguished bends and soaring notes.
This song was first released in 1991 on Use Your Illusion I and has become known for Slash’s emotive guitar playing. If you’ve seen Slash live, then you know that he always plays November Rain with his signature top hat and Les Paul slung low like a true rockstar.
Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven
This is Jimmy Page’s crowning achievement and one of rock’s most famous guitar solos. The seven-minute epic opens with an acoustic guitar. It builds in intensity until Page takes over his electric guitar on a solo that pulls on the heartstrings.
This emotional guitar solo by Jimmy Page, also known as the forbidden riff, makes you feel his pain and is a perfect example of an ascending guitar line that just reaches higher and higher. This song is so emotional because Page’s playing speaks to an experience everyone has had, loving someone more than they love you. Stairway to Heaven really captures that pain. And if that isn’t enough for you, then there are those mysterious lyrics and a haunting Robert Plant voice to top it all off.
Prince – Purple Rain
Prince was one of the most melodic, bluesy, and seductive guitar players in rock history. But he could also play some seriously emotive guitar solos. One of his best was in Purple Rain, the title track from the film and soundtrack album. The song is a big power ballad, but Prince’s guitar solo lifts it to another level.
This is one of the best emotional guitar solos ever written and performed. It is difficult to play and has been covered many times but never quite matched. Originally written as a slow ballad, Prince rewrote it into a rock song after performing it live. Here, Prince used many techniques to make listeners think he’s feeling sad and upset while playing the guitar solo.
What is a guitar solo?
A guitar solo is an art form in and of itself. It’s a chance for the guitarist to shine, to take center stage, and to show off the mastery of their instrument. It’s also a chance for guitarists to show off their emotional side — to really connect with the music they’re playing and the audience for which they’re playing it.
That said, some solos strike deep chords and make a real connection with listeners. Some solos are also so powerful that they can change lives and inspire people to take up guitar in the first place.
How can you add emotion to a guitar solo?
One of the most important parts of a guitar solo is the emotional aspect. It’s not enough to simply play fast or have the most complicated technique. To make a guitar solo sound good, it has to convey emotion in its melody and phrasing.
To make a guitar solo emotional, you can use numerous techniques that add character to your guitar playing. Variations in the amplitude, timbre (how hard/soft you’re hitting the strings) of each note, and the time you place in between each note are all ways to convey emotions while playing guitar. If you change them up, you’ll get more expressive music.
Indeed, the lyrics might do the storytelling in songs, but the guitar emphasizes the emotion behind it–whether it’s happiness, sadness, or anger.
If you’re looking for a guitar solo to blast when driving down a lonely highway or listening to as you get ready for a night out, this list provides excellent choices. They have an emotional impact on listeners, evoking love, longing, and melancholy. Hopefully, they’ll become part of your go-to collection of guitar solos that will give you goosebumps for years to come.
Michaela Jyra Melo is a freelance writer, music obsessive, and professional content creator with a passion for sharing her experiences and knowledge with the world. Michaela is a music lover first and foremost. She's passionate about new music and artists, but she also loves to dig into musical instruments and equipment. Michael studies communication at the University of the Philippines. When she's not writing or listening to new music, she can be found reading on her Kindle or traveling somewhere new with friends.