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How to Play Highway to Hell Solo
In this Guitar Control lesson video Instructor, Robert Baker, is going to show you how to play Highway to Hell guitar solo! A follow up to his Highway to Hell riff lesson. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out that video as well. There are lots of cool little things that Angus is doing in this solo, just like all of his solos. It is really fascinating how melodic he made the pentatonic scale. He kept it pretty straight forward pentatonic but always interesting.
Angus is truly a very talented rock guitar player. One thing that’s kind of tricky about a lot of these older AC/DC songs and even bands like KISS and a few others have this problem, they are turned almost in between standard and Eb, so down a half step. Some tabs will say to drop a half step to play along but it just isn’t totally right. They’re just slightly tuned down from standard so it’s tough to try and play in tune with these recording. So whether you are playing along with them in standard or a half step down and it just sounds a little off, that’s just because they are not quite in either of those tunings.
If you want to match them you can try to tune to their open strings, luckily they use a lot of open chords so that’s what Robert normally does to get in tune with them. Robert is however just in standard tuning for this video, so to play along with him, just leave your guitar in standard, but again if you want to play along with AC/DC they are just a little bit flat.
Step 1: The Key and The Scales
The first step in learning how to play the Highway to Hell guitar solo is learning what key they are in and what scale they are using for this solo. This solo is in the key of A minor and they are using the pentatonic scale box 1. This scale starts on the 6th string using your pointer to pinky finger to play the 5th to 8th frets. On the 5th, 4th, and 3rd strings you use your pointer finger on the 5th fret and your ring finger on the 7th fret. Then on the 2nd and 1st strings you are going to use your pointer finger on the 5th fret and your pinky on the 8th fret. You’re going to want to also be able to descend that scale, so practice playing it both up and down.
Step 2: Starting the Solo
Now let’s talk about how this solo kicks off. We are coming out of the D to Dsus4 back and forth we left off on in the first part of this lesson, how to play Highway to Hell riff. So this first part can be played a few different ways but is basically the same. Sometimes he bends the 7th fret 3rd string and then he will play the 5th fret 2nd and 1st string together at the same time like a double stop. Other times he will bend the 7th fret 4th string and pick the 5th fret 2nd string and then 5th fret 1st string individually, picking the 2nd string first and then the 1st string, it sounds almost identical so it’s up to you which way you want to play it. He is going to repeat it five times. So just make sure you pick one way and do the same way all five times for this very first lick. Then he does a double stop with his ring finger on the 7th fret 4th and 3rd strings.
A double stop is when you play two notes together at the same time. It’s not just a normal double stop though, this is a really cool detail he added in, he bends the double stop up and down, giving it tons of style and a different twist than what you normally hear with a double stop. The other unique thing about this bend is that he bends it up and brings it back down and then slowly brings it back up, giving it a really moody and dramatic feel.These are two very cool ideas to incorporate into your own playing and improvising bag of tricks,the way he bent the note and that he bent a double stop. Then pick the 5th fret 3rd string, then the 7th fret 4th string, the the 7th fret 3rd string, then back to the 5th fret 3rd string and bend it. Then play the open 5th string. Then you are going to grab the 4th fret 4th string and you are going to pre bend it, which means you are actually going to bend it before you play it then you are going to pick it and then release the bend by bringing it back down.
This technique is really cool and almost makes the same sound as a whammy bar when you are bending it. This is a technique that Angus uses in a few of his different solos. Then you are going to play the 2nd fret on the 4th string and then the 2nd fret on the 5th string to the open 5th string. Then go to the 2nd fret 3rd string and then bend the 4th fret 3rd string up a full step. While tat 4th fret is bent you actually have to reach up with your pinky and hold down both the 2nd and 1st strings on the 5th fret. This is a super signature Angus Young move. Something he does a lot in his solos. Then way he brings the bend down is very cool too, just slow and dramatic again. Then on the 3rd string pick the 4th fret and then the 2nd, then slide into the 5th fret 4th string with your middle finger, followed by another double stop, the 5th fret holding down both the 3rd and 2nd strings. Do that double stop again but on the second time add in a little bit of a bend.
As everything builds up it does get a bit harder to hear some of the notes so don’t get discouraged. Now you go to the 7th fret 4th string, to the open 5th string, to the 5th fret 4th string, and then back to the 7th fret. Then he basically does an A minor chord. Play this voicing of A minor by barring the 3rd fret all the way down to the 1st with your pointer on the 5th fret and put your ring finger on the 7th fret 4th string. Then you are going to slide up to the 11th fret 3rd string, then pick the 10th fret 2nd string, then pick the 11th fret on the 3rd string again and then kinda pick both of those notes together, the 11th fret 3rd string and the 10th fret 2nd string. And that is basically the entire solo!
Recap: How to Play Highway to Hell Solo
I hope you enjoyed learning how to play the Highway to Hell guitar solo! Angus Young is such a great guitarist and who better to learn some rocking solo chops from. He pretty much just sets the tone for this style of rock and everything he plays is just awesome. There are a few really unique things he does that would be great to take on on your own, add into your bag of tricks and maybe even use as inspiration to create your own uniques sounds by mixing and blending different techniques that aren’t normally used together. He is also a great person to learn how to write solos from, you’ll notice his solos are always awesome, a little showy but also very well written and structured. They are actually fairly simple but the way he plays them and how much feel he puts into them really make him stand out. And of course, as always, have fun!
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