How to WIN Online Guitar Solo Contests

Have you ever thought about entering guitar solo competitions but were scared you didn’t have the skills or the confidence to pull it off? Been there, done that. The good news is I actually did do that—and WON! Now, I’m here to share with you what I learned along the way.


Guitar solo competitions are tough. Believe me, I know. The good news is, they’re not unachievable nor impossible to win. Sure, when you consider how many people enter some of the more popular online guitar solo contests, it’s easy to get discouraged.

But don’t hang your head in defeat just yet because I’m going to show you what I know about creating a prize-winning guitar solo. Here’s an example of one I composed for a recent guitar solo contest—and the prizes I won, to boot:

The Three P's of Entering Guitar Solo Contests

We’ve all heard the “Three P’s,” as I call them, at some point or another. Here they are in order of importance:

  • Practice
  • Patience (It took nearly 2 years of practice and applying the other key points)
  • Persistence

These are pretty self-explanatory—and I wrote an article about some of them back in 2010—so I won’t bore you with many details here. Suffice it to say that the more you practice, the better you will get at discerning melodies, learning the fretboard, and many other important skills.

Practice, Practice—then Practice Some More

So what do you practice? Scales? Well, that’s the usual answer—that and a ton of other techniques. But I want you to think outside the box. Think like a champion. I want you to consider practicing hearing a melody in your head and trying to replicate that melody on the guitar.

It can be any melody. One you’ve had stuck in your head for days, or a simple, more popular melody like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” or “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.” Just think of a melody you’ve heard or that you’ve created and have rattling around in your head and attempt to play it on the fretboard. Sing it or hum it if you have to, just get it in your fingers one way or the other.

You can also practice observing your favorite guitar heroes. One of mine is Marco Sfogli. I interviewed this amazing Italian virtuoso guitarist in the summer of 2020, which you can watch by clicking here. When you observe other guitarists, you not only see how they navigate the fretboard but you hear exactly what they’re thinking at any given moment.

In my masterclass course The Creative Guitarist, one of the main insights I cover is learning how to think like your favorite guitar heroes. This insight alone will heighten your ability to create your own signature solos by leaps and bounds.

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Patience is a Virtue

Once again, this is a point I covered more thoroughly in the article I mentioned above. However, as a more recent observation in context with my prize-winning solo, it took me around a year-and-a-half of practice—and patience—to finally get picked as a winning entry.

But the wait was worth it.

How so? I’m glad you asked. And I’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, let’s continue.

Persistence—Like Patience, but Different

Like the sub-heading says, persistence is sort of like patience, but it’s its own thing. When you’re persistent, you stubbornly pursue a goal despite any obstacles standing in your way. A similar word for this is tenacity… but that doesn’t start with a “p,” so I’ll just leave that one alone.

Either way you choose to say it, you need the persistence of a hungry bear fighting off bees for honey. The bear’s thick coat allows him to steal the thick, rich, golden liquid without worrying much about bee stings because it’s fur is too thick for the stings to penetrate. Besides, like I said before, the reward is so worth it.

A Fun Time Was Had by All

When it comes to entering various guitar solo contests and competitions, the efforts exerted can be soul-wrenching. Well, maybe not soul-wrenching per say, but mind- and finger-wrenching at the very least.

As I stated above in no certain terms in the practice section above, you’ve got to get your reps in. Because of the mind-numbing, repetitive tasks of playing the same lines and ideas over and over, you can easily lose momentum when training for a guitar solo contest. That’s where the next important step comes in.

Most importantly, you’ve got to have FUN!

If you’re not having fun while writing and preparing for your own creative guitar solos, what’s the point? You might win some cool prizes, yeah, but chances are, unless you’re Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Marco Sfogli, Joe Satriani, et. al, you won’t win anything on your first, second, or even third attempt.

Remember when I said it took me a year-and-a-half before I was considered as a winning soloist? Yeah. That happened. Nevertheless, even when I didn’t win anything the work itself was the reward. And I can’t stress this enough…

The work itself is the reward.

After all is said and done, I had fun each and every time I entered, lost, and especially won, a new guitar solo contest. Trust me, the benefits far outweigh the negatives of “losing” a competition. Which brings me, conveniently, to my next point.

Creative Experimentation

One of the most fun things you can do is compose your very own guitar solos. Time flies by and, before you realize it, you’ve spent two hours just playing and getting a feel for how to express through your guitar what’s been in your mind all along.

Writing music of any kind is very creative and expressive. It’s important to allow yourself to be creative and try new ideas. If we weren’t allowed to do so, there would be no Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Al Joseph, Marco Sfogli—and the list goes on.

A fun part of being creative is experimenting with different techniques, ideas (conventional or unconventional—remember when Jimmy Page used a violin bow on his guitar?), melodies, modes, and other tools at your disposal. Who are your influences? What types of things do they incorporate into their own playing? Can you try those out for yourself, or even morph them into entirely different techniques?

Creatively experiment with your solos and you’ll be surprised at what comes out of your head—and your heart—into the tips of your fingers.

My latest guitar solo contest entry for JTC Guitar

Building Relationships

Another fun aspect of entering guitar solo contests is connecting with other like-minded individuals. You’re not the only one out there who’d like to get some recognition for their brilliant, earth-shattering tones and mind-blowing solos. But don’t let that stop you from building relationships with others.

Thinking of other people as your competition is the wrong attitude to have. Instead, recognize that you’re all on the same team reaching to attain the same goal: a better version of your own virtuosity as a musician. If you keep this attitude about you the entire time, everyone wins!

I’ve met and developed relationships with lots of great ambitious guitarists who all enjoy the same thing as me—playing guitar. As a result, I’ve been able to collaborate with other artists on occasion for interviews, collabs, gear reviews and sponsorships, endorsements, and more. And its mainly because I didn’t snub anyone who thought I too was worth working with.

Al Joseph is a prime example. Now, let’s just be clear: I didn’t win 3rd place in his ShredKing guitar solo contest because I built a working relationship with him; I won because I wrote a melodically rich, captivating guitar solo. But I wouldn’t deny for one second that part of his decision was swayed by the fact that I’d been supportive of his work since I first heard his music several years ago, frequently commented on his socials, and helped spot some early bugs on his website. I had his back, in other words, and when it came time to submit my solo, he had mine.

Make no mistake, I had already entered one guitar solo contest called "ShredFest 3" by Al back in the summer of 2020 (see video below), but I didn’t win that one regardless of our developing friendship. It all came down to the quality of the solo itself, from studying and paying attention to what kinds of things Al was looking for in the contest entries (as Al personally stated in this video at the 3:18 and 9:47 minute marks), and writing a solo based around those insights. In the end, the solo had to stand on its own two feet and walk right into Al’s ears, heart, and soul.

You Can Do It!

I’m sure just about everyone has seen an Adam Sandler movie—or ten—since the mid-90s. Titles like Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Little Nicky come to mind. One thing most of them have in common is that they feature an out-of-the-blue character who’s always cheering Adam’s main character along. The character (always played by Rob Schneider) is always shouting “You can do it” to the protagonist.

It’s always funny to watch, but it’s also important to realize that everyone appreciates their own “biggest fan” in the sidelines cheering them on. Sometimes, your biggest fan is you. And you have to keep cheering for yourself even if no one else is cheering for you.

What I’m trying to say is that you must believe in yourself and have the confidence it takes to get you across the finish line. The journey of entering guitar solo contests won’t be easy. Sometimes the judges are hard, firm, and the odds are stacked against you. But you have to ignore the odds and follow through with all the effort and time you’ve invested into yourself and your craft.

You can have all knowledge of every fancy scale or mode of each scale in the world. You can have the best phrasing. You can even have the best guitars or gear or whatever. But if you don’t have the confidence in your abilities as a creative musician, you don’t stand a chance against everyone else who does have the same confidence in themselves.

Don't Psyche Yourself Out

It’s easy to get into your head and let your thoughts talk you out of entering guitar solo contests that you want to participate in. You may be doing it for the prizes. You may be doing it for the recognition. You may be doing it for the validation. Regardless of your reasons, don’t talk yourself out of going through with your entry.

Not only that, but one thing I do that I highly recommend to others is don’t even watch other people’s entries into guitar solo competitions. Why? Because this is the ultimate “Psyche.” You’ll likely see everyone else’s skills and abilities and begin to limit yourself through thoughts like “I’m not half as good as so-and-so,” or “I’ll never win this competition.” These can only hinder your progress.

Also, and this is by far my worst fear, you’ll likely find it hard to compose your own melodies and phrases when you start hearing the multitude of sounds coming from everyone else. So why even put yourself through all that in the first place?

Myself, I don’t even click on other people’s entries. I don’t want to risk tainting my solos with anyone else’s ideas. I want to be an original, not a copycat. Instead, I come up with my own lyrical melodies and try to get the guitar to sing what’s inside my head. Once again, the more you do the practice of observing your favorite guitar heroes before contests come up, the easier it will be to create your own ideas based on what you’ve absorbed via your learning from them.

You Still Have to Earn It!

Lastly, as I mentioned before, your solo has to stand on its own two feet. Don’t think that because you’ve done all the non-guitar-playing-related aspects I’ve already mentioned you can skimp out on your solo—the very thing you entered the contests for in the first place. No sir/ma’am. You’ve got to earn your keep.

The competition is, in fact, fierce. Yes, I know, I said earlier don’t think of others as your competitors. But you can’t deny that everywhere you look on YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc., kids half your age have double—sometimes even triple—your skills.

Still, don’t let that deter you. Keep going. Keep entering guitar solo contests. Even if you fail the majority of the time, you’re becoming a better version of yourself with each entry. Remember, the reward is in the work itself. Stick with it. It’s a process. That’s one of the most important truths that I can convey to you. Don’t let the outcome be your motivation. Focus on the process and, before you know it, you’ll have won a guitar solo contest just like I did.

Even if you fail the majority of the time, you’re becoming a better version of yourself with each entry.

Where to Enter Guitar Solo Contests

I know this has been an unusually long post, so to shorten things a bit, here’s a list I compiled of some great places to enter various guitar solo competitions:

Benefits of Entering Guitar Solo Contests

There are many benefits of entering guitar solo competitions, not the least of which include:

  • A more comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the guitar
  • Accumulating a wealth of future material for songs, videos, and other content
  • Meeting new people with similar interests that may open many more doors for you
  • Experience in songwriting and learning to record your music

What to Do Next

If you’ve enjoyed this article, would you do me a favor: please share it with someone else who might need it. You never know; it might mean the world to them and their musical journey.

Also, if you’d like to deep-dive even further into ideas like these, I created a very special course dedicated to helping people like you write melodic, expressive, emotion lead guitar solos. It’s called The Creative Guitarist, and you can check out a few lesson previews absolutely free in the area below.

You’ll be prompted to create an account in order to view some of the materials. And, if you like, you can take the next step in your own journey toward becoming a more creative guitarist by purchasing the full masterclass. I offer a money-back guarantee on all my courses, so there’s no risk involved to you whatsoever.

So go ahead. Have a look around inside The Creative Guitarist masterclass course, and see if it’s a good fit for you and your musical goals.

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Maybe you can relate...

• Do you find yourself frustrated at watching other guitarists play seemingly effortless, emotional guitar solos while wishing you knew how to write your own? (I've felt this way, too.)
• Have you always wanted to play guitar solos in a more melodic, expressive, and creative way? (I can help with that.)
• Is the lack of knowing how to read music notation or learn music theory holding you back in your goals of writing compelling guitar solos? (No need for either in this course.)
• Have you always wanted to learn how to play the most effective notes in your own guitar solos but never understood where to begin? (I cover this and lots more in the course.)

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Such resources include…

• A 30,000-WORD COURSEBOOK covering everything you need to know about how to write expressive, emotional, and melodic lead guitar solos...
• Brand new INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS that complement the course materials and which will show you the exact process of how I take a solo from inspiration to inspiring...
• Transcribed GUITAR TABLATURE of several of these full-length guitar solos in PDF, mp3, and Guitar Pro format...
• Access to a PRIVATE FACEBOOK COMMUNITY dedicated to giving you the support, accountability, and inspiration you need on your own journey to becoming a creative guitarist—both from myself and others who have already joined the community...
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So if you're interested in seeing what "The Creative Guitarist" has to offer, go ahead and start the course below. The first several lessons are free to preview.

If you're so stoked that you want to just purchase the course now, you can do so by clicking "Buy Now" below:
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