The Solo.
To many people (most definitely to me) the most important part of a good song is the solo. Probably the easiest part to learn, one of the hardest parts to master, the solo is crucial. And crucial to good soloing is good picking technique. Finger an Em chord (thats with the second frets down on strings 4 and 5; use your middle and ring fingers). Pick the sixth string with a downstroke (pick moving from the sixth toward the fifth string). Now pick the fifth with an upstroke. Go down the strings like that, slowly. Then do it again. Then do it again, faster. Do it many, many times, until its very, very fast. Then do it backward, i.e. start with an upstroke on the first string. Then put the two together. Then invert it, i.e. start with an upstroke on the sixth string. Then do THAT backwards. Practice all this till you can do it all really, really fast. This will take a while, so when you get bored, keep reading.

I now present to you the pentatonic scale, offa which the vast majority of solos out there in the rock/blues/etc world are based. Let's start with the E minor pentatonic scale, the easiest one to play (I assume you're in standard tuning). It's not worth tabbing this, so I'll use the following convention: string/fret. The Em pentatonic scale looks like this: 6/0 6/3 5/0 5/2 4/0 4/2 3/0 3/2 2/0 2/3 1/0 1/3. Thats two notes per string, so just go down-up on each string. Yeah, you like how that sounds? Cool, isn't it? No, you're not Van Halen yet, but you're closer than you've ever been before! Play around with this (bending 3/2 is fun), see if you can play any licks from your favorite tunes yet. Now let's add in the blue notes. In the appropriate places in the scale, insert the notes 5/1 and 3/3. Play the scale. Now isn't that cool? Now you can sound like B. B. King! Well, not quite. But you're getting there.

Next, let's try moving the pentatonic around: let's go to A minor pentatonic. The trick to moving the pentatonic scale (or any scale, for that matter) around is to find where the root is on the 6th string, and add that fret number to every fret in the scale. A is the 5th fret on the 6th string. This means Am pentatonic is: 6/5 6/8 5/5 5/7 4/5 4/7 3/5 3/7 2/5 2/8 1/5 1/8, and the blue notes are 5/6 and 3/8. I recommend that you fret all the x/5 notes with the index finger and the rest of the notes with the ring finger (except 5/6, obviously). Purists will probably tell you to fret the x/8 notes with your pinky. Take your pick (ooh, I'm so punny). While we're here, let's learn the pull-off and the hammer-on. Both these techniques depend on having your first finger on the 5th fret (change this for different positions, obviously) of whatever string youre on, regardless of which note youre playing. For example, put your index finger on 1/5 and your ring finger on 1/8. Pick the string, then remove your ring finger. As you remove your ring finger, try your best to get a bit of plucking action with it as you go - this'll make the 1/5 much clearer. This is a pull-off. A hammer-on is the same thing in reverse: play 1/5, then hammer your ring finger onto 1/8. Practice this by playing up the scale picking each string only once and using hammer-ons; and playing back down using pull-offs.

No discussion of the pentatonic scale would be complete without mentioning the blues box. People say B. B. King made his whole career offa this (hogwash, but not by too much). The blues box is basically a way to get an extra note in fairly easily. Play the Am pentatonic (no blue notes) till you get to 3/7. Now, slide to 3/9: pick 3/7 and immediately, keeping your third finger on the string the entire time, move up two frets to 3/9. Then pick 2/8 2/10 1/8 1/10. Should sound like a regular pentatonic except youve got an extra note and learnt a little sliding action on the side.

What do you do from here? Practice. Practice in your sleep. Practice till your fingers bleed, get some Band-Aids, and then practice some more. What do you practice? Anything. Improvise. Note: when you're improvising, try and keep rhythm with your feet or a metronome. Learning to play spastically is a bitch to unlearn. One fun thing to do is to record a simple chord progression over and over (like the 12-bar blues), play it back, and improvise to it. Another thing to do is to take a pretty easy solo like, say, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird solo (which is damn long, but pretty simple) and learn it; you'll pick up some cool licks and impress your friends too! At this point, friends, the world is your oyster; soon you'll be playin' like a mofo.