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By Rhys Lett

VCE Music Solo Performance Guitar – Single Note Category review

The single note category tests a guitarists skill in scale playing. You need to perform two songs from the single note category in the exam. The list for the VCE Music Solo Performance recital exam can be obtained from the VCAA website.

Here is the collection of songs you can select from in 2015 with some commentary provided to help you decide what to chose.

For more help with your VCE study contact the Eastern Suburbs School of Music via the contact form on the right of this page or by calling Rhys on 0421 705 150 to book lessons.


Cowboys from Hell – Pantera

Taking on the Pantera theme song will required a guitar with humbuckers. Grab a distortion pedal that will give you a high gain sound. Watch that your tone doesn’t get too saturated in distortion. It is important to maintain clarity even with high gain sounds.

You can also take all the midrange out of the sound to get that thrashy tone. Set the middle ED dial to zero while turning bass and treble to full.

Led Boots – Jeff Beck

Jeff Beck created two must have instrumental guitar fusion albums in the mid 70s with George Martin, famous for being the Beatles producer. This is the lead off track of the album Wired. You will find typical twisting Beck phrasing furiously snapping out single note runs in the solo section. This is one to defiantly load into the Amazing Slow Downer or Audacity audio programs to slow down and master.

White Room – Cream

This Eric Clapton lead tune starts in 5/4 timing. Make sure you have a wah pedal in your effects pedal line up.

Sultans of Swing – Dire Straits

Take time in learning this one. The task in learning this song is like learning 8 guitar solos. Each verse contains licks to learn that answer the vocals as well as two guitar solo sections. Break it up by learning one section per week. D minor and A7 arpeggios are also a technical exercise you can work on.

The Unforgiven – Metallica

This cowboy epic is one of the easier tunes to learn on the list. Be careful it does not contain a lot of variation in the playing of the song and is quiet long.

Movin, Wes Part 1 or West Coast Blues – Wes Montgomery

This octave driven piece will get you grooving away. Use a thumb to hit those octaves just like Wes did. Use a guitar with humbuckers set to the neck position pickup. Also roll back the tone dial to create a smoother bass heavy sound.

You can chose one of the Wes Montgomery pieces from the list to perform in your exam. This is the last year you will be able to perform West Coast Blues as it will be deleted from the list in 2016. Also you will need to make a custom backing track to shorten the piece down. Adhere to jazz convention of playing head – head variation – solo – head as outro.

Billie’s Bounce – George Benson

This Charlie Parker bebop standard is given the guitar treatment by George Benson. A knowledge of jazz chord arpeggios will help greatly in learning this piece. Include some in your technical work SAC.

Pasta Blues – Joe Pass

Presented here in a very good cover version take. A challenging piece that incorporates a chordal style amongst some flying note passages. Joe Pass truly was a guitar virtuoso.

Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2) – Pink Floyd

All the substance in this song is left for the solo at the end of the song. Use the two verses to show variation in some way like strumming the chords for verse one, then doing the melody octave part in verse two.

Minor Swing – Django Reinhardt

Django could make the single notes fly out of the guitar with only the use of two and a half fingers. Guitarists are to perform the guitar solo section of the song, which starts at the 20 second mark of this video and concludes at the 1 minute 36 second point. If your fingers haven’t fallen off by that stage you are doing well.

Flor D’Luna or Black Magic Woman – Santana

Flor D’Luna is a wonderful sensitive instrumental highlighting Santana’s mastery of dynamic control and touch. The Latin groove is riding high with the wonderful minor melody laid against it. This is a bit of a forgotten classic in the Santana catalogue so I am glad it is included hear for students to study and learn from.

Black Magic Woman was Santana’s biggest chart success in the initial phase of his career. This song contains vocals so you will have to work hard to sing to yourself as the single note licks of the verse work around the phrasing of the singer.

Always With Me, Always With You – Joe Satriani

One of the shred guitarists that achieved pop chart success in the 1980s. This tune is an excellent study in using the major scale all over the fretboard. Its bridge section drops to natural minor before lifting again to the major scale release. The guitar tone is very mid range heavy.

For the Love of God – Steve Vai

This is an edited version of the song with students only required to learn up to point where the whammy bar and tapping freak outs take place. Probably something only Vai himself knows how to play! Get a delay pedal into your effects chain to help with the epic guitar god sound.

Somebody Get Me a Doctor – Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen revolutionised guitar playing in the late seventies with his control of the tapping technique and whammy bar abuse. This song the playing is fairly controlled and is one of the easier Van Halen songs to play.

We have gone deeper into analysing this song in this song review article which you can read here. It is one of the shorter songs in the list too. Keep that in mind when trying to stay under the 25 minute limit.

Pride and Joy – Stevie Ray Vaughan

The feature cut of SRV’s debut album. This song is played with a guitar tuned down a semitone. It is up to you whether to perform it with a guitar tuned down or in standard tuning. Make sure your backing track matches the key you have tuned to.

Grab a Fender Stratocaster style guitar set to the neck position for this song.

Back in Black – AC/DC

The monster AC/DC classic. This contains some challenging rhythm riffs in the interlude section of the song. Watch the syncopation of the chords in the chorus as well.