Hotel California by The Eagles is one of the most iconic songs in rock ‘n’ roll history. Everybody knows this song, and no one really gets tired from listening it. If you play guitar, this is one of these songs you have to learn and play, if you haven’t already.
Is Hotel California hard to play on a guitar?
Hotel California is not so hard to play. It is a great song for intermediate guitarists to learn. However, it takes a lot of practice to play that song flawlessly and without sloppiness especially solo. It is, therefore, a perfect song to learn in order to improve your guitar playing.
That famous guitar solo demands certain guitar skills and techniques you have to master before. In this article, we’re going to analyze Hotel California thoroughly, each part. Let’s go!
Intro and Verse
Hotel California is played on an electric guitar. + there’s another guitar (acoustic) that’s sort of accompaniment to the electric guitar. The song is in the key of B minor. The intro of guitar playing continues to play the verse, when the singer starts to sing.
In this part, you’re following a guitar chord progression. Here’s the most important technique used in electric guitar part.
Alternate picking is a technique that’s heavily employed in Hotel California. You have to know this technique in order to play the song properly. Alternate picking basically means you’re picking a string in an alternate fashion.
In other words, you pluck the string in one direction, and then you pluck in the opposite direction. And so on. This technique is often troubling for guitar beginners. However, it is the technique every decent guitarist has to master. It improves dexterity of your playing hand.
How should you exercise alternate picking? There are a lot of exercises for this technique, but this one is, in my opinion, the best. It starts on 0:53.
So, you’re playing a chord in alternate picking style. You have to pick the notes of the chord one at a time. Start slow, and then increase the tempo when you’re comfortable. It is tricky at first, but you’ll see improvement very quickly.
Alternate picking is not the only thing you should practice for Hotel California. You have to be able to make fast and clean transitions from one chord to another. Beginners often struggle with chord transitions.
That’s because you have to, for each chord, put fingers in certain positions on fretboard. Make sure you start slow. Eventually, you’ll get used to those transitions. Being able to perform chord transitions flawlessly is crucial. Otherwise, you sound sloppy.
When it comes to guitar sound effect, it is hard not to notice the chorus and phaser effect being employed.
There are a tons of certain amp settings, pedals, guitars in combination being used in this recording. It is hard to nail the sound just perfectly. But you don’t have to spend your time trying to find the exact 100% recreation of Hotel California studio recording.
However, we can highlight few of the things that make the sound of Hotel California. The first one is the phaser effect.
Joe Walsh used a Script Phase 90 pedal. Here’s how it sounds like. When you hear the effect of the pedal on clean tone, you’ll immediately recognize resemblance to Hotel California.
You can check it on Amazon for more info.
In addition to phaser effect, add a bit of chorus. At the time of the recording, there weren’t any chorus pedals in existence. Chorus effect was recreated, back in the day, by adding lot of guitar tracks in the recording. Each guitar has it’s own pitch. When you have multiple guitars in the same tuning, they still differ with slightly different pitching for each.
So, when you record multiple guitars, you’ll get that chorus effect. Nowadays, you can easily do that with a simple chorus pedal, or you can simply add chorus on your amp settings.
I use this cheap chorus pedal. It does a pretty good job.
The chorus of Hotel California employs vibrato, dead note strumming and a bit of soloing.
Make sure you know how to vibrate on a string. In this case, it’s not that pronounced vibrato. It is a subtle vibrato on lower strings.
Strumming on dead note is easy. You just need to know how to strum properly. It takes a bit of rhythmic awareness for you to perform it correctly.
Solo licks are also played in the chorus. So, let’s talk about that famous solo.
Hotel California is such a popular song. Part of its popularity belongs to its famous guitar solo. Here’s what you need to know before learning this solo.
String bending is heavily present in this solo. In general, bending is one of the most important techniques when it comes to guitar soloing. Rarely there’s a solo without it.
This solo is permeated with various string bends. For proper string bending, you have to have strong fingers first. It takes a strength to bend a string. Guitar beginners often struggle with this. That’s because beginner’s fingers are weak.
You have to develop the strength in your fingers in order to perform string bends properly. Here’s the article on that subject where you can find info and tips on how to make this technique easier to master.
Sliding is another technique heavily used in Hotel California solo. Sliding is not so hard to master. You just have to slide from one fret to another. How to exercise this technique? Well, you just have to begin sliding. It’s simple.
A lot of pull off’s and hammer on’s are present in this solo. This is another guitar technique for which is important to develop strength in your fingers.
There’s one exercise that’s going to improve your hammer on’s and pull off’s dramatically. It’s called finger gym exercise.
Make sure you don’t do this more than 10 minutes a day. Otherwise, you’ll get sore fingers.
General Tips: What You Should Practice and How
Here are some general tips that will help you learn Hotel California quick.
Dexterity is perhaps the most important thing when it comes to guitar playing. Without it, your playing sounds sloppy and muddy. Dexterity means accuracy, precision and overall confidence. It’s not enough that you can play something.
It’s about how you play it. Remember, how you sound is a reflection of your playing confidence. If you sound sloppy, it means you’re not that good yet. Dexterity is something you have to pay attention to.
The best exercise for improving dexterity is called spider exercise. Make sure you practice this every day, as a part of your warm up routine.
I know, this is not a super interesting exercise. However, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing it. 10 to 15 minutes each day is enough for you to notice significant improvement in your playing, in a matter of days.
We talked about alternate picking and chord transitions. It is important for you to use a metronome. Metronome is a valuable tool. If you struggle with aforementioned techniques, just start slow. Slow enough.
Then gradually increase the tempo of the metronome each time you’re comfortable with that.
This is often an overlooked advice. When it comes to guitar playing, resting is equally important as practicing. Your body needs a rest from playing, from time to time.
It needs a rest, so that it can process and adopt new information. Your finger muscles need a rest, also. When should you rest? Whenever you feel like you need the rest.
You know that feeling sometimes, when you feel like you can’t play your guitar with ease? That’s when you know you need a rest. Take a rest for a day, or two, whenever you feel like it.
Train Your Ear
Ear training is essential. That way you’re making yourself less dependent on guitar tabs and other similar helping tools. If you’re intermediate guitarist, try to figure out the chord progression of this song. Hotel California uses peculiar chord progression.
Try to decode what’s being played. That way you’ll become familiar not only with harmony recognition, but also with your guitar. You’ll get to know your guitar fretboard better when you listen. But don’t take my word for this. Listen what Don Felder says about it.
I hope this article gave you some valuable information about how to play Hotel California on your guitar. If you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it, I’m more than happy about it.
Make sure you check out other songs’ analysis on this site.
Also, read about various guitar related questions and issues, here.
Cheers, and rock on!