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6 Ways to Improve Your Lead Guitar Playing

Tips to help your solos

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Sooner or later, all guitarists will undergo the feeling that they've "hit a wall" in regards to their lead guitar work. Whether it stems from a lack of knowledge, a lack of technique, or a lack of inspiration, the end result is the same. Everything you play sounds like something you've played before, and frustration quickly sets in.

The following are some tips to help inspire guitarists who feel like their lead guitar playing has become stale...

Explore the Blues Scale All Over the Fretboard

Probably the first thing you learned when you began playing lead guitar was the blues scale with the root on the sixth string. Over time, you may have also learned the blues scale with the root on the fifth string. But, how comfortable are you playing the blues scale all over the neck of the guitar? Learning new fingering patterns for familiar scales can lead to some interesting combinations of notes and riffs that you may not have imagined before. To begin exploring, see this tutorial on playing the A blues scale all over the fretboard.

Learn Five Positions of the Pentatonic Scale

And, when I say the pentatonic scale, I'm referring to the major pentatonic scale. While, to many guitarists, the minor pentatonic is simply a blues scale with a note missing, the major pentatonic scale remains largely unexplored. Introducing the major pentatonic sound into a rock and blues environment immediately introduces a different sound. And, while using the major pentatonic scale can sometimes be trickier than using a blues scale (it often involves the need to switch scales when chords underneath it change), it can really "open up the ears" of guitarists once they start experimenting with it. Learn five positions of the pentatonic scale.

Use Tab to Cop Licks from Other Guitarists

One of the most fun methods of improving your lead guitar abilities is learning to play your favorite solos by other guitarists. The web is filled with tablature intended to teach you how to play exactly what other guitarists have played. Take advantage of that, and learn some of your favorite solos note-for-note. But if you're going to do it - do it right... be sure to exactly mimic the string bends, the vibratos used, etc. And, once you've got the fingering memorized, it's very important to figure out what the guitarist was doing - what chords was he playing the riff over? Can you transpose it to new keys? Do any of those riffs work in songs you're trying to play lead in? Spending some time on the analysis - it will be well worth it! Get guitar tab for 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.

Teach Yourself an Exotic-Sounding New Scale

Sometimes a wild, wacky new sound is just what the doctor ordered, when searching for inspiration in your lead guitar playing. In some cases, learning a new scale leads to whole new songs, but in others, you may find yourself simply picking out a few notes here and there, and working some of these new sounds into your existing lead guitar repertoire. Here are links to lessons on a few scales you may not have used previously: the harmonic minor, the phrygian dominant, and the dorian mode.

Memorize Major & Minor Chord Inversions in All Positions

If you've only thought in terms of scales in your lead guitar work, prepare for your mind to be blown! Introducing single note patterns based on chord shapes (also known as arpeggios) into your solos can quickly lead you into unexplored territories that will open up your ears to possibilities you may have never considered. Get full lessons on major chord and minor chord inversions here.

Transcribe Your Favorite Lead Guitar Riffs

Although guitar tab is easy to read and allows you to learn songs quickly, it's not as beneficial to your growth as a guitarist as transcribing music yourself is. I've learned more in an afternoon with a CD, some note paper and my guitar than I have in years of reading guitar tab. Transcribing guitar parts forces you to think like the guitarist you're trying to learn from. It may be frustrating and slow-going at first, but there are ways to make the process easier, and soon, you'll be able to transcribe songs yourself, and avoid all that low quality tab that you can find all over the web. Learn how to transcribe songs from CD.
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