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Old 10-30-2012, 10:29 AM   #1
UseMyIllusion
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Lead guitar theory

Hey! I've been trying to start playing lead guitar but I'm having a lot of trouble. When people ask me to play a lead guitar part I can never think of what to play and end up looking a fool.

I would say I'm pretty good at rhythm, I can play most chords in different positions around the neck and invert them etc, but when it comes to lead guitar I really struggle, I know scales etc, but it feels like guesswork trying to write a lead guitar part.

How do I play good lead parts? Do I learn a lot of licks so I can put them into my solo, or something completely different?

Also what scale do I use? Say if the chord progression is (G major, E minor, C major, D major) Do I play a G major scale/Eminor scale? Or do I just stick around 1 scale.

Also when I play lead I usually use arpeggiated chords and add hammer ons and stuff, but it just seems so bland when it's the only thing I do, Cheers!
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Old 10-30-2012, 10:50 AM   #2
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You'd use the G major scale over all that. Have you tried soloing using a technique called rhythmic density?
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Old 10-30-2012, 10:53 AM   #3
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It annoys me because I can tell what key I am in but I'm not sure whether I change scales when I'm playing/playing over a new chord.

And no I haven't heard of that :/
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:11 AM   #4
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Just use the G major scale, it's simpler.

Rhythmic density is the amount of notes per beat.

"Sparse" (S) means whole notes, half notes, quarters.
"Dense" (D) means eighths, triplets, 16ths.

Eighths are the line between dense and sparse.

Create some phrases that go:
1) S - D - S
2) D - S -D

Create a phrase that develops:
1) D to S
2) S to D
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:14 AM   #5
UseMyIllusion
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Cheers that makes sense
The only problem is the phrase haha, I'm really not good at creating melodies on the spot or anything, I always get asked to play a solo and I just sit there blank, I find it hard to play something which I can't feel, I dislike playing loads of notes which mean nothing.
The only problem is I haven't developed my own lead playing so I really struggle to make any phrases melodies etc
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UseMyIllusion
How do I play good lead parts? Do I learn a lot of licks so I can put them into my solo, or something completely different?


Yes and no.

You do need to learn a certain amount of other people's stuff because that's partly what half-decent musicians do (just like half-decent novellists study other people's novels).

You could also do with practicing "being creative" because that's a skill just like any other skill. There are any number of ways you can go about this, but the gist of it is that you hear the melody in your head and then play that on the guitar (rather than just mindlessly letting your fingers do the walking, as it were). You can do that with or without some kind of backing track, with or without additional - more specific - goals ("I'm just going to use 4 notes for this solo and wring all the music I can out of them"). Sometimes it helps if you record what you're playing - you can revisit it later and decide which bits you like best. If you're stuck on how to develop melodies from basic building blocks there's a half-decent guide here. (Don't try and do everything in the guide at once - try one technique at a time and gradually build on that until you're familiar with the various ways you can develop melodies (which is what soloes are). Once you've done that try combining, say, a couple of those methods at once. And so on.
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:25 AM   #7
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Ok, you'd do well to study some blues solos. Even if you don't like blues, it's important to you as a musician, cuz it's a "roots" style. Meaning that's it's a genre of music that influences every generation of performers.

Blues solos contain great phrasing. Study BB King. Very simple, but effective.
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:46 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UseMyIllusion
I know scales etc, but it feels like guesswork trying to write a lead guitar part.

How do I play good lead parts? Do I learn a lot of licks so I can put them into my solo, or something completely different?

Also what scale do I use? Say if the chord progression is (G major, E minor, C major, D major) Do I play a G major scale/Eminor scale? Or do I just stick around 1 scale.

Also when I play lead I usually use arpeggiated chords and add hammer ons and stuff, but it just seems so bland when it's the only thing I do, Cheers!


Well, kudos for recognizing that your current approach isn't working. There are a lot of guitarists out there who never get past that point.

Second, yes, with the chord progression you listed you would play G Major. But understand that G major and E minor are different scales. Stop thinking of them interchangeably - they're not. In the different key contexts the same notes have different "meanings."

And that gets to the thing you have to do now. You have to get away from thinking of a scale as a collection of safe notes, and instead start to understand it as a series of notes which each have a unique relationship to the tonic center.

So start by using the functional ear trainer, a free download from miles.be. It will be really hard at first. Keep at it.

Then start transcribing. Start with basic melodies - because really, a good lead part has a melody - and gradually move to learning more complicated guitar parts by ear.

The key to this is that ear training is really mind training: you are teaching your brain how to think in tones. Studying other players leads will help you understand what they're doing, which should inspire you, but training your ear will also help you tap into the music inside you, so that you can write music the same way you'd write a poem or an essay: brain first.

It makes all the difference in the world.
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Old 10-30-2012, 11:54 AM   #9
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Get some basic backing tracks in any key. You need to learn major/minor/pent scales in at least 1 position to start. If you know these already, expand with bends slides etc till you get some feeling, then just keep at it for a few years

Last edited by Tempoe : 10-30-2012 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:31 PM   #10
UseMyIllusion
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Cheers guys! I'll start analyzing other players and try and learn their music by ear, I usually use tab, but they're normally wrong and I need to train my ear, I've just downloaded the functional ear trainer.

Also could you describe to me what "Transcribe" means, I've checked google and it's not helping haha :/
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Old 10-30-2012, 12:43 PM   #11
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Transcribe means to listen to a song and figure out how to play it by ear. Traditionally for the purpose of writing or tabbing it out, but the main focus is to develop your ear to the point you can learn music just by hearing it.
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:22 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J-Dawg158
Transcribe means to listen to a song and figure out how to play it by ear. Traditionally for the purpose of writing or tabbing it out, but the main focus is to develop your ear to the point you can learn music just by hearing it.


How long does this take to get good at?
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:27 PM   #13
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It completely varies.

And it's also not a binary thing (good at it or not). Your ear is always developing, always growing. The functional ear trainer will help.

Your goal is just to keep getting better.
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:39 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by UseMyIllusion
How long does this take to get good at?

Good being relative, it takes your whole life. By the time you get to where you think you want to be you'll already be looking at the new things you want to do and learn. About the time you can ear out the rhythm sections you'll already be wanting to do leads. Got both of those down then you'll want to do piano or orchestra arrangements, really its never ending
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Old 10-30-2012, 02:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HotspurJr
It completely varies.

And it's also not a binary thing (good at it or not). Your ear is always developing, always growing. The functional ear trainer will help.

Your goal is just to keep getting better.


I guess my main goal is to be able to play what I feel, I don't want to tap/shred etc, I kinda like Jimi hendrix/John frusciante approach to guitar, but i'm not sure how I can let them inspire my lead guitar, do I learn their licks/riffs etc?

I've focused a lot on frusciante's rhythm playing and i've gotten a lot better by doing that, but I really need to get better at melodies/riffs etc
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:21 PM   #16
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Transcribe melodies that you know really well, like The Simpsons, Family Guy. I'm being serious. If you can sing it and pitch correctly, all you've got to do is take it note by note, and find it on the guitar.

Persevere. It depends how much you want to get and good, and how quickly you want to progress.

miles.be is good for interval recognition but that's all. Use that to improve on your intervals.

But really, transcribe melodies.

Don't worry about chords for now.

and remember this, if you can sing it, you can play it. Cuz if you can sing it, it means you have it internalized. And that is the most important thing.

Have it inside you. Can you sing the major scale without the guitar?..... in diatonic 4ths?
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:31 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by mdc
miles.be is good for interval recognition but that's all. Use that to improve on your intervals.


Actually, no. Miles.be is about scale degrees, not intervals. Huge difference.

Agreed on the rest of your comments, though.
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:41 PM   #18
UseMyIllusion
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The miles.be functional ear trainer won't download, keeps saying there's an error, is there any other websites I could use?
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Old 10-30-2012, 03:47 PM   #19
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It's a different kind of trainer than any other I've seen. Figure out what's wrong with your system and fix it. It appears to download fine on my computer.
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Old 10-30-2012, 04:00 PM   #20
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I have a book full of different theories.

1. rhythm guitar theory
2. lead guitar theory
3. bass theory
4. complimentary counter melody theory
5. hammer on theory
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