Long post, many thanks to anyone willing to help out with some advice.

Here's where I am:
Actual time playing..... about 2 1/2 years. Played with a classic rock/country band for about 6 months of it, but it was almost all rhythm (and vocals). I never was much good at soloing. I can play along very well with about 40 songs on mp3, but again not much in the lead department. I had taken several years off (wife), and am just now really getting back into it. My speed and ability/accuracy are improving a little every day. It seems my main problem in soloing is that I don't really "have anything to say" when it comes time to start the solo. I don't really know any universally good licks/runs to use or where to use them if I did.

Some examples of what I play:
Pantera Mouth for War - Just rhythm
AC/DC Beating Around the Bush - rhythm (I love that riff)
You Shook Me All Nite Long - All parts including solo
Highway to Hell - Including Solo
Guns n Roses Don't Cry - Including Solo
Stray Cat Strut - Including Solos
Styx Blue Collar Man - Nailed everything but the solos, and I'm working on them, but they're pretty tough for me at this level.

Here's what I do:
I get about 4 hours of practice a day. I split up the time between playing along with songs I know, and trying to learn new ones.

Here's what I want:
I'm not going to be a pro, but I want to be able to improv solo over songs like I just listed. I know I need to learn scales (all I really know is the one basic pentatonic shape). My soloing doesn't have to be amazing, just competant, and I need the EASIEST route to get there. It appears my learning speed is slower than most guitar players so I need to keep it simple.

Where do I go from here?

Should I learn all the pentatonic shapes in a particular key, and practice in just that key at first? Or should I start with major scales, 3 notes per string, what? Maybe some good youtube videos (suggestions are appreciated) that teach some good phrases or runs to use? I saved a youtube video that shows an extended G major scale progression and how to solo with it over a particular progression, and I can do it, it's just that what I play is slow, boring and without any real character, it just sounds like someone playing a scale.

I'd really appreciate any help anyone could offer.
well ive been playing about 3 years now and to practice solos i started out just practicing the scales and then play them starting on a random note and ascending and descending and switching direction at random times. Also skip a few notes and just mess around...it may sound a little complicated but its a start and it has helped me out alot.
do you have trouble playing solo's or you have trouble creating your own solo's?
Buy Guitar World or Guitar One magazine. They offer many great common solo licks and tips from experts every month. Everything i know about improv soloing is from that magazine. Learning scales is very important as well. Then you can take other peoples solos, steal techniques and know what to play after and how to transition from one bit to another.

Guitar world metallica edition for example takes the most used lick and Kirk Hammett shows you like five completely different ways to go about them.
Its worth the 10$ a month!
Good phrasing is hard to learn, but important. Also important is learning what *not* to say with your solo.

A good example: I haven't had time to play much lately since I've been so busy with photo work until late at night, so my playing hasn't been great. I'm at my friend Steve's practice studio shooting him and his singer Katie - he plays piano. They're both fantastic. I see a classical guitar over in the corner, and I start noodling on it during some downtime. Katie tells me to start playing a 12-bar blues in Em, and I figure what the heck. Even without a pick (I don't play fingerstyle) and with wider string spacing I can't screw up 12-bar blues. Then Steve tells me to take a solo. Aw crap.

So I lauch into this pentatonic thing, and the tempo is kind of like do do dat dat do. Two eighth notes, two sixteenth notes, and an eighth note. Do do dat dat do. Do do dat dat do. Do do dat dat dat dat. Do do dat dat do. Very basic rhythm, and I somehow brought a heavy Eastern vibe into it. When I finished, everybody (we had half-a-dozen people sitting around) remarked on how cool it was.

Mediocre playing by technical standards, and on a guitar I couldn't fully operate. But even playing slowly, I turned some heads.

Try jamming along with songs you know. Even if you don't know the song persay but you know the key. Try copying the vocal line. I find it helps to have a 'theme' to your solos, but that's just me. Once you can learn to treat the guitar solo like a voice part, it helps immensely.

If you want to go all Yngwie Malmsteen of Stevie Ray Vaughn on it and play above the bar ... well personally I need to write the solo beforehand and stick to the basic outline. But there are a lot of guitar players that can think in scale patterns much better than I can, and those guys don't need to write out crap before they play.

If you practice enough (like Steve does), when it comes time to solo you'll only see the right notes, and you can play anything you want at will and at any speed you're capable of. With enough practice, the notes that aren't in key just look like blank spots on the neck.
Quote by bac738
do you have trouble playing solo's or you have trouble creating your own solo's?

Trouble playing solos..... but getting better every day

Creating my own..... don't work at all

Thanks for all the input so far.

So do ya think Pentatonic is the way to go for now?
honestly I would look up the shred masterclass lessons by kristopher dahl, his lessons are so helpful and really increase your playing level quite a bit if you practice. He has a good sense of humor too so the lessons are much more entertaining than other ones
If you know one pentatonic shape get yourself a 12bar blues backing track and practice improvising over that. Start off limiting yourself to just the root note and 1 or 2 notes near it - that way you can focus on your rhythm and phrasing without worrying about what note to play next. Just play with those 2 or 3 notes, and see how many different licks you can come up with just with them, using slides, bends, hammer ons, pull offs and different rhythms. When you get your confidence add another note into the mix. Whenever you come up with a lick you like, write it down - that way you won't forget it and you can use it again.

Phrasing-wise I find it helps to think of lyrics and play along to them. Doesn't matter how silly or irrelevant they are, it still helps you come up with a more cohesive solo that goes somewhere.

Keep learning other peoples solos and when you come across a lick you can adapt to use in your own playing write it down - and use it.

Edit - as you're doing that I'd learn the major scale so you understand how its constructed in terms of notes and intervals, then learn how the natural minor scale is related to the major scale and how the pentatonic scales are related to the major and minor scales - that should help you learn any other scales you might need all over the neck, and also help you identify when to use them
Last edited by zhilla at Aug 11, 2009,
Learn lot's of theory. Start of with the Major scale and it's modes. Learn the notes that make them up and learn what chords sound good in each mode and how to improvise over these chords. It would also help to develop your technique which will allow you to play whatever comes to your mind without being limited by bad technique. Listen to a lot of solos and analyze the theory and technique behind them, which will give you ideas on how to improvise.
gonna agree with dimebag buy the book and just practice those solo's
You say you practice for 4 hours a day...you may find this difficult to believe, but I would actually say for you to practice a little less. Four hours of practice, with you maybe learning new stuff for two hours or so, is simply too much for your brain to take in. Don't try to cram too much into your practicing.
Play over what you already know, then try and learn a new scale or something. Just repeat that same scale or snippet of a song over and over. It may be boring but it will improve your playing no end. That's how I learned most of the scales I know (and believe me, I know loads of scales).
Fender Lite Ash --> TC Polytune --> Digitech Whammy V --> MXR Phase 90 --> EHX Small Clone --> Strymon Orbit --> TC Flashback X4 --> Rivera R55
Four hours a day is phenomenal!

Most guitarists don't want to do the homework of learning and mastering scales...

But scales are the key to EVERYTHING in music...

There's no getting around that fact.

Dig in with more serious scale practice and you'll see a lot of benefits:

1) You'll start learning songs and solos more quickly by ear because of all the ear training you get from playing scales

2) You'll begin to understand chord progressions better because they're all built on chord scales, which are built on -- you guessed it -- scales

3) Everything you play will be more accurate (fewer wrong notes, frets, strings picked) because your right and left hands will become totally synchronized through practicing scales...

4) You'll immediately recognize which scale patterns certain solos are played in after you've thoroughly learned your scales and analyzed a few solos -- so that the next solo you attempt to learn will fall almost effortlessly under your fingers...

I could go on and on about the benefits of scales.

Just dig in.

Here's an informative scale and lead guitar blog: http://logicalleadguitar.com/wordpress/