Hello my name is Michael. I have played guitar for 10 years, and I specialize in lead. My main focus of practicing is improvising with backing track. My problem is that when I improvise with my band or a backing track, I feel like I am repeating my self with just slight changes and relocation. While I can learn a new solo from other famous bands and apply some of the licks to my improvisation, I can't compose good licks fast enough. So how do I improve my lick imagination?
Hey Sanz,

When it comes to licks and improvisation, for the camp I'm in, you can consider them the same thing. This is opposed to the camp of "play everything on the fly".

I'm a big proponent that you don't really ever play anything you haven't played before. Basically saying that having riffs and licks prepared for situations is what you need to do. Have the backing track and practice along with it and create cool riffs that sound great and match the song. BUT along with this recognize the context you're using it, so you can reapply it to another tune that has a similar progression.

The reason I'm in this camp is because this helps you KNOW what licks will sound like before you use them. It gives you confidence knowing that you'll sound great and you'll hardly feel like you've been making mistakes and sounding bad for your improv.

Eventually the set licks you use will become second nature and you'll have a lot of stuff in your muscle memory to lean on. Also you can adjust these licks and play around with them to make cool variations.

This doesn't mean I don't advocate trying something new while playing on the fly, but I think having a good mix between set licks you like and "on the fly" playing makes for great improv.

This is what I subscribe to, but I hope this helps!
"Every time you pick up your guitar to play, play as if it's the last time" -Eric Clapton
Last edited by HenryGE at Oct 17, 2016,
Tony Done Scale based, I have 0 problem with writing riffs. The genre is generally metal or hard rock, its easier to improvise for blues tracks because they are relatively slow and repetitive.
You can experiment with re-phrasing licks you know ... such as where they start in the bar, the note durations, inserting silence.

Do you hear rough ideas of what you want to play as you listen to, or anticipate, the backing? Or are you purely gluing together licks you know?
Besides all the valid points alreay said...
Listen to a lot of music, try to grab any cool phrase that might not even been played by a guitar player and emulate it on the guitar.

On a more "technical, text book" point of view.
If you have any some kind of looper, simple loop for example an Aminor chord.

The notes A (root) C(m3rd) E(5th) are the structure of the chord, so before going fancy pants. Simple play those notes against the chord and see how they sound. Then instead of playing with the guitar, hum them and try to reproduce with the guitar after. Just those 3 notes.

Then try add notes out of the chord. minor chord? no, problem. Slam a major third against and see how it sounds. (Some won't sound very good, but at least you will get an idea on what you like and what you don't like.)

Instead of a Minor chord try playing a Major chord, 7thChords, a dominant chords, even a power chord, any kinda of chord tbh.
After you have figured out more or less the sweet spots. Vamp a 2 chord progression, 3 chord progression...etc, etc.
jerrykramskoy I am trying to reach megadeth solo level. I can play their solos, but I can't compose something so unique and unpredictable.
You have to spend time actively practicing unfamiliar things. If you just jam with tracks, it's too easy to fall into habit instead of focusing on new ideas. If you spend all of your practice time trying to sound good, you're just staying in a narrow comfort zone. Spend time doing things that might not sound good. Good improvisers can do really unusual stuff because they know how to resolve the melodic line and their technique conveys confidence in whatever direction they're heading.

And don't worry about trying to "compose" on-the-spot in improv settings. That's setting the bar too high. You'll get more out of collecting knowledge that you can recall while improvising. That means taking the licks you learn and practicing them through repetition. Basically you have to spend some of your time actively thinking about what you want to play.

The truth of improv is that anything you hear played on stage has likely been played hundreds of times in practice and rehearsal. Not entire solos, but specific licks, high/low points.

You should also look at your knowledge of theory. Having a solid foundation of chord knowledge help you choose the most effective notes. You have to be aware of how a note is going to sound above a chord. If you're playing over a C chord and the peak of your solo lands on the note F, that's probably not gonna go over well.
Last edited by cdgraves at Oct 22, 2016,
Quote by michaeldudeman
jerrykramskoy I am trying to reach megadeth solo level. I can play their solos, but I can't compose something so unique and unpredictable.

Marty' solos, well he tends to follow the chords a lot, his expression though (bend/vibrato wise) is insane imo. (e.g take no prisoners solo)