Sooo... Let's begin shall we? Damn I hate this part so I'm skipping it lol.
Today (or whenever you, my dear reader, are putting your eyes and mouse pointer on this lesson) I will explain the way I (capital I!) got into lead guitar and what helped me develop my skills.
First we shall start with
I. What the?! And how did I start?
We've all heard some legendary singing coming... from just the fingers and strings of a guitarist. Some of us may have wondered HOW? Others may have enjoyed the evening and went home to eat dinner and sleep. This lesson is for all who are interested in the idea behind lead guitar and what can come from your fingers on the guitar... and not only as I'll mention in a bit.
When I started playing guitar I couldn't finger a power chord even. I had always wanted a violin, yet my best friend (Hi, Krasi!) pointed out a very beautiful guitar so I fell in love and bought it (Love at first sight, ahhh). I was AWFUL at playing. So, due to the fact that I'm a perfectionist, I spent 3 months ONLY ON TECHNIQUE PRACTICING. It was boring as hell. Yet it gave me some quite effective skills. I will list them in a bit but I have to say I fell in love with the idea of my fingers running up and down the guitar. Faster and faster as time passed, better, smoother, cleaner, more accurate. I can carry on for ages, it was amazing. The three months passed and... well I was better. Far better than previously. I kept on becoming better and better and I can say that I still expand my knowledge and skills. Do you know what I learned from these three months? No, not the insane knowledge of intervals, administering the Harmonic Minor scale and other stuff like that. I trained my DISCIPLINE. This is your most valuable trait, quality, tool, call it what you will. Learning lead guitar is mainly discipline. Remember that word, you'll learn to worship it in a bit :) Onto the next part!
II. So what exactly is lead guitar?
Lead guitarists are the moving force behind a song. Forget about the lyrics, I'm talking about the instrumental part of the music. Lead guitarists invent melodies which can make even the most stone-hearted person cry, they can create solos which can shatter a heart, or glue it back together. They can make a scene drawn by the artistic brush of music look cruel, gruesome, beautiful, charming, astounding, etc etc. They are the devastating force behind the song. Lead guitarists have the ability to place a few notes in a proper way to sound great, and with a small application of their skills they can turn these few notes into stories. We are the moving force. We are the soul. We put our souls into our music, we use our fingers to channel all the inner screams we have but are unable to unleash in another matter.
To sum up, lead guitarists make melodies, harmonies and solos. Onto the next part!
III. How can I be a lead guitarist?
Play with your soul. That's the best tip. I'm self-taught as a guitarist and have always preferred it that way. I know some theory, don't get me wrong. But what I believe is my best attribute in guitar playing is that it is raw energy! Pure and raw, untouched by the "Keeping inside the box" rubbish. And yet influenced by plenty of stuff haha. Soooo what do you need to be a lead guitarist? Imagination and soul. Technique? Screw that, you have a whole lifetime to enhance your abilities... well at least until monsieur Reaper comes for you but... Meh whatever let's get onto the next part.
Melodies are licks and leads meant to enhance the experience of the song or to apply a certain feeling of pressure or relaxation in a song. Melodies can be anything from a single note to a string of 8 notes and even more. A good example if you're into metal is Threat Signal - Through My Eyes where the lead guitarist basically shoves you into space with that melody he uses. Another good example is the leads played by Michael Amott in Arch Enemy. For me, he is the GOD of lead guitar, but let's not get into personal preferences. You get the idea I hope? Throw in a few notes to move the song into a more-intense feeling and voila - you've made a melody! Woohoo!
People say that it is hard to play a harmony. A harmony is basically playing the melody you played a few seconds ago but a few tones higher/lower. Not that hard is it? Yet the impact it can have is... well just check out Arch Enemy's No Gods, No Masters. Harmonies can be played either by the guitarist who's doing the lead or by the other guitarist over the lead guitarist's melody. If, for example, the first player plays
the other can play
You get the idea I hope? I won't go into too much info from the first lesson regarding lead guitar (this is only the beginning in a series hehe).
This is where men show that they're men and boys frown. This is the real deal! We all want to be able to do an amazing solo muhaha! Yet how do we make a solo? Solos are combinations of melodies, licks, harmonies etc. But if you just base your solo over hard-to-play licks, the solo's gonna SUCK. Too much. Let's be fair, it might be impressive to play 32ths in 200bpm and more, yet it sounds awful. The idea of the solo is to tell a story. A sad, dramatic story? A tale of dystopia? A fable of happiness? Or a depressing and heartbreaking novel? We can fit in in only a few seconds of majestic guitar-playing :) We can channel what we feel and play it on the guitar. Being able to explain yourself in notes, not in words, is an amazing feeling. I've done quite a few solos and I have to say that the feeling is... imagine you're climbing a mountain (the intro of the solo), you get through difficulties along the way (the mid part) and you reach the top of the mountain (the ending of the solo). That is the feeling. Hard work, yet rewarding. The feeling is AMAZING. What's the idea behind the solo? We can divide it into three main parts (we're not going to discuss Dream Theater-like solos or anything) which are Intro, Mid-part and Ending. In the intro, you have to gain the attention of the listening audience. It should be a small show-off or something. Play a few well-learned licks and pour some bends and vibrato to spice it up. Mid-part is where your story will develop, you will have to connect it with the intro and the ending so pay attention to details. Add ingredients here and there and, what do we have, the story develops. The ending? You've told your story now end it properly, spin the audience's heads and enjoy the applause. How? Finish it in the mood of the song. Or if the idea of the song is how despite difficulties one can stand up to it, try to bring the mood a bit. The choice is yours, the only thing standing as a limit to you is your own creativity and imagination.
Let's bring this lesson to it's end, what did we learn from this quite long and probably boring for some read? Lead guitar is playing with your soul. It might not be complex, it might not be full of strange scales and skills, yet if it sounds good then IT IS good! If you've put your soul into it you can easily wipe the floor with John Petrucci and others who just speed things to hell and smile doing it. Whoever is interested in learning more about lead guitar - I will share some more lessons as soon as I can :) For the rest, I'm sorry if lead guitar hasn't met your expectations, but do give it a chance, who knows what you might learn and how it can help :)