7 Ways To Make Your Guitar Solos Better

Here are 7 best things you can do to make your guitar solos more professional and impressive. As a lead guitarist, you goal is to sound seasoned and well-rounded. Use these tips to guide you in the right direction and start playing lead guitar like a pro in less time.

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Lots of guys who play lead guitar learn HOW to play lead guitar by copying other famous lead guitarists' solos, which is perfectly FINE and GOOD. However, there are some methods which you can use to improve your lead guitar solos that you wouldn't quite expect, but are extremely beneficial in helping you come across more seasoned than if you simply stuck to the usual routine, e.g., running through guitar scales and learning famous guitar solos. Method 1 - Learn by ear One of the most effective things I have ever done as a guitar player is to transcribe my own TABS by ear. Don't just rely on Ultimate Guitar.com for your TABS! Put some significant time into learning guitar parts by ear. It may take hours of backtracking on your iPod with headphones on, but it will be WORTH it. This skill is especially invaluable to any musician. Don't forget that the inherent nature of music in itself is primarily AURAL. (Yes, you're emotions get involved too, but for the sake of argument...) Method 2 - Learn solo sections played by OTHER instruments When you hit a dry spell, (and you will), and get burned out by learning guitar solos, use the opportunity to branch out and transpose other instruments to guitar. For example, I spent some time transcribing Tori Amos on the guitar. The thing about doing this is that your voicing, style, and HOW YOU PLAY IT is up to you. This is very important because it will also help you find a voice as a lead guitarist that is your very own. ULTIMATE TIP: Try combining methods 1 and 2 for extra tastefulness! Method 3 - Figure out vocal melodies The most memorable guitar solos are melodic, catchy, and singable. The best way to learn how to solo this way is to figure out a memorable vocal melody on the guitar. After you get it figured out in a position that is playable, add guitar-specific techniques such as, string bends, hammer ons, pull offs, and slides to make it more original. Method 4 - Don't play guitar for awhile! Take a break, go on a hike, go to a concert, just put it down for awhile. When you get back to the guitar after an extended absence, you will approach it with a fresh start and fresh eyes. This method can be very helpful if you find yourself in the common rut of playing the same licks over and over while improvising. Improvising is a largely subconscious technique. So it makes sense that if you put something fresh into your subconscious, then something fresh will come out. If you are like me and don't have a real sleeping schedule, try staying up abnormally late and losing sleep on purpose. You will play differently depending on how much or how little sleep you have had. I have found that after a weekend of little sleep, I play much more like myself and every note just comes out RIGHT. Method 5 - Make sure your strength is up Physical ability, or lack thereof, can hold you back immensely. I strongly suggest buying one of those little hand grips from Target in the workout section to exercise your hands. It's easy. Just keep it in your car and grip it while you drive to work every day. The payoff is GRAND. Method 6 - Make sure your chops are up Lacking chops can hold you back from doing what you hear in your head. Practice lead guitar speed drills on a regular basis. Or, create a lead guitar lick that is REALLY HARD for you to play, then loop it until it becomes easy. Chromatic finger exercises and sweep picking are good too. Method 7 - Know your scales Guitar makes scales easy because it turns them into a simple pattern you can memorize. Run your guitar scales, especially the ones in guitar keys, such as G/em, C/am, and F/dm. Once you feel good about these scales, modify them by adding notes from the seven modes. Start with Dorian mode as it is common in guitar playing. QUICK! What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12 I typed those numbers in under 3 seconds and I want you to be able to recite them just as quick! If not, keep practicing those scales, because THEY will pay off too. About the Author Nathan McDonald invites you to visit his instructional lead guitar site for more free lessons, articles, and video at http://www.effective-lead-guitar.com/ or, check out his eBook His lessons specialize in how to play lead guitar, which includes advice on sweep picking, finger tapping, amp settings, guitar pedals, and free guitar TABS.

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    rojomeansred
    nico42 wrote: I seriously doubt that those finger trainers mentioned in method 5 do anything at all for your guitar playing. If you play economically and with proper technique, there's very, very little strength required for playing guitar, especially when soloing (bar chords might be another story..), which is best trained by actually playing guitar. Other than that, it's a solid article!
    Strength actually plays a big role in guitar playing. Yes barred chords require some of the most but getting a massive string bend, tapping, or hammering on all take some hefty force. Also in the picking hand need quite a bit of stamina when it comes to picking quick lead sections.
    P5ych0_Killer
    These are a few very useful insights into strengthening your lead playing. Of course, what works for some may not work for others, but overall a great few bits of advice.
    crazysam23_Atax
    What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12
    Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor.
    mh1986
    Danjo's Guitar wrote: illyria wrote: Method 6 - Make sure your chops are up Lacking chops can hold you back from doing what you hear in your head what are chops? Chops are pretty much your ability to play fast. Like if you can play 15 notes per second, you have insane chops. (And are either named Yngwie Malmsteen or Michael Aneglo Batio)
    I'd actually say chops are your ability to play fast and accurately while in time. In time and accurate being the more important part, playing fast means nothing if you cant play something accurately and in time.
    Boomjosh
    Weaponxclaws wrote: I suppose you could say that that, but he's actually correct. Considering that G Major is the relative Major to e minor... This is true. I studied (study) music theory. Even though e is the relative of G, the frets he listed are characteristic of the major scale. If you were to play it, it would sound major and since it starts on the G note, the root of the scale, then it is G major.
    If you were to play this over an Em chord it would sound E minor. This debate is ridiculous, if he would have tried to say the scale was in the key of E harmonic or melodic minor then yes he would be wrong, but he didn't. It was obvious he was reffering to the natural minor. And the G major argument because it stars on G is also stupid, as relative keys (without raised 6th or 7th degrees) are identical, and the naming of it is reliant on the harmony and caedences; not the first note played.... sorry for being long winded but this should clear all this silly argument up. Good article by the way!
    MaXiMuse
    Arius wrote: Sorry but the scale you wrote was E major. Otherwise I think it was good advice. Especially the part about learning vocal melodies.
    Noop it wasn`t, read closely dude...
    AlexzGuitar08
    Thanks for the article, I already do all of this. But it helps to know that I'm not the only one doing these things.
    godisasniper
    IROn 5L1nKY wrote: I especially appreciated the tip for using the finger strengthening mechanism in the car, because I have one but had never thought about using it in the car. I think I'll give that a shot sometime.
    Yeah...but please, for the love of god, wait for a red light. Don't try to steer while doing finger exercises - I can't believe it's much better than texting while driving...
    static_music34
    you guys
    rememberthename wrote: he said find the notes in the key, not to find the scale -.-...scales and keys are different things
    exactly, he didn't ask to find the scale just the f***in notes. dur
    sporkman7
    Danjo's Guitar wrote: Chops are pretty much your ability to play fast. Like if you can play 15 notes per second, you have insane chops. (And are either named Yngwie Malmsteen or Michael Aneglo Batio)
    not really. the top recorded picking speed is somewhere around 30 notes per second. most good youtube players can probably hit 15.
    Illyria wrote: can you give examples? i know finger excersises, but i don't understand the chromatics part
    I know this goes against what the author said, but: E:--5-6-7-8--- Do that pattern on all 6 strings. Its not actually a chromatic scale, but its pretty close, and its what most people use as a chromatic exercise. A chromatic scale is just a scale made up of all 12 notes of the octave.
    illyria
    sporkman7 wrote: Danjo's Guitar wrote: Chops are pretty much your ability to play fast. Like if you can play 15 notes per second, you have insane chops. (And are either named Yngwie Malmsteen or Michael Aneglo Batio) not really. the top recorded picking speed is somewhere around 30 notes per second. most good youtube players can probably hit 15. Illyria wrote: can you give examples? i know finger excersises, but i don't understand the chromatics part I know this goes against what the author said, but: E:--5-6-7-8--- Do that pattern on all 6 strings. Its not actually a chromatic scale, but its pretty close, and its what most people use as a chromatic exercise. A chromatic scale is just a scale made up of all 12 notes of the octave.
    thx but to me, thats actually the regular finger excersises i use. never knew thatwas a chromatic one
    Regression
    crazysam23_Atax wrote: What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor.
    Ya know what's great? When people claim the author is wrong when in fact the author is correct. This isn't technically the B minor scale. The author said name all the frets which are in the key of E minor, on the G string up to the 12th fret. The notes in order from lowest to highest are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, or in fret numbers, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11. The order is irrelevant, they are still part of the E natural minor scale. Please think for a minute if you plan to argue with this.
    COBShredder
    im not sure about the griping thing for the fingers, people say thats bad, and in the long run it'll ruin your fingers
    Black Star
    I also consider the 1st string to be the low E, so I was looking at the frets thinking "What the Hell? That's D Major!" But he is correct, those ARE the notes of the Em scale. I laugh at all of those who try to sound smart by saying "Nuh-uh! It's E major!" It just shows the world you know nothing about music theory. Yes, G major is the relative major to E minor. The author did not say "This is the Em scale," only "What are the fret numbers," and the author is correct.
    Jamma
    Can you guys shut the f**k up about the Em thing. The author said: "QUICK! What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12 " And guess what? The fret numbers of the notes of the Em scale are precisely the ones listed (assuming my 3rd string, you mean the G string, I usually start with the 1st string being the low E). How so many people couldn't figure this out and thought that they were being super clever by saying DuuRr DAT's E MAJR or DURP THAT's G MAJOR No0B is beyond me.
    megaluisdeth
    SlackusMaximus wrote: LONG LIVE TABS!!!!! If it wasn't for tabs I wouldn't have learned! EmMorello wrote: im so sick of this tab oriented crap, learn to read music and use your ears ppl, its not that damn hard, we could be having way richer lessons if they werent all about what fret and what string to play, godd
    How about when you can't find a good tab? You're going to play shitty tab? Most of the tab books are wrong by the way, it's better looking at videos or learning them by ear, trust me.
    krondo
    The first 6 steps are for beginners, except the important one among the those first 6 steps is to practice note and key synchronizations between the guitar and other instruments,it helps connect you with music in general and get a true feel of the sound you're looking for and strengths what I like to call, "your inner sound", creating that is important. Using vocals is the same thing, It helps strengthen your voice and your note and key knowlegde as well and your ability to sing, if you wanna sing better its just like the guitar and any instrument you gotta practice. Step number 7 is the big one. Scales are basically what put your basic or your insanely complex solos together, those you have to learn along with concentration and coordination, if you can do that you'll be sick as long as you're creative and learn to connect your scales efficiently. Peace
    krypticguitar87
    crazysam23_Atax wrote: Regression wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor. Ya know what's great? When people claim the author is wrong when in fact the author is correct. This isn't technically the B minor scale. The author said name all the frets which are in the key of E minor, on the G string up to the 12th fret. The notes in order from lowest to highest are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, or in fret numbers, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11. The order is irrelevant, they are still part of the E natural minor scale. Please think for a minute if you plan to argue with this. Learn the relative majors and minors before you try arguing with me.
    What's really funny here is that crazysam23_Atax actually thinks he right. I mean it's great that you know realitive majors and minors, but you seem to either not know the notes in a scale or the notes on a guitar I we tab out what the author wrote it would look like this: e|----- B|----- G|-0-2-4-5-7-9-11-12----- D|---- - A|----- E|----- Writen as notes it would be: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G the G major scale, the relative minor of which is E minor, which is what he asked for the E major, of B minor scale looks like this: E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D#, E Tabbed out on the third string looks like this: e|----- B|----- G|-1-2-4-6-8-9-11----- D|----- A| ----- E|-----
    Destinyrider22
    fine ill grip it on the way to work..... (they probly knew that they were gonna get some bad jokes outta that lol) great lesson though ill be sure to bookmark it to look back on it later
    Sparky-MMA
    COBShredder wrote: Regression wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor. Ya know what's great? When people claim the author is wrong when in fact the author is correct. This isn't technically the B minor scale. The author said name all the frets which are in the key of E minor, on the G string up to the 12th fret. The notes in order from lowest to highest are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, or in fret numbers, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11. The order is irrelevant, they are still part of the E natural minor scale. Please think for a minute if you plan to argue with this. yeah dude, but, in music, dosnt matter if they are the same notes, hes wrong, cuz he said it was a Em scale, but his root is G so, its G major
    learn to read... the article says what frets are the notes in the Eminor scale. not what is the Eminor scale.....
    crazysam23_Atax
    Regression wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor. Ya know what's great? When people claim the author is wrong when in fact the author is correct. This isn't technically the B minor scale. The author said name all the frets which are in the key of E minor, on the G string up to the 12th fret. The notes in order from lowest to highest are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, or in fret numbers, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11. The order is irrelevant, they are still part of the E natural minor scale. Please think for a minute if you plan to argue with this.
    Learn the relative majors and minors before you try arguing with me.
    COBShredder
    Regression wrote: crazysam23_Atax wrote: What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12Ya know what's great? When people confuse the major and minor scales. /facepalm And yes, I know that Gmajor is the relative major to Eminor. That'd be great if this wasn't technically the Bminor scale, as Bminor is the relative minor to Emajor. Ya know what's great? When people claim the author is wrong when in fact the author is correct. This isn't technically the B minor scale. The author said name all the frets which are in the key of E minor, on the G string up to the 12th fret. The notes in order from lowest to highest are G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, or in fret numbers, 0 2 4 5 7 9 11. The order is irrelevant, they are still part of the E natural minor scale. Please think for a minute if you plan to argue with this.
    yeah dude, but, in music, dosnt matter if they are the same notes, hes wrong, cuz he said it was a Em scale, but his root is G so, its G major
    nico42
    rojomeansred wrote: Strength actually plays a big role in guitar playing. Yes barred chords require some of the most but getting a massive string bend, tapping, or hammering on all take some hefty force. Also in the picking hand need quite a bit of stamina when it comes to picking quick lead sections.
    Actually you don't need "hefty force" for any of those. You're not playing double bass after all. Stamina is achieved through relaxation (breathing is pretty important, too) and proper technique. You get all the strength you need by actually playing guitar, there's no additional finger training required. Other than that, like COBShredder I've heard before that they can even harm your fingers, when used incorrectly. Oh and the amount of illiteracy around here is astounding...he said "the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret"...g is in e-minor, so you have to include the open g-string. Playing it first does not make it the root of anything...it's just the first note of e-minor on this particular string. Anyone arguing that this is g-major and not e-minor, because of the starting note hasn't really understood anything, because as far as included notes go, they're the same.
    never_never_man
    What are the notes of the e minor scale? E F# G A B C D E...right? Good, now find those notes from the open string to the twelfth fret on the g string. Thats what I thought, the author is right! The the author's point is that knowing the fretboard, and where all the notes in a particular scale are on the fretboard will make you better at improvisation and soloing!
    IROn 5L1nKY
    I especially appreciated the tip for using the finger strengthening mechanism in the car, because I have one but had never thought about using it in the car. I think I'll give that a shot sometime.
    rememberthename
    he said find the notes in the key, not to find the scale -.-...scales and keys are different things
    illyria
    Method 6 - Make sure your chops are up Lacking chops can hold you back from doing what you hear in your head
    what are chops?
    Chromatic finger exercises
    can you give examples? i know finger excersises, but i don't understand the chromatics part
    dweb23
    Arius wrote: Sorry but the scale you wrote was E major. Otherwise I think it was good advice. Especially the part about learning vocal melodies.
    this
    soulflyV
    Everyone talking about how the notes are the E major scale, he said the notes up to the 12th fret on the G string, not the E string or D string.
    Danjo's Guitar
    illyria wrote: Method 6 - Make sure your chops are up Lacking chops can hold you back from doing what you hear in your head what are chops?
    Chops are pretty much your ability to play fast. Like if you can play 15 notes per second, you have insane chops. (And are either named Yngwie Malmsteen or Michael Aneglo Batio)
    masterp666
    Arius wrote: Sorry but the scale you wrote was E major. Otherwise I think it was good advice. Especially the part about learning vocal melodies.
    no thats Em. gabcdef#g.....how is that e major exactly? it feels like he's missing a c#, a g# and a d#... but yeah good article. for tips on vocal catchy melodies on guitar, i have found few better than jeff beck. point in case, his cover of nessun dorma was amazing on the new album.
    Arius
    Sorry but the scale you wrote was E major. Otherwise I think it was good advice. Especially the part about learning vocal melodies.
    Axim Bassist
    jm911 wrote: Method 4 - Don't play guitar for awhile! Take a break, go on a hike, go to a concert, just put it down for awhile. When you get back to the guitar after an extended absence, you will approach it with a fresh start and fresh eyes. This method can be very helpful if you find yourself in the common rut of playing the same licks over and over while improvising. i agree strongly with this one. i've noticed that i play better after not playing for a couple of days
    I have noticed this with my playing as well. Great article.
    tiky
    I play better after not playing some days, but my sing get worst as i can't coordinate singing+playing perfectly if i don't practice everyday. Damn... Also you could learn to play another instrument, that really opens your mind about melodies that can be created. After some years I was completely playing the same licks over and over again. New instruments (piano, drums, melodica, charango, blabl) opened my mind. Still my main instrument is guitar. I'm just a begginer on the others.
    JohnnyApplecore
    foo_diddles wrote: Sound advice, i think i'll try some Queen melodies, oh that Freddie...
    Great choice, I don't even have to go into how amazing Queen is. I've noticed learning by ear, using vocal melodies, and taking a break from playing are all very helpful in the past, great advice in this article.
    SilverSpurs616
    I've tried out the vocal melody tip, it works great especially with..dare I say it.."poppier" bands such as Mr Big! Music is often an expression of what words cannot say
    hippie_guy
    ahm, the scale described in that part of the article is G Major... seriously. It has the same notes as E minor, but the root note is G. Learn your theory. G A B C D E F# is G Major
    !-twisty-!
    Arius wrote: Sorry but the scale you wrote was E major. Otherwise I think it was good advice. Especially the part about learning vocal melodies.
    Thats not on the E string, he said whats the notes of E minor on the first tweleve frets of the third string
    illyria
    what's the difference between regular finger excersises and chromatic excersises?
    SlackusMaximus
    LONG LIVE TABS!!!!! If it wasn't for tabs I wouldn't have learned!
    EmMorello wrote: im so sick of this tab oriented crap, learn to read music and use your ears ppl, its not that damn hard, we could be having way richer lessons if they werent all about what fret and what string to play, godd
    Weaponxclaws
    QUICK! What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12 I typed those numbers in under 3 seconds and I want you to be able to recite them just as quick! If not, keep practicing those scales, because THEY will pay off too.
    Clearly you need more practice too there big guy... that is a G major scale no doubt.
    Tnost
    QUICK! What are the fret numbers in the key of e minor on the third string up to the twelfth fret? ANSWER: 0, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12 I typed those numbers in under 3 seconds and I want you to be able to recite them just as quick! If not, keep practicing those scales, because THEY will pay off too. Clearly you need more practice too there big guy... that is a G major scale no doubt.
    I suppose you could say that that, but he's actually correct. Considering that G Major is the relative Major to e minor...
    Weaponxclaws
    I suppose you could say that that, but he's actually correct. Considering that G Major is the relative Major to e minor...
    This is true. I studied (study) music theory. Even though e is the relative of G, the frets he listed are characteristic of the major scale. If you were to play it, it would sound major and since it starts on the G note, the root of the scale, then it is G major.
    bastardsodecent
    Actually, note-wise, it is G Major, because it doesn't have a raised 7th, but however, as it is based around the note harmonies of E minor more than G major, it is the natural minor (as I call it, the minor without a raised 7th), in more technical terms, aeolian mode in G major.
    Arius
    Whoops. Sorry for the mistake. I should have payed closer attention. Sorry