How To Play Excellent Lead Guitar Licks & Solos By Developing Better Musical Creativity

Arts & EntertainmentBooks & Music

  • Author Tom Hess
  • Published July 24, 2015
  • Word count 1,144

Do you know many guitar licks, scales and arpeggios but still can’t play very creatively? If so, you are not alone – many guitarists are in the same boat. However, you shouldn’t make the same mistake as them. Don’t waste your time trying to learn as many new licks/scales/etc. as possible... this will NOT make you a more creative player.

The problem with this approach is that it leaves many holes in your guitar playing and never addresses the real reasons why your creativity is not improving.

Certainly it is important to learn new things for your guitar playing, however, the true keys to musical creativity are as follows: fluency, application, integration and total mastery of the guitar skills you are already familiar with.

The following are the four things you must begin developing in order to become a highly creative lead guitarist:

  1. Learn How To Really Master The Fretboard

Beginner guitarists think that "learning the fretboard" means simply memorizing the note names on the frets of each string. This is why so many players get lost while trying to improvise guitar solos.

Good guitar players visualize the fretboard in scale shapes and learn to play or create guitar licks in one scale shape at a time. While this is better than being totally lost about what notes to play, this approach results in boring and very repetitive guitar solos.

Great guitar players learn to visualize any scale across the ENTIRE fretboard. When they improvise lead guitar licks and solos, they don’t divide the fretboard into isolated chunks or shapes - they see the entire fretboard as one big scale pattern - from the first fret to the last.

If you’d like to achieve this level of freedom in your guitar playing, practice playing the scales you are most familiar with all over the fretboard. Don’t feel like you are in a hurry to discover new scales until you have fully mastered the scales you currently use.

Warning: Even if you memorized all the shapes of a certain scale, it doesn't mean that your level of mastery with that scale is advanced enough to be creative. You must also practice creating guitar licks that will challenge your fretboard visualization awareness - forcing you to expose and improve upon your limitations. Watch the video below to see a demonstration that proves this point (and shows you how to truly master visualizing scales on guitar):

  1. Learn How To Express Emotion In Your Guitar Playing

To play creative lead guitar solos, you MUST understand which notes to use over any chord/backing track/song, as well as how to express specific emotions in your guitar phrases.

Here are three approaches you can use right now to improve in this area:

*Work together with an experienced guitar teacher who can help you understand which notes should be played over a certain chord and how to apply this knowledge creatively in your guitar playing.

*Rather than playing guitar phrases that simply "go with the chord", think more about creating strong emotions while soloing. There is a big difference between these two approaches and will drastically change the way your lead guitar phrases sound.

*Focus on HOW you play the notes, rather than on what notes you play. To get more emotion from each note, enhance it using vibrato, bends, slides or other creative phrasing techniques. To test and see how well you can do this, take a minute to finish this free lead guitar creativity assessment.

  1. Learn To Create The Musical Notes You Hear In Your Head On The Guitar

If you are lacking in aural skills, you simply cannot know how something will sound before you play it with your hands. This will make it impossible to know the emotion a note will create before you play it – making true creativity nearly unattainable.

Here are a few easy ways to begin developing better aural skills in your guitar playing:

*Observe the levels of musical tension created in different note choices by playing a variety of lead guitar phrases over the same chord. For example, record yourself playing an A minor chord over and over for 1-3 minutes. Next, improvise a variety of lead guitar phrases over it using the A natural minor scale, while holding out different notes over the chord. As you emphasize different notes of the scale over the same chord, focus on how the level of musical tension of your phrases builds and releases. As you improve with this, do this assignment with new chords and scales.

*When working on scales, play them at a slower speed and sing every other note rather than playing it on the fretboard.

*Play guitar phrases by fingering a handful of notes on the guitar, then sing the remaining part of the phrase (and vice versa).

  1. Learn How To Smoothly Integrate Different Guitar Skills Together

Working on developing your guitar skills in isolation from one another may help you improve those particular skills, however, this approach will NOT help you become a better overall guitarist. Why? Becoming a creative lead guitarist requires integrating all of your skills together.

For instance, if you want to be able to create great lead guitar improvisations, there are many skills you must develop: guitar phrasing, aural skills, guitar technique, scale knowledge, arpeggios, fretboard visualization, and a lot more. If you only work on these things in isolation from each other, you will always be lacking in one or more areas and your playing as a whole will fall apart. The quickest way to achieve your lead guitar goals in this case is to practice in a way that combines multiple skills or techniques together, so you can be creative with them.

Find out much more about how to best practice in this manner in order to improve your lead guitar playing ability by watching this free video about how to practice guitar more effectively.

When you apply the concepts of this article into your lead guitar playing, you will get on the right path towards mastering your musical creativity. To STAY on the path and fully master all skills involved in mastering lead guitar playing, work with a guitar teacher who has already helped countless guitarists achieve their musical goals and knows the best way to help you reach yours.

To discover exactly what skills you must expand upon to become a very creative lead guitar player, finish this lead guitar creativity assessment. After you complete it, I will reply to you with specific comments on how to improve your lead guitar playing.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a professional musician, composer, and highly successful guitar instructor who trains and mentors guitarists with online guitar tuition. Visit to get free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

Tom Hess is a professional musician, composer, and highly successful guitar instructor who trains and mentors guitarists with online guitar tuition. Visit to get free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

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