How Do You Approach Playing Lead Guitar?

Discussion in 'What's left to Talk About?' started by toomanycats, Apr 21, 2019.

  1. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    When you play lead guitar, do you predominantly approach the instrument in terms of:

    1) Scale patterns, various boxes, arpeggios, intervalic shapes, and so on.

    2) Familiar licks and memorized phrases transposed into the appropriate key.

    3) Purely in terms of emotion expressed as musical tones.

    . . . or perhaps some other scheme entirely?


    For me personally, I approach it two ways.

    First, I merely aspire to have emotion, intuition, and pure feeling be expressed through the relationship of tones, with as little overlaid artifice of pattern and structure as possible. It is an ideal of pure expression.

    Secondly, and more realistically, I concede to the need to reference the familiar, the traditional, and the tasteful. For instance, what would a blues lead sound like without hitting the flat 5th? There are certain phrases, depending upon whether you are in a blues, rock, or metal context, which are as comfortable and expected as saying "Hello" when greeting somebody. It's simply what one does in that scenario. It is very difficult for the average music listener to "grab hold" of something absent these familiar references.

    While of necessity I root my lead playing in patterns and traditional phrases, there is another aspect of myself which aspires to soar free from these constraints into the unencumbered empyrean of pure emotional expression. There's a parallel with one of the oldest of aspirations, the desire of the human spirit, rooted in the corporeal body, to be set free of that limiting encumbrance.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
  2. Stig

    Stig Well-Known Member Supporting Member+

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    Very cautiously and quietly. From behind.
    But seriously, folks... I just play the same three of four tired old pentatonic blues scale riffs over and over again.
    It's a gift.
     
  3. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    Excellent, excellent post.

    For me, first I have to find the shape that fits. Although I was schooled in piano theory as a kid, I never really got guitar lessons and just looked at it like 6 pianos. So, I didn't figure out that playing in the middle of the board and the middle of the strings gave me the most flexibility until...a few months ago! Quite literally 20 years later, heh.

    Once I find the right root and familiar scale, then it's mostly about feel. Vibe. Musical emotion. What fits the song. Finding the scale for me, is just knowing what the rules are, so I can choose when to break them.

    Finally, once I'm in the pocket and feeling comfortable, then I can start mixing in familiar licks and what not. See what fits and what doesn't.

    Because of this approach I'm really bad at jumping into a song like a real musician. I can't just fluidly play chords like @Mossman can. But I can fill all sorts of gaps and make it really musical, where the more schooled and educated musicians seem to miss.

    This particularly stands out when I play bass. Because I play it like a percussion instrument that can flirt with guitar theory. So rather than just following root notes all the time, I play licks and stuff, and often get reactions like "wow, where'd you come up with that?"

    I think that's more the nature of the modern metal guys I played with though. They really weren't used to the bass standing out, they expected it to just add some depth and be otherwise unnoticeable.
     
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  4. uglyvw

    uglyvw Well-Known Member

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    I also love to roam free about the fretboard, but seem to find myself rooted in the chord at hand and the associated scale. Most little fills are hammer on or pull-offs from within the chord with maybe an additional note or two from the scale. It seems bland, but seems to always be easy to keep something melodic to the tune.
     
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  5. nomadh

    nomadh Well-Known Member

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    I start with the boxes in std pent. When I get soaring sometimes I'll just slide up to a note and stop when it hits something interesting then find a pattern up there. ITs scary when you have no idea what you are playing and its working. But its fun. Eventually I hit a clunker and go back to safe ground. OR sometimes when I hit the clunker I wind back around and really emphasis that note again. When you do it once its a mistake but twice? Its JAZZ!
     
  6. zisme

    zisme Well-Known Member

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    I wish I could explain in more detail..
    since I have no knowledge of theory, it's all feel and by ear for me - instinct. I'm sure there are scale patterns and techniques I rely on, but I can't say which.

    while I do "write" consistent start to finish solos most of the time, there is always a degree of improvisation happening. sometimes I hit a sour note and things go south, sometimes I pull off a particularly satisfying variation.

    i'm happy with my method, but I would be curious how someone with knowledge in music theory would analyze my playing.
     
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  7. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Well-Known Member

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    First off, I think that lead guitar is the most over-rated position in a band. What I mean by that is that most songs would survive quite well without the lead guitar. Vocals and a good rhythm section (drums, bass, rhythm guitar) are much more essential to most songs than lead guitar.

    Secondly, the role of the lead guitar isn't just to play solos... it is to support and compliment the singer and the song. Solos, if they are done at all, should be short and played to the song, not just a bunch of flashy notes to show off the player's skills. There are very few guitarists that can hold my interest for more than eight or so bars, and I'm certainly not one of them.
     
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  8. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    What about bass solos?

    In reductionist fashion, I once defined a bass solos as "when the rest of the band stops playing for a bit."
     
  9. tvvoodoo

    tvvoodoo Well-Known Member AGF Registered Dealer

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    Well, first there's the pick slide, then some pinch harmonics, probably a few angus rip-offs, and some inaccurate bends, then a few even more inaccurate double bends,
    Usually a bunch of hammers on, and pulling offs, a few more pinch harmonics, maybe another pick slide if I'm feeling it, and probably some bad tapping, or a showy single tap/bend.
    Voila! Another solo masterpiece! Now to finish the rest of the boring song. Full stop honest? I am mostly a box guy.
     
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  10. Mickey

    Mickey Gandalf the Intonationer

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    How do you approach it?

    Easy, sneak up on it! :)
    .
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    To be serious, to quote one of the most successful record producers in the history of recorded music:

    "Don't forget the melody."
    In other words, if the drunk sitting at the bar can't recognize the song from your lead, you blew it.
     
  11. Gagoosh

    Gagoosh Well-Known Member

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    2 & 3, I have a condition which hinders my ability to learn scales, intervallic shapes, jazz chords... let's call it "laziness".

    I will say this, I will search out the correct way to play something from YouTube or other means (no tabs) or by good old fashioned ear training and practice until my fingers bleed. (literally)

    Playing lead in a couple cover bands, it is important to not only get the tone right, but to hit the well-known solos pretty spot on, for the most part. I also watch artists play the solos live to get an idea what I can play around with.
     
  12. Partscaster

    Partscaster Well-Known Member

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    I usually start in familiar box shapes and double note slide patterns and then I try to incorporate some interesting interval or two.
    I often try to have two lines, or feels, that I'm switching between. One might be part of a phrases progression, in segments, each segment interposed with some other lick. Back and forth between two related and changing lines.
    Single note licks, double note slidey stuff, octave phrases. Often using chord fragments/triads of the songs chords.
    I usually play without another guitarist, so I switch from chord fragments to single lines hinting at rhythm and lead as I go.
    Otherwise, I'm trying to copy.
     
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  13. OpenG

    OpenG Member

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    I know various scales and box shapes. But first I want to know the chords. I try to determine the key, and the style of the music such as blues, soft rock, hard rock or country. Then I imagine what kind of melody I want to play, and how aggressively to play it. Then I start playing and listen if it is in harmony and makes music.
     
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  14. PsychoCid

    PsychoCid Well-Known Member

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    Isn't this the opposite of laziness? Isn't this doing it the hard way?

    Shapes/scales is the lazy way.
     
  15. Gagoosh

    Gagoosh Well-Known Member

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    I guess what I mean is I can't tell the difference between a dorian mode and a durian fruit... they both stink in my hands.
     
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  16. Mickey

    Mickey Gandalf the Intonationer

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    Nothing, but nothing on planet earth stinks like a durian!!!!!!
     
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  17. Fat Jack

    Fat Jack Well-Known Member

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    With reckless abandon no sense of rhythm and a tin ear. Same way I approach rhythm guitar.
     
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  18. tonebender

    tonebender Well-Known Member

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    If I am playing a cover I try as best I can to play what the artist played. Rarely happens but I can sometimes fool the drunk bar patrons. When I am playing to original music I have a minimalist approach and try to be melodic and tasteful.
     
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  19. Tsukiyomi

    Tsukiyomi Well-Known Member

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    Left The Beatles' home for some Krispy Kremes...
    Feel and vibrato. Everything else is a happy accidental bonus (y)
     
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  20. tonray

    tonray Well-Known Member Supporting Member+

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    It's Durian season coming up.. Come on Mickey I'll treat you.
     
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