LISTEN BEFORE YOU PLAY: Sometimes I'll start a profession and the student will just jump in and start playing licks. I always stress to them to listen for a few bars to what the chords sound like, especially if you are unfamiliar with the structure. By listening first, you may be able to hear something you wouldn't have heard before, such as a rhythmic or melodic motive you can build a lead line from.
Think of the phrase "I love you." Three short powerful words. But if I accentuate and put emphasis on different words, the meaning drastically changes. "I love you." "I love you." "I love you." If you say those words out loud accentuating the different words, you'll hear the difference. The meaning of the phrase changes. Do the same in your lead playing. You can stress a few of the notes in a phrase by making them louder or softer, longer of shorter. If you do so, the whole context and meaning of the phrase will change into something unique. You can play one phrase faster; then in the next phrase, play something slower and softer holding a few of the notes. The ideas are limitless.
Guitarist Richard Rossicone is a veteran of the New York City and Long Island original and cover band scene. He's been playing since he was 8, when he attended his first concert (Kiss) and saw Pete Townshend smash a guitar. He has studied with various instructors over the years, which led him to a career in music therapy. He began his educational journey at Queensboro Community College, where the faculty introducing him to classical music. He received his associate's degree in fine arts in 1997 and went on to receive his bachelor's in music therapy in 2001 and his master's in music therapy from New York University in 2004. He's been Board Certified as a music therapist since 2002. Richard continued his studies at C.W. Post University, pursuing a second master's degree in classical guitar performance and music history, studying under Harris Becker. He's been teaching guitar, piano and theory since 2002 and in 2006 started his own company, Rossicone Music Studios. Richard is the co-lead guitarist in Bad Habits, NYC's premier Thin Lizzy tribute band. Visit him at Axgrinder.com.
Cindy Moorhead When one of my guitar students wants to learn lead guitar, I usually show him/her the minor pentatonic scale first. Once that scale is down in all keys, I play different and familiar chord progressions and have my students solo over them using the scales they've just learned. Almost always, the same thing happens: The student's leads sound like a continuous scale.
This study divides the fretboard into five areas, or positions. As the pentatonic scale forms the basis for a huge amount of rock soloing, each area relates directly to the scale's associated CAGED minor form (see below).
For each area of activity we have presented ten different ideas - a lick, a melodic fragment, or some form of sequential permutation of the notes. Whilst the pentatonic scale is generally at the core of each idea, we are by no means restricted to it exclusively.
It's fair to say that rock styles tend to favour the keys of E, A, D and G, so start with these before eventually aiming for fluency in every key. The second option is to read through the pages, and therefore move along the fretboard horizontally. Moving each associated idea (bends, for example) in sequence through each of the CAGED minor pentatonic shapes.
We've purposefully designed each example to be distinctly different from the next, to achieve a spread and balance of musical ideas that forces you to exploit the full range of the fretboard and, most importantly, exploit the individual fingering potential inherent within each form. The beauty of the five-position system is that it gives you some very bold and instantly identifiable visual, aural and physical landmarks when learning new ideas.
You get nowhere by brushing stuff under the carpet, so once you spot a weak area, or fretboard 'blind-spot' you can then take remedial action. Another way to expand your knowledge is to imagine you have to write all of the examples for this lesson, and you can't use any of the ones we've already presented. Go on, we dare you! You'll learn a huge amount in a very short and focused time, we promise you.
Let's begin with a Brian May-style lick. It's got an interesting melodic shape, a great rhythmic structure, a marvellous sense of flow and perfect grace and composure. What more does a great rock lick need?.
We shall ease you into our triadic based section with a simple three-against-four idea. Again, intonation (tuning between the notes) is a huge issue, so make sure you're perfectly in tune.
Down in Louisiana, a boy named Johnny (okay, only my mother calls me Johnny and it was really Liverpool) came up with this double-stop lick. The thickening effect of playing two notes at once is remarkably effective when projection is an issue.
Jimi Hendrix meets Steve Cropper with this double-stop idea, initially based around the perfect fourths that are found on the first three strings within this area. As the lick progresses we get more scalar, adding the sweet sounding 2nd/9th into the mix.
The interval of a 6th is effective within all styles of music, implying a great sense of sophistication, and rock is no exception. This idea switches between articulate intervallic skipped single-notes and harmonically dense double-stops.
Here's a Blackmore-inspired riff . The pentatonic scale works great when played in double-stops, as this phrase demonstrates. Needless to say, you should get to work with ideas of this nature throughout all of the remaining positions.
The trick to this finger twister is to bend the first string at the 15th fret and allow your finger to push the second string at the same time, without sounding it. Once the bend is up to pitch, shift the weight of this finger (try the third) over to the second string, which should be already bent up a tone. Sound this note and then return the string to its unbent pitch. Jimi Hendrix and Joe Walsh have used this idea.
We're taking the liberty of exploiting open strings with this example, so the idea is not easily transposable. Restrictions aside, it's still a useful and musically effective pull-off lick that will put your fretting-hand stamina and accuracy to the test. Aim for as much volume as possible and remember that the best way to make sustainable progress is to increase speed a little bit at a time.
Again, we're making great use of all the tone gaps present within the pentatonic scale, although in the second bar we're upping the ante with a minor 3rd slide. Streams of 16th notes can be exciting to listen to, but your timing precision is crucial. Don't be afraid to start slow (and I mean SLOW) and build up speed gradually when everything is under complete control.
This idea utilises an ascending intervallic pattern that shifts through the minor pentatonic scale from each degree in a descending direction. We're also rhythmically displacing four-against-three, and these two factors combine to produce a jaunty, jagged and rhythmically propulsive musical phrase. Take time to consolidate your picking though - no slides or legato to hide behind here!.
Back to our sequences of three, this time the direction has been switched around so that each three-note group descends, but then the entire 'cell' ascends through each scale degree. Feel free to try any numeric permutation you see fit.
I'm coming over all nostalgic as I present to you my first sweep-picked lick. It still sounds great after all these years, although I've got a dim recollection that I used to play it at least a couple of times in every single solo, much to everyone else's disgust! This lick morphs from Blackmore to Clapton. You may find that alternate picking is the way to go for the final bar.
We begin this lick with a crunchy oblique bend - one note remains stationary whilst another moves. In bars 2 and 3 we're mixing things up, with some diatonic thirds and chord tones, ending on yet another oblique double-stop bend in a higher register.
Each position presents new possibilities, with the new fingering placing different notes under string-bending fingers. Here the minor 3rd bend between E and G is easily attainable as it is found under the third finger. To achieve the same sonic result in Area 1 you would either have to use your first finger (not the most desirable digit!) or shift back a position, which effectively puts you in area 5 anyway.
The first bar of this example features a triplet hammer-on pattern that toggles between the use of the major 6th and the flattened 7th intervals, both present in the harmonically appropriate Dorian mode (R 2 b3 4 5 6 b7). Paul Kossoff was particularly fond of using this kind of idea. He also had one of the best vibratos in rock (ask Joe Bonamassa), so we'd urge you to check him out!.
Randy Rhoads was responsible for this one, although Django definitely got there first, and Les Paul wasn't too far behind! We're essentially trilling from the semitone below each chord-tone to the intended target note. Aim to stay in time. You can start with 16th-notes (four notes per click) and aim to work your way up to 16th note triplets (six notes per click).
We've taken a few liberties here, as strictly speaking numerous notes are out of position. This is to maintain fingering integrity, and it sounds cool. Most of the intervals are a perfect 4th apart, with two major 3rd exceptions in the first and third bars.
Our penultimate example comes to you courtesy of Journey's Neal Schon, and features the popular add-on to the minor pentatonic of the natural 2nd degree, creating a scale with the logical title of minor pentatonic add 2 (R 2 3 4 5 b7). In the second bar we also see a brief appearance of the flattened 5th, giving us effectively the blues scale (R b3 4 b5 5 b7), another hugely used scale in all rock styles.
You may remember (Area 2, Ex 2.10 to be precise) that there were two main pathways to get you through the minor pentatonic scale just by using tone gaps and slides. Well, here's the second. You can view this as three versions of the same two string pattern in low, middle and high octaves. Any phrase performed in one can be instantly transposed to the next. Simple, but really useful!.
Reference"50 rock guitar licks you need to know | MusicRadar" . n.p., 21 Mar. 2018.Web. 21 Mar. 2018.
"Rock Guitar Lessons with Paul Gilbert | ArtistWorks" . n.p., 21 Mar. 2018.Web. 21 Mar. 2018.
"The Art of Phrasing: Four Simple Ways to Make Your Leads Sing ..." . n.p., 21 Mar. 2018.Web. 21 Mar. 2018.