Getting Into Lead Guitar - 007

In episode seven, we start getting into lead guitar. What it’s all about and the tools you need to get started! Also we have Guitar News and Creating the Band



On todays episode titled “Getting Into Lead Guitar” I’m going to do an overview on what playing lead guitar really is and the tools you need to be successful at lead guitar.

It’s something that takes some effort to be able to do, but once you get a handle on it, the rewards are huge.

But, I just wanted to quickly give thanks to some listeners for some great questions and reviews this week. Thank you so much to Tony L. And BoizimDiXuxu for leaving great reviews on iTunes this week. I really appreciate it.

These reviews in ITunes so early on (we are on episode seven now) can really help get a podcast started. And, If you can, please leave a review as well.

It’s really easy to do, You just head over to my page and click the blue button that says “subscribe in itunes”. That takes you to my Itunes preview page.

From there click on the blue button that says “view in iTunes”. It will open your player right up and you can subscribe and leave a review if you want. It’s so simple.

It was also great getting questions and comments from a lot of you this week. Like, C. Freeman, benderman, Lewis Burdette and Perry Nardone.

Remember if you have any questions or comments, you can always leave a comment on the show notes page which is:

or get in touch with me on Twitter @playguitarpdcst.

Getting Into Lead Guitar


Ive been taking about guitar scales for the last few episodes and I have been trying to have complimentary content.

When I have something I feel could help a lot of people, I like to have multiple ways for you to get it.

Some people learn better reading a web page, and some do better listening to a podcast during those times where they can focus the best.

It could be on a commute to work or at the gym. And a lot of guitar players love to learn by video (which by the way I’m starting up this week). So, I try to get important content out in multiple ways to help you in the way you learn best.

But that doesn’t always work out perfectly.

This week I wrote a blog post that is all about the five pattern method of learning guitar scales. The five pattern method for guitar scales is really the first practical step to take to really open up the fretboard.

If you generally play your scales in one or two patterns, lets say….. The blues box for example, you are really not using the guitar to it’s fullest.

There is a lot more available to you over the neck of the guitar. Check the frets on your guitar. If they are all worn down in one area of the guitar, I might be talking about you.

The five pattern method gives you a system for knowing your guitar scales all over the fretboard.

Each of these five patterns fits nicely under your hand and gives you the notes of a certain scale across the strings pretty much without having to move your fretting hand.

You may have to reach back or forward a fret, but each pattern sits in a 4 to 5 fret space. Then when you move up the fretboard to the next set of frets above where you were just playing, you get the next pattern .

They move up or down in order … after pattern one, you move up to pattern two, and then three, and four, and five.

By the time you have finished going through pattern five you have played all of the notes of a certain scale in a 12 fret area. To move on from there, you just start again at pattern one.

Meaning after you get to the fifth pattern , the next one higher would be a higher version of pattern one, two, three.

It’s like a big circle. You just keep going until you run out of frets.

If you understand what I’m trying to explain to you, you’ll understand that by memorizing just five patterns, no matter where your hand is on the guitar, you can have the scale you need in any key.

That is powerful!

Say you need to play a C major scale and your hand just happens to be at the 7th fret. With this system, you have a C major scale pattern that works right there where you are.

And if you know the five patterns well enough, things really start cooking. Playing scales starts to feel effortless. It’s great!

All that being said, my blog post for this week is really visual. In the post, I share the five patterns you need to play for each of what I call the “big four” scales.

Those are the Major, minor, Major pentatonic and minor pentatonic scales.

If you listen to my last episode, episode six, I go into detail of what those scales are and how they are created. I have the fingerings for each of the five patterns for each of the scales in the key of A.

If I sat here on the podcast and talked you through each of them, I know I’d put you to sleep and probably put me to sleep too. This is a topic that is way more suited for visual mediums, like blogs and videos.

So, if you are struggling with the neck of the guitar and scales in general I suggest you check out this weeks post, titled: Guitar Scales: the five pattern system. It really is a big milestone in the journey of a guitar player.

But today I’m going to have to change course a bit. I’m going to call an audible here. I think there is something better I can deal with today. I think it would be great to just back up a bit and talk about what we are going to do with all of these scales in the first place. That is “getting into lead guitar”

There are a lot of reasons for learning scales:

  • Scales are great for songwriting.
  • Scales are where melodies and harmonies come from.
  • The notes you sing when you come up with a melody for a new song are part of a scale.
  • And, the more you use scales, the better you get at understanding how they fit the chords they are playing over,
  • Scales are great for bass lines as well. The notes the you use walking up to and down from chords are from scales as well.
  • Scales are also essential to understand chords. We get our chord notes from scales.

But those are probably not the reason you are listening today. You are most likely here to learn about lead guitar. So, lets talk about lead guitar… what is it, and why would we want to put in so much time to learn how to do it.

The lead guitar player plays melodies on the guitar (similar to a vocal line) that have either a supporting or featured role in a song. In a vocal song, you will usually hear the lead guitar play an written or improvised melody in the solo section and can also play fills in the spaces of the main vocal melody to create more interest in the song.

You will also hear the lead guitar play the main melody in instrumental music.

Why would you want to do this… Well, because it’s so cool. I just love listening to lead guitar. There is something about the expressiveness of single notes played on the guitar that is infectious. Whether it’s Eddie van halen on a rock tune or Albert lee on a country song, or John Scofield on a jazz tune or Jimmy Herring playing funky jam music, there is something about playing lead guitar that brings out your heart and soul. If you listen to Carlos Santana play a solo, you know how he feels at the time. It is so expressive.

So what do I have to do to play lead guitar? To do anything well we have to have the right tools. So, the first thing you need is to acquire your tools.
The tools you need to play lead guitar are scales.

I’m sure most of you have tinkered around with the first position of the minor pentatonic scale, “the blues box”. If you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for. Search for the minor pentatonic scale right now. In my group classes I always start lead guitar classes with the minor pentatonic scale first. Why, because it is the scale played in 90% of the songs that my students want to learn. Pattern one is very boxy shaped and easy to play. Have fun, but don’t stop there.

I’ve seen so many guitarist who, once they learn this pattern, they stop. Don’t get stuck in the mud. Take a listen to my previous episodes and read my blog posts on guitar scales to get a plan to open a whole world of new sounds from the guitar.

There are many different types of scales that can give you happy, sad, funky, tense, etherial and many other feelings. Spend the time to learn different sounding scales, you’ll be glad you did.

Once you have some scales, the next thing to know is how to match these scales to chords. Not all notes sound good with all chords. Only certain scales will work over a particular chord.
How do you match the scale to a chord? In a nutshell, the easy way is to play major scales over major chords and minor scales over minor chords. It does get more complicated than that, but that is a good place to start.
That isn’t all though, You need to know the strong notes of both the chord and the scale. The strongest note of a chord is called the root and the strongest note of a scale is called the tonic.

These have to be matched. Say you had a C major chord and you wanted to find a scale to play over that. Well the root of the C major chord is a C. So you would need a major scale who’s tonic note is a C to match them together.

A lot of people get the root and tonic note mixed up because the are so similar. You will hear a lot of players call the strongest note of both the chord and the scale the root. That’s ok. Just know they mean the tonic when they say the root of a scale.

In any case you need to know the strongest note of the chord and scale and match them together. At that point you have a set of notes to use that sound nice.

At this point it’s time to start improvising. Improvising is just making melodies up on the fly. Taking the notes of the scale and arrange them in a way that sounds good to you.
Think of improvising as making phrases or sentences. This is another place where knowing the tonic note is so important.. Improvising.

When I start my students down the road of improvising, I give them this advice:

Once you have your scale and chord or chord progression matched, you can do anything you want.

Play one note a hundred time if you want. Skip notes or go up and down the scale… anything.

But, when you are done saying what you are going to say, hit the tonic note.

It works like a period or exclamation point at the end of a sentence. It says that you are done with that phrase and ready to start another.

What would happen if you didn’t end on the tonic? What you just played wouldn’t sound finished. Kind of like a question mark at the end of a sentence. There needs to be an answer.

Try this out the next time you improvise. Really listen to what the tonic note does for your lead lines.

You will also notice as you go up and down the scale that not all of the notes sound strong. Some are weaker sounding than others.

Try to find the strongest sounding notes of any scaleThey are always the notes that come directly from the chord that is being played.

The other notes are important, but you wouldn’t want to emphasize them in your lead lines. This is something I have found helps a lot of students that are frustrated that their lead lines don’t sound so great. Usually they are emphasizing these weaker notes which can sound sour sometimes.

The next thing to think about when you are getting into lead guitar playing is trying to imitate the voice with your melodies. We are all programmed to respond to the human voice.

The best guitarist use this to their advantage. Techniques like bent notes, hammer ons and pull offs, vibrato, slides all can mimic the way a human voice sings melodies. These techniques make your lines instantly listenable!

The last thing I would like to bring to the attention of someone who is getting into lead guitar would be riffs and licks.

A riff is a short musical main part of a song that repeats. It doesn’t have to be played by a guitar but it usually is. The beginning to smoke on the water or walk this way are two examples of great riffs.

Riffs come from scales and sometime while you are improvising you just might play something that catches your ear. You might play it over and over and think it might sound good as the basis of a new song. Pay attention to these special melodies.

A lick is just a short catchy musical phrase. Sometimes guitar players are known mostly for the cool licks they play. They form part of their signature sound. As you improvise on scales more and more you may find that you like to play certain groups of notes over and over. These notes could be licks that form your unique musical style. Pay attention and remember them. Even write them down. You will be glad you did!

So that’s the overview, the basics you need to start down the path of lead guitar. It’s easy to just play a bunch of notes on a scale pattern, but remember the job of a lead guitar player is to make melodies whether they are improvised or not.

Sometimes, for me, it helps to take a few steps back and think about why I’m really doing something and what the big picture is.

I hope this helped you today focus on the things you need and the reasons why you are getting into lead guitar!

Let me know in the show notes or on twitter @playgutiarpdcst the things you are working on with lead guitar. I’d love to hear about them and help you move forward.

Creating the Band


This week I play the eighth song idea for the new album. Only two left to go before filling out the songs!


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