Question: Hey Tom Hess. I want to know how to play guitar solos while breaking out of the modal way of playing lead guitar. I'm a legato player and can shred pretty fast, but my problem is that I can't seem to get out of the modes. I've tried different scales and all sorts of licks and tricks but they're not working for me. So, I would like to know if you could help me with some advice on how to make my guitar playing more interesting and out of the box?

Tom Hess's Answer: You do not need to "break out of the modes or scales". The most creative and expressive guitarists in the world are using scales (and/or modes) when they play their guitar solos. In order to sound more creative and expressive you must focus on and refine 2 important things areas of your guitar playing:

1. "How" you play the notes on guitar. This is called phrasing. You can play the most basic melody on guitar and still make it sound amazing because of how the notes are phrased. Likewise, you can play a really advanced or difficult lick and not really express anything. So one of the solutions to your problem is to work on your guitar phrasing.

Until and unless you work on this aspect of your guitar playing, you will not know how to use guitar scales, and you will make no real progress in your guitar solos. However, as soon as you do master guitar phrasing, EVERYTHING you play (no matter how simple or difficult) will start to sound amazing. You can see demonstrations of how to use these ideas in your lead guitar playing in this guitar solo lesson video, and this guitar solo lesson about phrasing.

2. Your knowledge of notes on the guitar fretboard. In order to be free to solo easily all over the guitar without thinking, you must know where all the notes are. It's not enough to simply be able to "figure out" the note names. You need to know them as quickly and intuitively as you can name the five fingers on your hand. When you get to this level, you will no longer have to limit yourself to playing guitar within a specific box scale pattern. This will make it much easier for you to be creative and express yourself with your guitar playing.


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