How To Become A Great Classic Rock Guitar Player

by Tom Hess

How-To-Become-A-Great-Classic-Rock-Guitar-PlayerDo you want to learn to play classic rock lead guitar in the style of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen and Angus Young but struggle with being able to do that?  If you have already learned to play the pentatonic scale and know dozens of blues/rock guitar licks but still do not feel happy with your classic rock guitar playing, you may be at a loss for what to do next to improve your musical skills. 

Guitarists who want to learn to play classic rock music often face very similar kinds of challenges in their guitar playing.  These challenges most often develop as a result of believing in several guitar learning myths.  

After getting past learning the basic pentatonic/blues scale and some stock licks, many guitarists will usually continue to play with the same limited skills for years, hoping that their guitar playing will improve on its own over time (which often happens very, very slowly for most people).

If you want to know how to make your classic rock guitar playing more creative and expressive, there are two important questions you need to ask yourself to begin this process:

  1. What ARE the general skills I need to develop in order to become more creative as a guitarist and musician?
  2. What skills do my favorite classic rock guitar players have in common that enable them to be creative in their music?" 

(By the way, the belief that musical creativity cannot be learned or taught is completely false. Fact is, creativity can be taught and learned.)

After you become clear on the answers to the questions above, it will become a lot easier to know exactly what you need to do to finally learn to play guitar the way you want. 

With that in mind, I want to tell you about the most important skills you must develop to become a more creative guitar player in the classic rock style.  If you have tried to learn to play classic rock lead guitar for a long time but are struggling with expressing yourself the way that you want, chances are that you need to improve in one or more of the areas below:

Guitar Phrasing - One of the most important elements of guitar playing creativity is how well you are able to "phrase" the notes you are playing.  Although this skill is very critical to develop for all guitar players, it is PARTICULARLY important in the classic rock style, where most of the time guitar players play shorter phrases consisting of only a few notes.  Therefore, it is critical to master all the nuances of getting the maximum expression from every note you play.  When I teach guitarists how to master classic rock guitar playing, I sometimes spend many weeks training them to perfect the art of getting the maximum feeling and emotion out of only a few notes.  This helps them to become MUCH better guitar players a whole lot faster (often this happens literally in front of my eyes).  To see exactly how you should practice this rock lead guitar skill, watch this free video lesson on classic rock guitar playing

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Guitar Technique - Contrary to popular belief, there is a lot more to the topic of "improving your guitar technique" than simply increasing your guitar speed.  Even though the most famous classic rock guitar players usually were not masters of playing guitar fast, they had enough technique developed to perform what they wanted to play reliably, easily and consistently.  To do this, they had to master the skill of integrating together a variety of rock lead guitar techniques such as: different types of picking articulation, vibrato, slides, hammer ons/pull offs, string bends, tremolo picking, double stops and any combinations of the above. These elements of guitar technique must be refined and perfected over time if you want to play classic rock lead guitar at the highest level and to do so consistently well.  Most guitar players only practice these techniques in isolation and do not consciously train to integrate them together when playing music.  This is one of the reasons why most classic rock guitarists struggle to achieve great guitar phrasing and express themselves fully in their guitar solos.  Watch the free classic rock guitar playing video lesson mentioned above to understand how to practice combining your guitar techniques together in creative ways. 

Aural Skills - Regardless of what style of music you play, until and unless you are able to hear music in your head BEFORE playing it, you will always have a hard time being creative with your guitar playing.  This critically important skill is not only necessary for rock lead guitar soloing but also for writing your own songs, learning music by ear, jamming with other musicians, recording your music and virtually any other creative musical activity.  To learn more about how aural skills affect your guitar playing, read this article about lead guitar soloing

Ability To Make Expressive Musical Choices In Any Musical Context - In order to do this, you must understand as much as possible about the "musical context" in which you are playing at any given time.  Although most classic rock guitar players never studied music formally, they DO (or did) know enough about music to know exactly what chords they were soloing over, what notes would sound good over any song or chord progression and they were able to also control consonance and dissonance with their guitar phrasing extremely well.  If they did not know this, all of their lead guitar playing would be (and sound) chaotic.

Although the amount of knowledge needed about how music works is generally going to be less for a classic rock guitar player compared to a jazz guitarist (for example), there are certain fundamental elements that ALL guitar players must know and understand in order to maximize their creative potential. 

You might have already noticed that all of the musical skills described above can be applied to the general process of being creative in ANY guitar playing style.  More importantly, I want you to realize that you "CAN learn" to become a highly creative classic rock guitar player by breaking down the seemingly intangible concepts of musical self-expression into concrete and manageable musical skills. 

Now that you have a better understanding of what it takes to improve your rock lead guitar playing, begin taking the necessary steps to move towards your goal.  If you continuously work on the above elements in your guitar practicing, you will put yourself on the fast track to becoming the guitar player you always wanted to be. 

To get more help through this process, make sure to study these free guitar playing resources to learn more about how to practice the musical skills discussed in this article:

Learn about the best rock guitar lessons online.


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