How To Play Creative Guitar Licks By Learning How To Refine & Improve Them
Want to play guitar licks that are expressive and memorable for anyone listening?
Learn how to take any guitar lick and squeeze out as much emotion and expression as possible from every note. Knowing how to do this gives you the power to play killer guitar licks on command.
Learn how to play killer guitar licks whenever you want by using the practice advice in this video:
Click on the video to begin watching it.
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A Note For All Serious Guitarists:
Although learning how to play guitar licks on your own goes a long way, learning how to transform your lead guitar playing to make it truly impressive is best done with a teacher.
A great guitar teacher helps you improve your guitar playing in all areas at once. This way, you reach your goals faster and become a better overall musician in less time.
Learning on your own prevents you from getting the answers you need to overcome problems you just don't understand.
A guitar teacher solves this immediately and puts you in the right direction. But don't just take my word for it (I know I am a guitar teacher, afterall).
Take the word of some of my favorite students who had their lead guitar playing transformed through our lessons together:
“Before the online guitar lessons, I had a lot of trouble with phrasing. I couldn’t make good note choices, I was always fishing for the next note. I was trying to think of ways that I could play, but it didn’t sound good. I didn’t know how to write songs, it was absolutely terrible, everything sounded the same. I couldn’t really… I didn’t feel confident with my playing. I definitely couldn’t build speed for anything, I was really sloppy and I was dissonant… and it was really painful to play.”
I chose Tom Hess because when I read his articles they blew my mind away. I got so much out of that, that I didn’t get anywhere else.
The main reason I like taking lessons with Tom online is because, number one: yes it was the personalized lessons strategy… I read everything about it, and it was so compelling, just like that he really takes everything that I can or can’t do into account, and then he’ll take what I want to be able to do and then basically map out every step of the way until I get there. And that was just really powerful, and that I’d be able to get feedback every 6 weeks, and the fact that we’ve got the forum. We’ve got instant help and they all really know what they’re talking about… they’re not just like anybody… they… I mean some of them are virtuoso guitar players... I mean, they know their stuff and then of course the mindset of this whole environment. The friends I’ve made here just… I can’t really put into words.
I didn’t have a budget when I started. I had a good enough job that I could take lessons for however long I wanted, so that wasn’t a problem, but I feel like I’ve gotten 100 times what I paid you know.
Matteo Miller, San Diego, California, USA
When I started learning from Tom, the main thing that made him different from other teachers was that he was showing me how to excel in all aspects of my guitar playing by applying the skills that I already knew together with the new material that I was learning from him.
He made me aware of both strengths and weaknesses in my playing that I did not even know I had. From there he gave me the knowledge, tools and guidance to literally transform my guitar playing by enabling me to overcome things that were preventing me from becoming a truly creative and self-expressive guitar player. These were the kinds of things that none of my previous guitar teachers and books I studied were able to do for me.
After Tom made me aware of all the things I was missing in my guitar playing and provided me with the strategy and tools for solving them, I began to make very fast progress in all areas of my guitar playing.
I can now write my own music and can create lead guitar solos that I am happy and fulfilled with. I also have the technical skills to confidently and easily play anything that I want to express. I have overcome all of the lead guitar challenges that I struggled with before, and increased my guitar speed to virtuoso levels. More importantly, I have the knowledge and understanding of how to continually improve my guitar playing and musical skills to higher and higher levels to continue expressing myself with my music. Overall, I have definitely transformed in a huge way as a musician and as a person through my lessons with Tom Hess. I am grateful to him for guiding me towards becoming the guitarist I always wanted to be!"
Mike Philippov, Indiana, USA
“When I first heard about Tom Hess, I saw that he was a teacher that was very dedicated and serious about it, and that drew me in immediately. That this is a guy that has a plan, has a goal and really if you’re serious about learning guitar, this guy is equally as serious in a way. So it resonated with me straight away.”
I started out just learning by myself and as many others I got stuck. I had a few issues I wanted to get by, but when I met Tom and talked with him and started lessons with him, he opened up a whole new world of possibilities of what guitar playing can be.
I feel very grateful that I found lessons from Tom since I then did what worked from the very beginning. Many guitarists I see that played way longer than I did, they have build up many bad habits. That from the very start, there was clear instruction of how to practice correctly. You build the ability for high speed and whatever you want from the very beginning and you don’t waste time doing inefficient things. So I’m very grateful that I did that, and now I really feel I am able to reach whatever level I want.
The reasons why I think I feel so motivated all the time is because I know that the thing I’m working on is relevant for me and it’s exactly the direct thing I need to get.
The forum just kicks ass. The people in the forum - it’s just like unconditional help all the time. They love to help out, and you also get very inspired by seeing someone just really getting speed really quick and then you say if he can do it, I can do it. It works on the mental side of being a guitarist and that of course that’s the most important thing. Just being around other musicians like that, is just you learn so much faster, is so much less frustration when you can see that all the people are having the same issues that you do, not anything special or anything. It’s just part of learning process, so it kicks ass.
Magnus Gautestad, Norway
Bonus Tip #1: Don't Make All Your Lead Guitar Licks Perfectly Symmetrical
For example: Using the same idea for 8 measures or so and only changing the last notes to make it different.
This can be an effective phrasing approach, but it quickly loses its novelty when you use it exclusively.
Try this instead: Make it your goal to squeeze emotion out of each note you play by creating a phrase (with or without a backing track) and then improvising at least 20 variations from that phrase.
As you do this, change its rhythm (but keep the pitch of the notes the same) or change the pitch of the notes (but keep the same rhythm), using different phrasing ornaments such as different styles of vibrato, different types of bends, double stops, tremolo picking, different levels of picking articulation, all kinds of different legato variations and so forth.
Record yourself playing these variations, then focus on soloing freely rather than confining yourself to the approach of creating highly structured phrases that you play one after the other.
Remember: You don’t have to stop using these kinds of phrases. This advice is just to help you break out of this common limitation guitarists put on themselves. Pay attention to the musical tension and release of the way you play in order to smoothly and seamlessly connect one phrase to the next.
Bonus Tip #2: Keep Your Vibrato In-Tune And Use It To Extend Longer Notes In Your Phrases.
Vibrato and bending adds tons of life to your guitar phrases, giving them expressive emotion that captivates anyone listening. However, if your vibrato is not in-tune, everything falls apart.
To fix this, do the following:
Make sure that when you bend the string, it goes all the way up to the pitch you want to bend to and returns back to the original pitch you began on.
When you release it somewhere in between these two pitches, it sounds out of tune and awful. Practice making your bends in-tune by first picking the note you want to bend to, then bending up to that note.
Then return to the original pitch where you began the bend. For better results: Use a metronome to practice this by bending up on one beat and release the bend down to the original pitch on the next beat.
Bonus Tip #3: Create Specific Emotions While Playing
Lots of guitarists merely play solos using the appropriate scale to match the key of the chords they are soloing over.
You make your guitar solos intensely expressive by learning the distinct emotions that certain notes create while used over certain chords.
For instance: the root of a C minor chord (C) feels relaxed, but playing a minor 3rd (Eb) above it creates a strong feeling of loneliness. Play through each scale degree above each chord in the key and listen to how it feels to build your emotional vocabulary.
Bonus Tip #4: Study Licks By Your Favorite Guitar Players
Quite a lot of guitarists think playing solos by their favorite players is the most productive way to practice to play as well as them.
However, memorizing a load of guitar licks by your favorite players accomplishes very little in reality.
This is only one part of the equation.
By doing this, you are more likely to rely on repeating the same licks over and over instead of proactively thinking in a creative manner while improvising or creating your own lead guitar ideas. This stops you from learning how to be more effective at expressing emotions in music.
Instead, learn the licks and solos of your favorite players while studying and paying attention to how they generate specific emotions with the notes, techniques and phrases they choose to play. This helps you get much more benefit for your own guitar soloing creativity.
After taking notes on a specific solo/lick, integrate what you learned directly into your own playing through focused practice.
For example: If you learn how a player uses wide vibrato to make the end of their solo sound more intense, practice using this style of vibrato in your own licks during your practice time.
Now you know how to play cool licks that sound expressive and creative. Now it's time to learn how to improve all areas of your playing. How? Get started with electric guitar correspondence lessons.