Improve Your Lead Guitar Playing Creativity By Avoiding These 3 Mistakes

by Tom Hess

Myth: Only naturally talented guitarists are able to play lead guitar creatively and no one else can learn to do it.

Good news is, creativity is a skill anyone can practice to improve just like technique, scales, arpeggios or increasing your speed.

Pretty cool, right?

I agree!


Let’s get started building a foundation for your creativity to make playing awesome lead guitar solos and licks become second nature.

Use these tips to make your lead guitar playing more creative:

Lead Guitar Creativity Tip #1 –Get The Most From The Least

Common lead guitar mistake made while soloing: Playing tons of notes without making the notes sound musical or expressive.

Why does this happen?

Generally, guitar players do not know exactly what they want to express, and hope that they will run into something that sounds cool by simply playing through a pattern on the fretboard.

This leads to wandering guitar solos that may or may not sound musical or coherent.


Make it your goal to express as much emotion as possible with as little notes as possible.

This mindset trains you to squeeze every ounce of expression from the things you play.


Your lead guitar playing naturally becomes more creative because you are actually thinking about what you are playing and feeling the notes.

Over time, you no longer have to think about your note choices, because you just pick up the guitar and express yourself.

Lead Guitar Creativity Tip #2 –Integrate, Integrate, Integrate

No doubt, playing lead guitar with advanced technique feels really awesome. There’s nothing quite like impressing your friends and making people’s jaws drop when you shred through a fast solo.


Don't fall into the common trap of focusing too much on technique and not enough on integrating that technique together with things like music theory, phrasing or improvisation.

You’ve surely seen this in action before (and maybe experienced it yourself):

  • Guitarist A only trains guitar technique.
  • Guitarist B trains guitar technique and integrates it with his other skills.

The time comes for both players to improvise a lead guitar phrase.

What happens next?

Guitarist A shreds up and down the fretboard, but fails to create something that sounds really musical and emotionally expressive. He ends up feeling frustrated and shocked that his technical skill didn’t translate into a cool solo.

Guitarist B isn't quite as technical as Guitarist A, but manages to play a very expressive and creative solo that flows effortlessly from phrase to phrase.

Note: This does not mean you shouldn’t strive to advance your technical skills, only that you should not neglect integrating your skills together (otherwise you may end up feeling like a beginner in one area of your playing – not fun!).

More about this in a moment (see video below).

Lead Guitar Creativity Tip #3 – Focus On Creation Vs. Imitation

One of the most common mistakes guitarists make is thinking that learning tons of new scales, arpeggios, licks or techniques makes them more creative.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Think of these things as tools for creativity.

Building a huge vocabulary of licks doesn’t teach you how to express yourself while playing your own guitar solos or licks.

Learn how to focus more on thinking creatively rather than imitating the creativity of others (through copying their licks) by checking out this video demonstration:

How To Apply These Tips Into Your Guitar Playing

Now you understand just a few principles that open the door for you to play lead guitar with tons of creativity.

Here is a quick exercise to help you practice them to become more creative fast:

  1. Pick any scale, arpeggio or lick you already know.
  2. Playing just a handful of notes, spend 1 minute continuously playing them in different ways to get as much musical expression out of them as possible.

For example:

Play the notes in different rhythms, by using legato, adding vibrato, tremolo picking, etc.

  1. Rest for a minute.
  2. Repeat the second step.
  3. Rest for a minute.
  4. Add one more note from the pattern you chose in the first step and repeat the process.

Do this for just 10-15 minutes per day and your creativity will skyrocket in no time!

More good news:

There are tons of other cool ways to enhance your lead guitar creativity.

Learn more now by studying the points in this article about playing expressive slides on lead guitar.

Tom HessAbout Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He teaches rock guitar lessons online to students from all over the world and conducts instructional live guitar training events attended by musicians from over 50 countries.

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