These Lead Guitar Backslides Make Rock And Blues Guitar Licks Sound Better

by Tom Hess
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In this lead guitar article...

I’ll show you very simple guitar solo ideas that’ll make your rock and blues guitar licks sound better... a lot better.

The technique we’ll be using is called:

Guitar backslides.

What are "guitar backslides"?

It’s a new twist on regular guitar slides that adds fire and emotion to any and all of your lead guitar ideas.

And it’s not just limited to lead guitar, either.

The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
The Secret To Adding Fire And Emotion To Your Guitar Playing e-Book

By submitting your info, you agree to send it to Tom Hess Music Corporation who will process and use it according to their privacy policy.

As you’ll see in the rock and blues guitar lesson video below:

You can use guitar backslides in rhythm guitar riffs.

(Or in guitar solo ideas that combine elements of rhythm and lead.)

When you do - your rock and blues lead guitar playing will sound totally pro.

Want to hear a few examples?

Watch this rock and blues guitar solo video to get started:

Now that you understand the basics of using guitar backslides in your rock and blues guitar licks and guitar solos…

… let’s go deeper into how to practice using guitar slides in your lead guitar playing:

Rock And Blues Lead Guitar Tip #1: Combine Guitar Backslides With Other Slide Variations

Guitar backslides are just one of many types of lead guitar slides you can play in your guitar licks. 

The other variations of guitar slides you can insert in your rock and blues guitar solos include:

  • Ascending guitar slides. As the name implies, you simply slide up (from a lower pitch) to the lead guitar note you want to ornament with an ascending slide in your guitar licks.

  • Descending guitar slides. This is the exact opposite of the ascending guitar slides. All you do is slide down (from a higher pitch) to the lead guitar note you want to play.

  • Re-articulation guitar slides. “Re-articulation” is just a fancy way of saying: “play something again”. And re-articulation guitar slides mean: you play any lead guitar note you want and then slide into it (from above or below). This way, your guitar slides are re-articulating the note you just picked. It’s a great sound to add to your rock and blues guitar licks.

  • Super slides. To play these guitar slides, you need to slide up at least 1 octave (12 frets) when playing guitar licks in your rock and blues guitar solos.

From this list, super slides (along with guitar backslides) are the most technical guitar slides. 

Your lead guitar technique (especially excess string noise control) must be dialed in to make super slides (and guitar backslides) sound good and to make your lead guitar licks and guitar solos sound pro.

Want to see how to do super guitar slides the right way?

Watch this video:

Bonus tip: when playing quick super guitar slides, make sure your eyes are looking at the fret you are sliding to BEFORE your hand starts to move there. That will ensure you slide to the correct fret (that’s in the key of your guitar solo) and not 1 fret higher or lower. This trick will help make all your guitar slides a lot more consistent, cleaner and more accurate.

Now that you know the most common lead guitar slides you can combine with guitar backslides, do this: 

Take one of the guitar licks from any rock and blues guitar solo you already know well and play it once. Now: choose one of the notes in that lick and decide which of the guitar slides you will lapply to it. Then play the lick again with that slide variation applied. (e.g. A super slide.)

Do this until you try all the guitar slides possibilities on that note… and then move on to the 2nd note, applying all the possible lead guitar slides to it – one at a time. Go through the entire lick and create dozens of lead guitar variations from it using nothing but guitar slides.

That is a great way to practice lead guitar when your time is limited (and it’s a starting to point to developing your guitar solo style as I’ll talk about below).

Rock And Blues Lead Guitar Tip #2: Practice Doing Guitar Backslides As Both An “Ornament” And A “Buffer”.

What does it mean to do lead guitar backslides (or any of the guitar slides I showed you) as an “ornament”? It means to add expression and fire to the lead guitar note, so you hear more than just the “naked” pitches when you play a guitar solo.

Your ear should only hear the sound of ONE note being played – the lead guitar note you intend to bring out in your guitar licks (or during a guitar solo). 

To do that, you need to do guitar backslides so quickly that they sound as a single event (an ornamented note) … not as 2 or 3 notes.

What does it mean to play lead guitar backslides as a “buffer”? It means to play guitar slides slower on purpose, so you DO hear multiple events happen around the main lead guitar note you are playing.

You can see me doing both types of guitar backslides in the rock and blues guitar licks demonstrations in the video at the top of this page.

The benefit of doing lead guitar backslides as a “buffer” is: it’s one of many ways you give yourself more time to think and come up with new lead guitar licks to play in a guitar solo. (Which is particularly useful when you are improvising).

Watch this video to see what I mean by “giving yourself time to think”:

Of course, using guitar slides as a buffer should never sound forced or unnatural when you play your lead guitar licks. 

So, here are 2 tips for making sure that happens when you practice lead guitar backslides: 

Tip 1: Work on your lead guitar timing. Yes, the timing of your lead guitar licks (and even lead guitar backslides) matters just as much as the timing of your rhythm guitar riffs. Practice your timing if you want to sound pro.

Here is how:

How To Play Tight Rhythm Guitar

Tip 2: Listen for sloppy guitar string noise that may happen when you play… and clean it up if it does.
The best lead guitar technique for muting string noise in your rock and blues guitar licks (and guitar backslides) is thumb muting.

Here is how it works:

Rock And Blues Lead Guitar Tip #3: Integrate Guitar Backslides With Other Lead Guitar Techniques 

Lead guitar “integration” means: combining one guitar technique (for example: scale sequences) with another (such as 2-hand tapping, string bending or legato). 

The better you are at integration, the easier it is to improvise lead guitar solos, learn other people’s songs and play the lead guitar ideas you hear in your head.

Here is one example of what lead guitar integration looks like:

And believe it or not, you can even combine a rock and blues guitar backslides with… (drumroll)…

… sweep picking, of all things!

Yes, you really can. And if you do it right, doing it will add a ton of fire to your guitar licks and guitar solos.

Here is an example of how cool that sounds:

Question: “But Tom Hess, I want to only play rock and blues guitar licks and guitar solos. I don’t want to sweep pick!”

Answer: That’s ok, you don't have to. The above video is just an example of how you ‘could’ integrate lead guitar backslides with other techniques (that are not common in rock and blues guitar licks and guitar solos). But you can also simply integrate guitar slides with the lead guitar techniques that are common in rock and blues!

All that said…

You can also use lead guitar techniques that are NOT common in rock and blues guitar solos and still play very bluesy guitar licks and guitar solos. Even when using arpeggios with sweep picking. 

Don’t believe me? Watch this lead guitar solo video and I’ll show you how.

Become A Classic Rock Guitar Player

Rock And Blues Lead Guitar Tip #4: Add Lead Guitar Backslides Into “Finished” Guitar Solos

That includes both your own lead guitar solos and guitar solos you’ve learned from other guitar players.

This is similar to the earlier idea of going through all the lead guitar slides possibilities on every note of a guitar lick, with one difference:

Here, the goal is to go through an entire lead guitar solo and find opportunities to cram in as many guitar backslides into each of its guitar licks as possible.

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The purpose of this is twofold:

First – this allows you to get more practice in with lead guitar backslides and hear the difference they make in lead guitar licks and solos you are familiar with. (Without getting bored by only practicing guitar backslides on a single note or just 1-2 guitar licks.)

Second – this lets you find new ways to refine familiar guitar licks and discover new ways to play them that you may like better than the original versions.

This simple act of experimenting with lead guitar slides can well be the starting point to you discovering your own lead guitar style.

Case in point:

When I started playing guitar in January 1986, my dream was to learn my favorite guitar solos and play them exactly like the record.

But in mid 1987, after I FINALLY nailed the solo in “The Green Manalishi” by Judas Priest... I began to dislike some of the phrasing choices in the solo.

I asked myself if I could do “better” and started tweaking the licks to my liking.

As years went by, I did this more and more with almost every piece of music I learned.

And through the years, I’ve developed strong musical and lead guitar phrasing preference that became my ‘lead guitar style’. 

You can do the same.

Rock And Blues Lead Guitar Tip #5: Combine Lead Guitar Backslides With Wide & Thick Vibrato

Vibrato makes lead guitar backslides (and really – your entire guitar playing) sound much more expressive.

But how do you practice vibrato?

Here are a few tips:

- sync up the speed of your vibrato with its width. The faster your vibrato in your lead guitar licks – the wider it ought to be to sound dramatic and thick. If your vibrato is fast but narrow, then the note sounds nervous and out of control (and so does your entire guitar playing). Then your guitar slides (including guitar backslides) won’t sound very good. 

On the flipside, the slower the vibrato – the narrower it should be. If the vibrato is slow and wide, it sounds more like slow lead guitar bends instead of ‘vibrato’. 

Watch this video to see how to sync up the speed and width of your vibrato to complement the sound of your guitar backslides:

- release the string all the way down between the pulses of your vibrato. If you don’t – you’ll commit one of the greatest vibrato “sins”, which is: doing vibrato out of tune. A great way to check for this is to listen to your vibrato at half speed while wearing headphones. That will tell you right away if you are releasing the string to the starting pitch or not.

Bottom line:

Refine your vibrato and combine it with guitar slides. As you do - your rock and blues guitar licks will quickly begin to sound more pro. 

You now know a few simple ways to level-up your lead guitar playing. The next step in your quest to play rock and blues guitar like a pro is to develop all the OTHER skills you need to play guitar the way you’ve always wanted.

I can help you with this in my personalized Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.

Unlike some other lessons (or courses), I create lessons specifically for YOU, based on your skill level and goals. And I give you an almost unlimited amount of feedback between lessons to help you level-up your guitar playing FAST. I’ve helped hundreds of my students become pro-level players and can help you do the same.

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Tom Hess
About Tom Hess: Tom Hess is a guitar teacher, music career mentor and guitar teacher trainer. He trains musicians how to leave their day jobs and build successful full-time careers in the music industry.

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