Learn How To Improvise Your Own Guitar Licks Using An Easy & Fun Practice Approach
It's not as hard as you might think to improvise guitar licks that sound creative and engaging to anyone listening. The secret is to squeeze as much expressive value as possible out of the notes you play with. Starting with just a few notes makes this easy and helps you expand into playing longer solos over time without getting lost/repeating yourself too much.
Check out the guitar video below to improve your lead guitar soloing now by learning how to practice improvising cool guitar licks:
Click on the video to begin watching it.
Learn Your Guitar Fretboard Inside And Out
True mastery of lead guitar soloing requires mastery of your guitar neck.
And mastering your guitar neck goes much deeper than simply being identifying every note on guitar.
To really know your way around the guitar, you need to be able to play all the scales and chords used in your style of music everywhere on the neck, and be able to combine these shapes fluently. Guitar players - from Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix to Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai - all have/had this exceptional awareness of scales and chord shapes on the fretboard.
This skill enabled them to improvise great guitar solos effortlessly in any key without “getting lost”.
In contrast, guitarists who don’t know their way around the fretboard struggle to make their solos sound like music.
Instead, they are stuck soloing using the same 1-2 safe guitar scale positions every time they play lead guitar.
Master Aural Skills (Train Your Ear To The Fullest)
Most guitar players do not have a clear understanding of what it really means to "have a good ear for music".
Most think ear training is about "being able to identify any interval, chord, or scale" after hearing it.
This is only a small part of what it means to have a good ear.
At the highest level, aural skills are "the link" between all your musical skills (guitar technique, music theory knowledge, phrasing, mastery of scales and chords and more).
A well-developed ear helps your skills work together and enables you to create expressive guitar solos (from the sounds you hear in your head).
Master musicians imagine the music they want to hear and direct their hands to produce that sound on guitar.
But guess what?
Without good aural skills, this is impossible.
Create Music With Your Mind Instead Of Your Hands
Most guitarists think of soloing (or improvising) as "playing scales over chords".
They hear a chord progression and start running through familiar scale shapes and licks.
If you do this, it means: your mind goes on autopilot and all of the "creating" happens from your hands.
This is NOT what you want!
The best guitar players do this:
- Iimagine the sounds they want to hear. They do this before trying to play a single note on guitar!
- Then their ear (and musical mind) translates the sounds into the notes they need to play on guitar.
- Their hands find the notes and play them (cleanly, accurately and at the speed they want).
- Their hands add the right phrasing to squeeze maximum emotion from the notes they played.
I don't know about you, but this method sounds way better to me!
Here is what happens next:
Your ears and mind “evaluate” the sound you just played. And then you ask yourself a very important question:
“What Do I Want To Hear Next?”
Then you repeat the steps above. Start with hearing the new sounds in your head, find the notes and play them.
When you master this process, you’ll run through these steps without thinking.
But when you are first learning?
You need to give your brain the time to go as slowly as it takes to go through the steps.
It’s the same as the process you’d use to slow down the notes when working on guitar technique & speed.
The most important thing I want you to notice is that most of what actually "creates" a great guitar solo needs to be done with your mind and your ears.
This is totally different from the thinking process of inexperienced guitarists, whose guitar solos are merely an attempt to “fill up space/silence with notes”.
Continuously Work On Your Guitar Phrasing
Many lead guitar players continuously search for "notes to play".
The problem with this?
They neglect looking for better ways of HOW to play (phrase) those notes.
Good guitar phrasing involves much more than applying an occasional bend or vibrato to a note.
When I train my students how to master guitar phrasing, I show them how this skill consists of "macro" and "micro" level components.
"Macro" level phrasing refers to how each phrase fits into the big picture of the lead guitar solo and the song itself (much like phrases flow in a conversation).
"Micro" level phrasing deals with ornamentation applied to individual pitches of the phrase.
It is important to understand the difference between the two components and to have effective strategies for training both of these areas of phrasing.
If you want to find out more about what goes into great guitar phrasing and get some ideas on how to practice this skill on a "micro" level, check out these guitar phrasing resources.
Get Regular Feedback On Your Lead Guitar Soloing From More Experienced Guitarists Or From A Guitar Teacher
The #1 challenge with improving your guitar soloing is…
… it’s not something you can measure (like you track your speed with a metronome).
- It is not easy to know what exactly to work on to make your solos sound better.
- It is also hard to tell when/if/how your guitar solos are actually sounding better from week to week.
Get an expert guitar teacher to listen to your solos, give you unbiased feedback and implement his advice. This might just be the fastest, easiest and most direct way to become the lead guitarist you want to be.
And on that note:
If you want me to help you transform your lead guitar playing, I can do that for you in my Breakthrough Guitar Lessons.
Here is how it works:
- You tell me about your guitar playing strengths & weaknesses, as well as your musical background and goals.
- I create a personalized guitar lesson strategy and your lesson materials.
- You practice (with my support every step of the way) to help you transform your playing and reach your goals.
Here is what some of my guitar students are saying:
“I just love guitar lessons with Tom, he literally takes the time to make a specific lesson plan and sends you lessons as you need it.”
My last lesson I took with a local guitar teacher before joining Tom, I was struggling with a sweep picking pattern, which was the 5 string root major, I was really struggling to get the rolling technique down. I took it to my guitar teacher and I was like “Help me with this, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” This is his exact phrase: “At high speeds, it doesn’t really matter if you can play it clean or not, no one can hear it anyway.” At that point, I was just like, “Ah man.” But thankfully, in that same message, he mentioned Tom’s name. Then the doors opened. That very night, I went home and looked at every single lesson Tom had, had my guitar in hand, every YouTube lesson on you know “correct motions”, “play this over chords”... just applied it instantly, and it was instant results within an hour... just from his free stuff. I was like, oh man, I’ve got to do lessons with this guy.I remember when I first started out with lessons, I instantly jumped on the forum to greet myself, and it’s amazing how there’s like 30 responses. Just like, “Hi welcome.” and stuff... “Hi Dan, great musical tastes”. That made me feel really at home and welcomed into Tom’s forum and community. Every time I’ve had an issue when I was first starting out be it like theory or technique, there’s always been someone there who’s helped. Otherwise it could’ve been this potentially awkward process where I’d have to wait a whole week to get an answer from my teacher, who even then may not have answered it correctly and may have never solved it. Whereas there are guys on there who have been with Tom and have been through exactly what I’ve been through. They know exactly how to help, in what order, what information you need... it’s just a friendly atmosphere really.
Dan Mayhew, Stowmarket, UK
“When I met Tom Hess, I knew that this is the guy. Just going through the evaluation form, all the questions, different questions, and he was digging deeper and deeper into all my goals and all that stuff... and no one has ever done that with me before, so I felt right away that this is the guy.”
The level that I was at before I went to Tom for lessons was that I could play pretty fast, I could play sloppy, I didn’t know nothing about music theory, so I was kind of unbalanced, I was uneven. I was a good player technically, but I knew very little about music theory. So I wanted to even that out, and Tom has helped me, not only evening that out, but also exceeding my expectations. So now I’m playing at a level that I didn’t expect that I could play at. So that’s... I’m very happy with that.I like lessons with Tom because of the format basically. He gives a variety of formats... not just one format, like video for example, but also pdf files and audio files that you can take with you if you’re doing something else... you have to do labor that day, laundry or whatever... then you can listen to the sessions and while... you can actually benefit when you’re not even practicing, so it’s a no brainer.
Gottfrid Norberg Waxin, Sweden
“Before I started taking correspondence lessons I was basically stagnant in my playing. I had kind of reached what I thought was a pinnacle and I started looking for what’s next, what’s bigger and better… and I just happened across Tom’s lessons and since then I’ve realized that this plateau that I was feeling was way down here and now he’s helped me tremendously. I know I can do things on the guitar that I could’ve never dreamed of five years ago.”
I chose to take guitar lessons with Tom over anybody else because a) Tom is a professional musician, and I want to learn from people who are making a living as a musician and b) he just had a wealth of knowledge that he freely gives to you to kind of say here, you know here is the golden nugget.
The biggest change in my playing that has happened since I started taking lessons with Tom is playing like a true musician, phrasing like a true musician, and kind of separating myself away from all the wannabes.
So if I were to compare Tom’s correspondence lessons with just taking private lesson in a local market, it’s night and day. For one thing, Tom’s lessons are easy to understand, they’re very in depth and they’re tailored to what you want to learn… versus private lessons, a lot of times the teachers are using their students as guinea pigs to figure out how to teach… and Tom’s not doing that, he’s knows what he’s doing.
Thoughts when I started with Tom were “Is this going to work for me?” because it was definitely not the norm. And my thoughts now are “Hell yes it’s going to work”, because you see results.
Tom’s goal-oriented approach has helped me, I guess break horizons and get results that I could’ve never gotten before. Only because he helped me flesh out how I want to play and how to get there. He gave the goals and the path to get there, and it’s been excellent. Tom is like he says, an ordinary guy, but he’s doing extraordinary things, and I know in my life that’s what I want to do. I just want to be an ordinary guy that is impacting lives, and that’s been huge from Tom.
Ty Morgan, Phoenix, Arizona
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