The Guide To Combining Guitar Skills Together & Playing Pro-Level Guitar Licks And Solos
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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Want to sound pro on guitar and play awesome guitar licks and solos?
Of course you do – everybody wants this!
Well, in this guitar phrasing article, I’ll share with you the #1 guitar phrasing skill that will help you sound pro and create cool guitar licks, even if you’re not an advanced musician yet.
“What IS that skill”, you ask?
Well, it’s not guitar technique (although guitar technique is part of it).
It’s not your knowledge of the fretboard (although your knowledge of the fretboard is part of it too).
It’s not even ‘guitar phrasing’, per se (even though guitar phrasing is definitely part of it as well).
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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The key to your ability to sound pro on guitar is...
Combining guitar skills together.
In this article, I’ll show you how to do this, even if this idea is new to you.
To begin, watch this video on how to sound pro on guitar:
Here are 5 more tips for combining guitar skills together,r so you can create cool guitar licks and sound pro on guitar:
Tip #1 For Combining Guitar Skills Together: Improve Your 2-Hand Synchronization
“How is that relevant to combining guitar skills together”, you ask?
Simple: your ability to keep your hands in sync is one of the key attributes that lets you play guitar licks cleanly in your guitar solos. The tighter your synchronization is, the easier it is to create cool guitar licks and sound pro on guitar, no matter what techniques you use.
Here is what I mean:
Here are some of my favorite ways for getting your hands in sync (that help you create cool guitar licks to use in your guitar solos):
- use double picking. This is quite simple, but not easy. Take any lick and play it over and over - picking every note of it two times. And the reason this helps you sound pro on guitar is: when you double pick a lick, your synchronization becomes a bit harder. But it makes your regular playing feel easier when you go back to picking each note only once.
And as a side benefit...
... double picking can also help you create cool guitar licks (that you can plug into your guitar solos) from ‘standard’ guitar licks you may have gotten bored with.
- practice single-string picking. Single string guitar licks are challenging to play with tight 2-hand synchronization (which is what makes them so useful for refining this aspect of your guitar technique). And when you get good at playing them, you’ll unlock a new sound that helps you sound pro on guitar and create new guitar phrasing ideas most guitarists never get to play.
- pick harder... while keeping your fretting hand relaxed. This trains your hand to work independently of each other (making it easier to play guitar licks and improve at combining guitar skills together). Picking with more power (and better dynamics) makes it impossible for your hands to play out of sync (and it practically forces your hands ‘to’ get in sync).
Question: “Tom Hess, but what if I can’t keep my fretting hand relaxed when I pick harder? I'm fighting through lots of tension when I play guitar licks this way! What should I do?”
Answer: Start with picking (and fretting) only 1 note. And once you are able to keep the levels of tension independent in both hands – you can add more notes with the fretting hand to create cool guitar licks using more expressive guitar licks that make you sound pro on guitar.
Tip #2 For Combining Guitar Skills Together: Control String Noise
The better you are at controlling string noise, the better your guitar phrasing will sound and the easier it will be to sound pro on guitar, no matter what guitar licks you play in your guitar solos.
How do you control string noise in your guitar solos?
For starters, you have to understand what ‘causes’ string noise.
And there are 3 problems to worry about (that get in the way of your ability to sound pro on guitar):
- String noise from the lower-in-pitch strings.
- String noise from the higher-in-pitch strings.
- Noise from the notes ringing (bleeding) together.
To control noise from the lower (thicker) strings, mute them using your picking hand’s thumb. (Simply rest it on the lower strings and slide it up and down as you play guitar licks in your guitar solos.)
To clean up sloppy noise from the higher (thinner) strings, use the index finger of your fretting hand to touch the higher strings and keep them quiet.
Here is what this muting technique looks like:
And how do you keep strings from ringing together when you’re trying to create cool guitar licks?
The answer is: Make sure to release the finger from each note the very moment the next finger plays its note. This way, you’ll only hear one note at a time (which is key to your ability to sound pro on guitar).
Also, practice finger rolling to easily play and create cool guitar licks, where you need to play several notes across several strings on the same fret (with the same finger).
Don’t know what finger rolling is?
Watch this video on how to sound pro on guitar using finger rolling:
Tip #3 For Combining Guitar Skills Together: Practice Guitar Phrasing Ornaments
To get good at combining guitar skills together, you need to practice the individual elements of good guitar phrasing.
- vibrato... in all of its many variations (such as: instant vibrato, delayed vibrato, delayed vibrato with re-articulation and vibrato with varied speed and width). Watch this video to see many different ways to do vibrato in your guitar licks and guitar solos.
Pro Guitar Phrasing Tip 1: practice vibrato on a single note first (so you can focus on making it sound great without worrying about playing other notes or creating guitar licks).
Pro Guitar Phrasing Tip 2: use a metronome to make your vibrato in sync with the beat. (You don’t always need to do this in all your guitar licks, but having the ‘ability’ to do this is a big part of what will make you sound pro on guitar and help you create cool guitar licks).
This video shows you how to get your vibrato in time with the beat:
- string bends... in all of their many variations. From half-step to whole-step to ghost bends and lots of the more ‘advanced’ string bending variations like these:
- double stops (playing 2 notes at the same time). No, I'm not talking about ‘unison bends’ (where you pick 2 strings and bend one of them until their pitches match). Unison bends are a cool sound (and you can of course use them to create cool guitar licks), but...
... in my opinion, double stops sound best when you hear the dissonant grit of 2 notes ringing together. This also gives you a lot of options to create cool guitar licks and sound pro on guitar (especially when you combine double stops with cool vibrato).
This video shows you how to do it:
There are certainly more guitar phrasing ornaments... but you can create cool guitar licks aplenty with these ideas alone.
Question: “Tom Hess, when I do slides, I tend to miss the note I'm sliding to. I either land 1 fret higher or lower! How can I fix this?”
Answer: Use your eyes to help. Instead of looking at the fret you’re sliding ‘from’, look at the fret you are sliding TO. That will help you to land on the correct note more often and sound pro on guitar when combining guitar skills together.
Question: “Tom Hess, I can’t seem to bend strings in tune. What can I do to fix this and make my guitar licks sound better?”
Answer: First, make sure you are using the right technique. Your thumb should be wrapped around the neck of the guitar and your forearm should pivot to bend the string... as opposed to extending the fingers.
Next, practice playing the note you intend to bend up to as a regular (unbent note). Get its sound into your ear. Then, bend into the note and stop when you hear it reach the target pitch.
Do this exercise many times to build up your consistency with string bends and it will make your guitar phrasing sound a lot better (and help you greatly with combining guitar skills together).
Tip #4 For Combining Guitar Skills Together: Create Variations From The Guitar Licks You Already Know (And Play).
This is perhaps the single best way to create cool guitar licks from ordinary guitar licks and level-up your guitar solos.
Here is how:
Go through your arsenal of guitar licks and pick the most plain one you can think of. Play it once.
Then, ask yourself:
“On a scale of 1-10, how does this lick sound (in terms of its guitar phrasing)?”
Then, ask a follow-up question: “What’s one thing I can improve about it to play it with better guitar phrasing?”
Then, on your next repetition, play the guitar lick again with better guitar phrasing (using the adjustment you chose in your answer).
After refining the lick once, ask yourself again how good it sounds on a scale of 1-10. Then, choose another guitar phrasing element of it to refine... and do it.
Continue doing this until the guitar lick sounds like a 10. Then, shift your focus to other guitar licks in your arsenal and refine them in the same way. This is a fantastic way to practice combining guitar skills together that’s sure to improve your guitar phrasing and help you sound pro on guitar fast.
Here is an illustration of this guitar phrasing practice idea in action:
Tip #5 For Combining Guitar Skills Together: Practice Licks That Combine Different Techniques
This idea might seem obvious, but most guitarists only practice guitar licks that use one skill (or technique). That’s why most struggle with combining guitar skills together in their guitar solos.
Fortunately, this is simple to fix. Challenge yourself to create guitar licks that use more than one guitar phrasing skill (or more than one guitar technique).
To sound pro on guitar, choose 2 (or more) specific techniques you want to combine and practice creating guitar licks that combine them.
This may sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple. This video shows you how to do it and what to focus on when you practice combining guitar skills together:
Now that you know the basics of combining guitar skills together, it’s time to refine your guitar phrasing, so you can add fire and emotion to every note you play on guitar. I can show you how in my free eGuide: The Secret To Adding Fire And Emotion To Any Guitar lick (Even If You Can’t Play Guitar Fast Yet). Download it today and take your lead guitar playing to a level most guitar players will never reach.
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