How To Play Better Lead Guitar Licks & Guitar Solos With Super Slides

by Tom Hess


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You are about to learn how to use huge one-octave slides (called super slides) in your guitar licks and solos.

These super slides are much different from:

  • Regular ascending or descending slides. (Where you slide into a note from a lower pitch or a higher pitch).
     
  • Backslides. (Where you play the note you want to hear, then slide up or down away from it and slide back into that same note).
     
  • Re-articulation slides. (Where you play the note you want to hear and then slide into it from another note higher or lower).

To do super slides, you need to slide up (or down) at least an octave on the fretboard.

The upside to using super slides?

They sound amazing when you use them in your lead guitar licks and guitar solos.

But super slides come with a downside of sorts:

Your lead guitar technique (especially string noise control) must be dialed in to make super slides sound good.

But fear not: you are about to learn all the secrets to using super slides the right way in your lead guitar licks and guitar solos.

To begin, watch the super slides video below:


Here are some more tips for applying super slides into your lead guitar playing:


Super Slides Tip #1: Master The Technique Of Super Slides During Your Lead Guitar Practice Time.

A super slide is still just a slide, right? How hard can it be?


The Secret To Adding Fire &
Emotion To Any Guitar Lick
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It’s not hard, per se… but it can be tricky, because:

A super slide is more than just a slide. It’s a rapid position shift that covers a large distance on the fretboard.

So, all the problems that may exist with position shifting on guitar can also come up with super slides.

Specifically:

  • Missing the fret you are sliding to during your super slides. This can sound quite embarrassing when you are improvising lead guitar licks and guitar solos on stage. It happened to me more than once before I fully mastered super slides.
     
  • String noise (this happens as your fretting hand is up in the air as you are doing super slides). This makes your lead guitar playing sound sloppy. (Especially when you are playing slow guitar licks in your guitar solos.)
     
  • Excess muscle tension in your arm (as you are sliding up or down the fretboard quickly). This can happen when you are trying to play emotional guitar licks with fire and intensity.

The solution?

Learn the nuances of super slides and work on them during your lead guitar practice time. Practice them in your guitar licks, the same way you would practice playing scale sequences, arpeggios or other lead guitar techniques.

And the #1 “nuance” that helps you make super slides sound great is…

…using your eyes.

Look in advance to where your fretting hand will be sliding.

Do NOT wait until the last minute to start looking at the fret you are targeting with the slide.

And do NOT try to follow your finger with your eyes during super slides.

(Super slides happen way too fast for your eyes to follow your fingers – especially when you are playing fast lead guitar licks.)

Watch this video that shows you the right way to practice super slides:


Super Slides Tip #2: Add Super Slides To Your Lead Guitar “Focus Rotation” checklist

Here is what this means:

Improvising (and lead guitar playing in general) is a byproduct of mastering a variety of lead guitar skills.

These lead guitar skills allow you to play the lead guitar licks and guitar solos you love hearing.

One of those skills is lead guitar phrasing. (How you play the notes you play.)

And super slides are one of the lead guitar phrasing techniques you use to make your guitar licks sound great.

So, here is what I tell all my lead guitar students to do:

Make a list of phrasing ornaments you will use in your guitar solos.

Things like:

Vibrato, string bends, double stops, pinch harmonics, slides (regular, backslides, rearticulation slides), rakes, etc.

…and add super slides to that list.

Then: when you practice lead guitar playing, choose one of the phrasing techniques from your list and focus on it.

Here is how:

Choose 1-2 short guitar licks and begin repeating them over and over for 10-15 minutes.

As you do, apply one of the phrasing elements to their various notes. In our example, do it with super slides.

This forces you to refine the sound of super slides and integrate them into your lead guitar playing.

(After you work on super slides, you can then rotate focus to other lead guitar phrasing elements and another pair of guitar licks. This way you’ll keep mastering all elements of lead guitar playing, one at a time.)

Watch this video to see a demonstration of this process:


Question: “Tom Hess, is there such a thing as overused super slides? I'm afraid of playing one technique for so long can create bad lead guitar soloing habits.”

Answer: Of course – any lead guitar technique can be overused. However, there is a difference between “improvising” lead guitar solos and “practicing” improvising lead guitar solos.

When you are soloing for real – you want to have a balance of lead guitar elements in your guitar licks and guitar solos.

But when you are practicing improvising, you want to deliberately repeat some lead guitar techniques many times to make them sound great.

This is just like practicing any technique exercise or part of a song you want to master. You won’t learn a song from only playing it once (or once in awhile).

You also won’t master any lead guitar element if all you do is play it a few times per day.

“Refinement” is a key skill most lead guitar players never practice. That is why their guitar licks and guitar solos sound plain and boring.

Watch this video to see how to avoid this problem:


Side note: as you can see in the video above – playing expressive rock lead guitar solos is not hard if you know what to focus on when you practice lead guitar.

You can break any complex goal into a series of steps (and lead guitar playing skills) that make the goal easy to reach.


How to become a great rock guitarist


Super Slides Tip #3: Control Sloppy String Noise In Your Lead Guitar Playing

Do you know anyone who loves the sound of sloppy string noise in a lead guitar solo?

Yeah – me neither.

And string noise can happen unexpectedly when you are playing super slides.

String noise can happen if you lift your picking hand off the strings when you do quick slides up (or down) the guitar fretboard.

And on top of muddying up your playing… string noise also kills your lead guitar sustain.

The best way to mute string noise in your lead guitar licks is to use thumb muting.

What’s thumb muting?

Thumb muting – as the name implies, involves resting your picking hand’s thumb on the lower in pitch strings when you play lead guitar.

This gets rid of much of the string noise and makes your guitar licks and guitar solos sound cleaner.

Here is how to do thumb muting the right way:


Common Lead Guitar Question: “Tom Hess, I try to do thumb muting, but all I hear are pinch harmonics! How can I fix this part of my guitar phrasing and make my guitar solos sound clean?”

Answer: If you hear pinch harmonics, it means you are holding the guitar pick wrong.

Most people hold the guitar pick on the side of their index finger (and let the thumb hang over the edge of the pick).

This makes thumb muting impossible and many lead guitar phrasing techniques become hard to play.

The result: you become less free to express emotion in your music.

The solution?

Change the way you hold the guitar pick. Slide your thumb back so it does not hang over the edge of the pick.

And hold your pick between the fingerprint of the index finger and thumb. (Same way you’d hold it when picking up a pen.)

This lets you do thumb muting easily and makes it easy to fill your guitar solos with emotional guitar licks.

And with this control over your guitar phrasing comes greater sustain and greater ability to express emotion in your lead guitar playing.

2. Use the index finger of your fretting hand to rest on the higher in pitch strings.

This is especially important when you play bent notes on the thicker (in pitch) strings and the thinner strings are free to ring out.

Same goes for pinch harmonics (that add fire to your guitar phrasing and help you play emotional guitar licks with great guitar phrasing).

Speaking of pinch harmonics…

… here is a lead guitar video that helps you play pinch harmonics consistently and accurately:


Super Slides Tip #4: Avoid Tension Flare Ups When You Play Super Slides

Tension is the #1 thing that makes playing guitar harder.

Whether you want to increase your guitar speed, or make your playing feel more effortless, tension is the biggest factor that prevents you from achieving either - whether you realize it or not.

And sadly, tension can often happen when you do fast super slides in your lead guitar licks (if you aren’t careful).

Here is the best way to avoid tension flare ups in your guitar technique:

1. Practice super slides slowly to train your body to not feel tense when you shift positions during super slides. The more familiar you become with the motion, the easier it is to do it in a relaxed way, even during emotional moments of your guitar solos.

2. Do a tension “audit” throughout your body as you practice.

This means: relax the parts of your body you don’t use to play guitar. Such as: your jaw, your tongue, your shoulders, your biceps, triceps, stomach (keep breathing normally), your thighs, your calves and your feet.

The best way to do it is in the middle of any of your guitar licks.

Just like it sounds: simply stop at any point in a guitar lick and assess your body for excess tension.

Relax it and keep playing your guitar solo.

This tension audit strategy is a great way to make your lead guitar playing feel effortless. (Whether you are playing super slides or any other lead guitar technique.)

Watch this video to see how it’s done:


Super Slides Tip #5: Combine Super Slides With Other Types Of Lead Guitar Slides

One of my favorite variations of a slide is: a backslide.

Backslides are closely related to super slides (and they are among my favorite lead guitar ornaments).

Here is how you do it:

Play any note. Slide up to a higher pitch and quickly return back to the original note.

Watch this video about playing lead guitar solos to see it in action:


Note: a backslide is lead guitar lick ornament on a single note. It’s NOT 3 separate notes.

It also doesn't really matter how far you slide when you do a backslide. (Nobody can hear where you slide to, because the backslide happens so fast. All people notice is the effect of the technique.)

As an aside: Ornaments like super slides and backslides help you create better lead guitar lick phrasing in solos by giving you more time to think.

When you ornament a note you already played with a backslide (or a super slide) – you have a few extra moments to decide what to play next.

This means: the better you are at adding phrasing ornaments to guitar licks you are playing, the more time you have to create better guitar licks… and the guitar licks you create sound even better due to better phrasing.

Win-Win!

Another great slide variation (that sounds great with super slides) is a “rearticulation slide”.

“Rearticulation” is simply a fancy word for: “playing something again”.

In the case of lead guitar slides, what you do is play the note you want to hear. Then you slide into that note from any other note (higher or lower). You rearticulate the note with the slide.

Pretty simple and sounds great!

Now that you know how to apply super slides in your guitar licks and guitar solos, the next step is to learn even more ways to add fire and expression to your lead guitar playing.

I show you how in my free eGuide “How To Add Fire & Emotion To Your Guitar Licks, Even If You Can’t Play Guitar Fast Yet”. Grab your copy today and discover the lead guitar playing secrets most guitar players will never know.


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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