Lead Guitar Basic

A lead guitarist is always considered to be the most important role in a group or a band. Often times, a band ‘sound’ and direction will be influenced by his or her ability and style of playing. To be able to create an interesting guitar solo, every lead guitarist needs to have some knowledge and understanding of ‘Scales’ and how they can work in any given situation.

In this article, we will be looking at the most widely used ‘scale’ for creating and improvising a guitar solo. But before we jump right into it, here’s a brief description of what ‘Scales’ are.

‘Scales’, what are they?

A ‘Scale’ can be defined as a series of notes, arrange in a specific order of distance in between them. They are seven notes in music, and each note is separated by a combination of a ‘tone’ and a ‘semitone’. On the guitar, a ‘tone’ is often referred to as a ‘whole step’, achieve by moving two frets away from the original note, while a ‘semitone’ is referred to as a ‘half step’, achieve by moving one fret away to the next fret.







Above is a fret board diagram. In this example, the distance between the note ‘B’ and ‘C’, is a ‘half step’, while the distance between the ‘C’ and the ‘D’, is a ‘whole step’.

There are various type of scale, and each has a different combination of ‘whole step’ and ‘half step’, for example:

A ‘Major Scale’ uses a combination of, W – W – H – W – W – W – H which gives us the familiar sound of Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do.

W = Whole Step (Tone)

H = Half Step (Semitone)

Scales are the basis for the creation of melodies and guitar solos. Some scale sounds better with certain chord, and matching what scale sounds good over what chord, is the key to create a good sounding guitar solo.

Ok! Let’s get to it.

The ‘Pentatonic Scale’.

The most widely used scale for soloing and improvising is called the ‘Pentatonic Scale’. A ‘Pentatonic Scale’ is basically a series of five notes out of the seven in music. The name itself ‘Penta’, was taken from a Greek word, which means ‘five’.

Since there are lesser notes to play, it is the easiest scale to remember in term of it’s positioning on the guitar fret board. For this particular lesson, we will be looking at the ‘A Minor Pentatonic Scale’.Here’s a tab for this scale, starting from the 5th fret of the 6th string:







And this is what it looks like on the guitar fret board:







Guitar players are lucky enough because the layout of the guitar fret board makes it possible for scales to be arrange into patterns, that can be easily memorize. The above particular pattern is commonly known as ‘Pattern 1′ of the minor pentatonic scale.

You should memorize and practice this pattern everyday, because this is by far the most used pattern by many great lead guitar players.

Practicing The Minor Pentatonic Scale.

Now that you know where to play this scale, let’s practice playing it using rhythm and techniques that can later be use to create a guitar solo.

* Playing ‘Triplet’ rhythm

A great way to start practicing this scale, is to play it using a triplet rhythm.

Triplets are played by dividing each beat into three evenly spaced notes. In other words, you need to pick three evenly notes within one beat. Try playing it in the following order:

| 123 234 345 456 | etc

Pick direction = DUD UDU DUD UDU

D = Downstroke U = Upstroke







Make sure you follow the picking direction suggested above, as this is the best way to execute the triplet rhythm for this situation.

Take your time to get use to this rhythm, play slowly and carefully at first. At these early stages, accuracy is more important than speed..:)

* Using Techniques

The five common lead guitar techniques are:

Slide, Hammer On, Pull Off, Bend and Vibrato.

1. Slide

This technique involves moving your finger along the string from one note to another. Two actions are required, first; pick the string on one location (fret) and then move your finger along the string to a new location (fret). Maintain pressure as you move along the string, so that a continuous sound is produce.







Above is a short lick starting from outside of ‘Pattern 1′. Notice the slide from the 5th, to the 7th fret of the 5th string (5/7)

*Sliding to the 7th fret from a random location will be written as (/7)*

2. Hammer On

‘Hammer On’ is a really useful technique for building speed and to produce smooth transition from one note to another. To perform it, first pick a note, and then while it’s still sounding, hammer a second note with the fretting hand finger. The second note is not picked and the sound is produced purely by hammering it. This may feel awkward at first but with practice, you will soon develop strength in you fingers and will be able to perform it with ease.







The example above is done by picking a note on the 5th fret of the 3rd string, before hammering on to the 7th fret of the same string. You can perform this technique in between any two notes of the minor pentatonic scale. Give it a try!

3. Pull off

With this technique, you need to place two fingers in position before the first note is played. When the first note is played, flick the string with your finger so that a second sound is produce. Let’s attempt that here:







  • Place your 1st finger on the 5th fret of the 3rd string and your 3rd finger on the 7th fret of the same string.
  • Press down with both fingers.
  • Pick the third string and release the 3rd finger by flicking the string.

Be sure to keep your 1st finger down on the fret board and if you do it right, you will hear a second lower sound as a result of the flick. To achieve a good result, try flicking the string downwards.

4. Bend

A ‘Bend’ is done by pushing the string upwards or downwards. The effect of a bend raises the pitch of the fretted note. The most common use of bending is to raise the pitch a tone higher (two frets). Here’s an example of this:







Use the 3rd finger to bend the string while supporting it with the 1st and the 2nd.

In this example, the pitch of the ‘D’ which is the note on the 7th fret of the 3rd string, is raised a tone higher to an ‘E’ which is the name of the note on the 9th fret. This is all done by bending (b) the string from the 7th fret instead of pressing on the 9th to get the ‘E’ note.

There are other types of bends, such as a ‘Semitone’ bend, which raises the pitch a fret higher, and a ‘Minor third’ bend which raises the pitch three frets higher. The more wider bend such as the ‘Minor third’ bend, is more suited to an electric guitar where the strings tensions are much more lighter than that of an acoustic guitar.

5. Vibrato

‘Vibrato’ is achieved by pushing the string up and down, as if you were making a rapid series of short bends. It can add sustain to a note and more importantly, makes it sounds more interesting and lively.

The rhythm and techniques discuss above can be use to create a guitar solo and it can all be done within the comfort of ‘Pattern 1′ of the minor pentatonic scale.

Post time: 06-20-2017