How To Develop A Creative Lead Guitar Playing Style

Author: Ed Cupler

Guitarist / Instuctor Tom Hess
When you create solos on guitar, do you struggle to come up with ideas that are different from what you normally play? Many guitar players get stuck in the routine of repeating the same (or very similar) licks, riffs, and phrases over and over again. Is this because they just copy the same riffs from the guitar players they like? It's possible, but not likely. Perhaps it comes from being so heavily inspired by other guitar players that they only know how to solo like those musicians? Hmm…That is closer, but is not the entire reason. Ok, so what is the full reason that guitar players tend to consistently play similar guitar solos?

The answer lies in the fact that guitar players often end up choosing the same process for creating their guitar solos and improvisations.

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Here is how most guitarists approach soloing (see if this sounds familiar): You begin your solo by listening to the chords or riffs that you are supposed to play over, and then improvise some melodies until something feels right. This process continues until you finish your solo.

Although you can come up with some cool guitar solos by using this approach, the problem you will often run into is that your guitar licks will often sound very similar to those of your favorite guitar players (as well as your own past guitar solos). This is the result of using the identical guitar solo framework to what the majority of guitar players use.

Before I show you a new way to approach soloing on guitar, I'd like to illustrate my point above with an example about a popular guitar player by the name of Yngwie Malmsteen. Yngwie has had a successful career spanning several decades built upon his reputation as an incredible lead guitar player. His signature guitar playing style relies upon consistent applications of the same general guitar soloing approaches. Whether or not you like Yngwie’s music is irrelevant to this discussion, I am simply using him as an example of a guitar player who frequently uses the exact same approach to his guitar solos and has done so very successfully in his career. I am not saying this in order to criticize him, but rather to point out what I have observed. Obviously Yngwie is very content with his guitar playing, and his approach works great for him. However, unlike Yngwie, if you are frequently playing guitar solos that sound the same, and you are “not” content with this, then a change needs to be made in your approach to lead guitar playing.

Now, let's talk about solutions for you to use in your guitar soloing. There are actually countless ways to go about soloing that are different from the conventional method described earlier in this article. I want to share with you one of the most powerful approaches that I often use in my own guitar solos.

You are going to make your guitar soloing center around a melody sung by your favorite singer. There are several ways to use this idea on guitar. I'm going to talk about one way right now (and show it to you in more detail with a video).

Step #1: Pick one of the vocal lines that your chosen singer sings in a song.

Step #2: Using your guitar, play this melody. Spend some time to really understand how the vocal melody works. Articulate the specific style that the singer uses as closely as you can (don't simply 'play the same pitches').

Step #3: Figure out the strongest notes which make up the vocal line, and remember them. Take out a pencil and write these notes on a piece of paper. You can also use tab, or (if you are comfotable with it) staff paper.

Step #4: Get rid of the extra pitches (leaving only the ones listed in Step 3).

Step #5: Now that you have created a foundation for your new guitar solo (from doing Steps 3 and 4), you can start to get creative. Keep the main pitches that you've selected, and fill the space in between them with new guitar licks centered around those pitches. You can use the guitar techniques and phrases that you are familiar with but make sure to emphasize the melodic framework established in Steps 3 and 4 above .

Watch the video below to see and hear how this all works. Oh, by the way, I brought Fabio Lione (Rhapsody Of Fire’s singer) all the way from Italy to Chicago to sing the vocal melody for this 2-hour guitar solo master class (here is a short excerpt of it).


The more you practice the method described in this article, the better you will get at playing melodic guitar solos whenever you want. You will see great improvement as your guitar solos stop sounding like all the other solos you've already heard, and start to take on their own distinct sound.

When you practice soloing by using the information in this article, you will start to develop some seriously melodic solos. By harnessing the power of your favorite singer's vocals in your guitar playing, you can stop making guitar solos that sound like every other solo, and start making highly unique guitar passages that really stand out.


About The Author:
Tom Hess is a guitar teacher online, composer and a touring musician. He plays guitar in the epic metal band Rhapsody Of Fire. He teaches guitar players in his rock guitar lessons online.  Go to tomhess.net to get more guitar playing resources, guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

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