Until you learn how to ride a bike or to operate a manual stick shift, the concept might seem a mystery that will never be solved by the uninitiated, unless they are given the secret handshake by someone who knows such things. Learning how to play lead guitar might have the same perceived veil of secrecy and mystery, creating a feeling of futility within you and a sense that you may as well be resigned to the simple, cold truth that you’re simply not meant to play lead guitar.


Not so – not at all! If you’re willing to be patient and allow the creative process to kick in, there are a couple of enjoyable and productive methods I can suggest to help you achieve your goal of playing lead guitar:

Start By Playing Familiar Melodies

  • Play familiar melodies – melodies that are etched in your mind (Happy Birthday, Home On The Range, On Top of Ol’ Smokey come to mind.), the notes of which are unmistakeable and can easily be identified as being right or wrong when you play them. I know learning to play such straight-ahead common songs might seem boring, but their familiarity will allow you to explore how the notes on the strings and frets of a guitar relate to the tones you sing or hear in your head.
  • Start playing these melodies on one or two strings and don’t be concerned with learning patterns or scales – just allow yourself the pleasure of meditative exploration. If you get lost, start at the beginning, and don’t be afraid to sing the melody aloud. If you can sing something, you can eventually play it on the guitar.
  • Progress with playing the melody in this simple fashion, and, once you feel comfortable, then try finding those same notes (in the same octave) elsewhere on the guitar. A unique characteristic of the guitar is that you can find the same tones in the same octave on many places on the guitar neck.

Play The Bass Guitar Part Of Songs You Like

Playing the bass guitar part of songs you want to learn is a great way to “divide and conquer”, meaning that getting a feel for how the bass patterns of songs go will give you an anchor point from which to venture forth with more expansive and innovative ideas. Knowing how the pass pattern lays out in a song not only allows you to formulate a more solid awareness of the guitar neck, as with playing songs you’re familiar with, it affords you an opportunity to develop a sense of where to play the root notes for the guitar chords associated with the song.

If you need to streamline this process look into booking guitar lessons near you. When I first began using this method to help expand my guitar playing, I would sit for hours figuring out bass lines to blues songs, and their repetitive patterns, as well as their simple progressions, allowed me to feel comfortable within a framework that didn’t demand intricate scales or complicated melodic lines. Playing the variations of the familiar octave bass line for each chord of the typical I – IV – V blues progression gives one a sense of confidence and accomplishment all at once, without creating undue pressure of memorization.
Learning to play this bass line, and its multiple variations, can provide many options for expanding your palette and eventually progressing into more and more creative interpretations of lead guitar lines that can provide limitless enjoyment in your guitar evolution as you develop and personalize your own sound.

I hope that this short article will help you in your quest to play lead guitar and that you won’t allow temporary frustration to prohibit you from your goal to become a complete guitar player.

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