You may have been playing guitar for a while or you have recently got started. So how do you break into the exciting world of improvised lead guitar solos?
For my part, I started out on the classical guitar when I was ten years old and enjoyed playing that, but when I was thirteen I got myself an electric guitar and, with my new found passion for heavy metal and hard rock, I decided I wanted to learn how to play lead guitar solos. I had had some lessons at my previous school on classical guitar but I wanted to learn Rock. I bought a book and didn’t get very far. I heard from a friend that the guitar teacher at my new school was very good at teaching Rock, and had played in a band opening up for now classic acts such as Free. He knew his stuff so I decided to take lessons.
Two things I picked up very quickly were: that getting started with lead guitar was not half as complicated or difficult as my book seemed to be making out; also my new teacher was not too keen on transcribing solos that were most probably improvised anyway. He preferred to teach me the techniques to create my owns solos. This was very helpful as I was able to develop my own style by learning to use some basic scales and techniques, such as hammer ons, pull offs, slides, bends and vibrato.
So where do you start? A good place is with the A minor Pentatonic scale which you will be able to use on most Rock or blues songs in this key. This scale is made up of five notes in every octave. The idea is to base your improvised solo around the notes of this scale. It is a moveable shape so you can play songs in different keys too. The root note is on the 5th fret of the low E string and this is where you would play an A barre chord ( E shaped). Check out the fretboard diagram below. The root notes (in this case the note A) are shown in red. I have marked, in blue, notes that can be bent up a whole tone (2 frets) to make the scale more expressive. The left hand fingering is also numbered. This shape covers just over 2 octaves.
Play the scale up and down to get a feel for the sound of it. If you are familiar with bending notes you can do that on the blue notes marked on the diagram. After you have got used to the shape try playing phrases that start and/ or finish on the root notes. Playing along to a blues or rock progression you will very quickly become accustomed to what sounds good. The great thing about the minor pentatonic is that it is very easy to use and to play good sounding lead ideas straightaway. Have fun!