New to lead but my lead play is boring

Discussion in 'Music Theory, Lessons & Techniques' started by Mechigurh, Jun 14, 2020.

  1. Mechigurh

    Mechigurh SS.org Regular

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    Hey Sevenstring,

    I have learned the modes and this was a bit of an 'ah-ha' moment as I am no longer boxed into any specific position or key. But when I practice improvisation with a backing track my leads sound linear and scale based. I do try to vary my rhythms, use slides, bends, etc but it sounds bland and lifeless.

    I know that primarily I need to practice and build experience. But I don't want squander hours of practice simply getting better at making boring solos, so what should I learn:
    1. Other solos I think sound good and incorporate this play into my own?
    2. Solo over chord changes / better learn arpeggios?
    3. (Even though I like playing death metal) Will it be worth me practicing some more blues?

    Thanks.
     
  2. Blytheryn

    Blytheryn Musical Adam West

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    I definitely think you should try 1. I do the same.
     
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  3. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    2) For sure. Usually interesting lead playing comes from the ability (whether conscious or not) to highlight chord tones and connect them in interesting ways. The sound of amateur lead playing to me is landing on random scale notes that aren't chord tones and accenting them with no attention to tension and resolution - no direction.
    1) Should help you get an ear for this if you do some analysis
    Pay attention to phrasing. It can be good to study breath instrument improvisers for that (jazz scat,brass,winds)
     
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  4. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Another thing to avoid boring leads that always stands out to me when I hear it - The same phrase resolution repeated back to back or close together. Try and avoid landing a phrase on the same note multiple times - if the same chord is repeating, use a different chord tone to resolve to the next time
     
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  5. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    Good advice from Winspear, as usual.

    I agree that learning to play over changes/outline changes is really helpful to make your playing sound like it's going somewhere, takes you on a journey rather than walking on a treadmill. Initially you can just outline chord tones on strong beats and look at what lines you can form from that. Play with where it helps to use the same note as the chord tone of multiple chords (e.g. A as the 5th of D min and the root of A min) or whether you need more variety; there'll be cases of both. Come up with multiple lines over one chord sequence. Try to keep it quite static sometimes; try to have it make big leaps sometimes; try to make it ascend/descend a short distance over the duration of the line; try to make it ascend/descend further over the duration; come up with a line which lasts 1/2/3/4/8 times through the chord sequence to see how it develops, rather than just boxing yourself into phrases all the same length. You can also just rest on certain strong beats and not play anything; let it breath.

    You'll get a good structure which you can then move on to ornamenting. Play with phrases starting and/or ending on a strong beat; lead into the strong beat; run from the strong beat but don't resolve on one; create phrases half a bar, 1 bar, 2 bars, 4 bars long; make sure you play with varying note lengths and using rests so it doesn't just sound like someone talking at you rapid fire (think of people who talk at you and you get bored, vs those who are interesting, who pause for emphasis or to let you process what they've said).

    These sorts of ideas will carry over on a micro and macro scale: length of phrases, lengths of notes; spaces between notes, spaces between phrases; repeating notes for familiarity within a phrase, repeating phrases or aspects of them for familiarity; trajectory of a phrase, trajectory of the whole passage, trajectory of the whole solo.

    Once you're conscious and familiar with these sorts of ideas and have experimented with them intentionally, you can more easily start to implement them naturally/subconsciously, as you'll probably have a bigger pallet of ideas to use and your hands will follow that, rather than letting your hands lead the way and hoping that it sounds good.

    I hope that's useful. Let me know if you have any questions.
     
  6. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    This is very important in crafting your own music, not just solos. If you take solos by your favourite players you can trace back so many licks and ideas to their own favourite players. So many great guitar licks or riffs were a player expanding or trying to replicate another musician's. A perfect example is the Children of Bodom's Kissing the Shadows arpeggios in the final solo part. They are based off Yngwie Malmsteen's Fire & Ice intro arpeggios. There's enough of a difference that they sound different, mostly because of COB's melodic death metal sound but using Malmsteen's idea he was able to twist it into his own idea. To expand further on this Jason Richardson cites Kissing the Shadows as his influence for the crazy Titan arpeggios. Then to expand even further Wintersun's Beyond the Dark Sun intro solo is based around the Fire & ice arpeggios too. So I loved the Kissing the Shadows and Beyond the Dark Sun arpeggios that I mixed them together for one of my own tracks and ended up with the same pattern as the Fire & ice arpeggios before ever hearing it. Who knows where Malmsteen got it from originally....

    There's no better way than to just start improvising and writing solos. You will learn to quickly scrap ideas and come up with better ideas quicker. Its a good idea to learn all the scale and arpeggio positions but the most important thing is to learn how they actually sound and develop your ear to be able to use them in the context of a chord progression.

    Definitely. People's ears are always attracted to bluesy bends and phrases. Many are so overdone because of how exhausted and overdone pentatonic soloing is but mixing really technical guitar work with catchy bluesy phrasing is a recipe for a memorable solo. Dimebag and Marty Friedman are prime examples here. For death metal it gets a little tricker. Melodeath you can incorporate major, minor, harmonic minor, blues etc scales into your solos and it fits but bluesy and major phrasing in Death metal can sound extremely out of place and really mess up the flow and tone of a song.

    This so much. The main reasons for doing this is having a bunch of cool licks and sticking them together to make a solo. The solo can sound awesome because you've worked hard on writing lots of catchy individual licks that demonstrate all sorts of techniques but everyone of them ends on the root note because you wrote them as standalone licks.
     
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  7. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Because I never did the licks thing, it never occurred to me that this might be why this sound is so common! Makes a lot of sense
     
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  8. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    If your leads sound like scale runs, it's because you are playing scale runs and not music.

    Try singing or humming a lead idea, then figure out how to play it. It can also help to write leads on a different instrument like piano. The point is that you need to stop thinking like a guitar player who knows technique x and start thinking musically and knowing when technique x fits.
     
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  9. fantom

    fantom Misses his 6 strings

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    Another strength of licks is that it forces natural pauses. Each idea is more like a vocal line followed by a breathe. You can achieve this without licks if you intentionally add space into melodic ideas.
     
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  10. Hollowway

    Hollowway Extended Ranger

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    I’ve never been able to improvise a solo. I always compose my solos and memorize them. If I’m composing it I can make sure I am doing stuff that sounds interesting musically. But I could never keep up with looking for chord tones or modes or scales over chord changes in an improv setting. It would just go too quickly for me. See if you can compose a solo over chords, given all the time in the world. That’s the first step. If you cannot, then woodshed solos you like and see what they’re doing, or dive deeper into theory so you know what you’re trying to accomplish.
     
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  11. Spaced Out Ace

    Spaced Out Ace 0 0 1 0 0 6 5 0 3\

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    Ignore notes (what I call pot holes); but only in certain spots. For instance, maybe you'll play B and D on the 7th/10th frets on the E string, but skip the D note and instead play a C# on the 11th fret of the D string (as well as the B note at the 9th fret). If you play B C# D E F# G A B C# D E F# G A B C# D E F# G A, etc. over and over, it's going to sound dull as hell. Skip notes. And even if you are ascending, you can still descend per string. For instance, don't play the notes "B D, E F# G, B C#," play them "D B, G F# E, B C# B, E, B / "

    , = moving strings (again, B D are on the E string, E F# G are on the A string, so on)
    / = starting the pattern over again on a different set of strings.

    The bit at the end that I suggested will give you some nice wide intervals to play with.
     
  12. Cabinet

    Cabinet :O

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    Guthrie Govan addresses this problem and provides some absolutely fantastic ideas to break out of it:
     
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  13. Mechigurh

    Mechigurh SS.org Regular

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    Thank you all for so many great replies, I really appreciate it.

    Following on what a couple of you have suggested: 1. stick on a jam track, 2. follow the chord changes with their (the chords) single root notes, 3. then play actual chords, 4. then arpeggios and finally, mix in a little bit of the underlying scale to mix it up (as some one else mentioned, I probably make this is more of a composing exercise than improv as I am not quick enough).

    This is already starting to sound more musical, but I think I need to start building a personal library of licks.

    Ill check out that Guthrie video with my lunch.

    Thanks everyone.
     
  14. Solodini

    Solodini MORE RESTS!

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    Don't just use root notes as chord tones. There are 3rds and 5ths in the triads, then you can build into using extensions like 7ths, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths in all of their various forms to create some tension against the chord and some intrigue as to where the line is going. Let these inform your lick building for the particular setting so you're creating something bespoke, using the tools and structural understanding that you have, rather than trying to cram in something that fits one of the connection points (the chord tones) but not the others.

    You could also write licks in terms of the movement of the pitches but stretch and contract them rhythmically so that different notes fall on the strong beats and it interacts with the chord differently.

    Take this quick run that I've bashed together
    BACBGADBCBGBAGA

    Say you want it to fit over Emin, Dmin, Emin, Dmin, there are simple ways to make it fit with mostly 8th/16th notes and triplets. If you were trying to fit that over F maj, Amin, D min, simply shifting it all up a fret or two probably won't cut it, you'll need to recontextualise it. You could work out the relative functions of the chords in their key, to work out the key, to then transpose it but then you still have the actual variations in the chord functions to consider. Instead, you can take what you have, transpose it so you have the right palate of notes available (which we already have, in this case) and start shifting how you overlay it to make the notes line up with the chord tones, stretching and squashing note lengths as appropriate. That's still a lot of work, but it might push you to modify things to ways you wouldn't have though to write them.

    One issue I see with how people treat licks is that they write/learn what seems like sentences of notes, rather than words or idioms which they can use to communicate. It's like someone trying to talk in only full quotations, rather than creating the right sentence for the conversation, using their vocabulary and understanding of grammar. You'd need a pretty extensive mental library of quotations to be able to communicate in this way, or else you'd end up sounding incredibly cryptic at best, if not just nonsensical and repetitive.

    If you build up a library of short phrases, between 2 and 5 notes long, these can function much more like words or spoken phrases which you can link together in ways which make more sense musically, and are easier to keep hold of mentally and modify for the context. CAED is a short, simple phrase which I can subdivide 4 ways (CA, AE, ED, DC if I loop it). I can transpose it easily through a key to repeat the general feel, I can transpose it into different keys, too. I can move the odd note of it around in time or pitch to create variations and to make it fit what I'm doing. I could build a whole section or solo from that starting point, using variations and transpositions through the key, and variations and transpositions of the resulting sentences or long licks, and it would be much less laborious and better fitting than trying to shoehorn a lick into place over an existing chord sequence. Bonus: you can get away with quoting small chunks like that much better than you can with taking a whole lick from someone else and just plugging it in.
     
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