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How To Create Awesome Lead Guitar Licks – Part 2

Tom Hess shreddingWhat is the greatest number of ways you can vary a lead guitar idea to turn it into something new without changing any of the notes? Fact is, you should be able to create a minimum of forty to fifty variations. If you cannot do this already, your lead guitar phrasing needs work. Before you can become a truly great lead guitarist, you must learn how to make every last note count in any given guitar lick that you come up with.
In the first lead guitar licks article of this series, you learned how to accent the last note of your guitar phrases and add more intensity to your licks. After practicing the exercise in that article, you saw the HUGE difference this approach made in your lead guitar playing. If you didn’t already check out the previous part of this series, do so now after watching the cool guitar licks video below and learning how to change the last note in any given lick to make it sound truly intense.

As you read the exercise in this article you will learn how to MASSIVELY enhance the emotion of every OTHER note in your lead guitar phrases (in addition to the ‘last’ note). Even if you have not checked out the previous part in this article series you can still use the guitar licks exercise below. However, you must watch the video above to fully understand the concepts being discussed (so do this now if you haven’t already).

Guitar Phrasing Exercise – How To Make Endless New Guitar Licks

Step 1: Think of a guitar lick that contains only a few ‘slow’ notes. For example, use less than 5 notes with only quarter or eighth note rhythms. Do not make your phrase too fast, otherwise you will not be able to hear the subtleties emphasized in the next steps of this exercise. Additionally, it is important that you don’t make your phrase very long either because playing a lot of notes will take away from your ability to focus on the sound of each individual note. After you have come up with a guitar lick that fits the above criteria, continue on with the next step.

Step 2: After watching the video above, you saw (and heard) that the main techniques used to enhance the guitar lick were:

You must now focus on enhancing the ‘first’ note (ONLY) of the guitar phrase you thought of using the techniques listed above. Think of at least ten different variations using this approach. Keep the other pitches in your guitar lick the same for the time being.

Remember: you need to keep all of the pitches in your guitar lick the same (don’t add any new ones at this point) – you are only changing the way you ‘play’ the first note in your phrase. If you are able to record yourself while you are playing, do this and listen back to yourself so you can make subtle improvements to your approach. If you cannot record yourself, still continue through this exercise anyway. As you continue thinking of new variations, you will notice your guitar phrasing skills increasing. This is because you are forcing yourself to think creatively since you cannot change the pitch of the notes in your lick. As a result, your guitar lick will sound infinitely more expressive than the way it sounded when you first began in step one. Also, don’t get caught up on trying to keep track of every single variation you think of (this is not the point of the exercise). Instead, continue working through the process of training yourself to get the most expression possible out of every note you play.

Step 3: Use the same process described in the previous step on each of the other notes in your guitar lick. Go through this process in a note-by-note fashion. When you create variations on any of the middle notes in your lick (by emphasizing it), play the other notes in the same way you did when you first created the phrase OR by using one of the variations you came up with in the previous step.

Make sure that you focus most of your attention on the single note you are emphasizing. Do not let the other notes distract you at this point.

Once you are done with this step, you will have created ten or more methods for adding variation to the sound of every note from your original guitar phrase.

Step 4: Now that you have made changes to the phrasing of each separate note in your guitar lick, begin changing the guitar phrase as a whole (to make new versions/variations of it) using the same process. To do this, simply combine together the different ideas you came up with in the previous steps. You should have TONS of options/combinations to choose from after following the instructions of steps one through three. CRITICAL: do not attempt to add new pitches to your guitar phrase at this point in the exercise. Continue working on getting as much possible expression from each individual note in your original guitar phrase as you can.

You might be wondering why I did not begin this exercise by telling you to simply do step four after step one. Here is why I did this:

A. The majority of guitarists will naturally want to emphasize only the beginning and ending notes of the phrase while ignoring the notes in between. This common mistake in guitar phrasing frequently results in mediocre lead guitar licks.

B. Unless you are an advanced guitar player (or have already learned how to improve your guitar phrasing technique from a great teacher) you would probably miss out on the full value of this exercise because you would stop prematurely (after only thinking of a few variations for your lick). It is for this reason that I told you to make at least ten different variations per note in your guitar lick.

Why Does This Guitar Phrasing Exercise Add A Lot Of Value To Your Lead Guitar Playing?

Here are the two main reasons why the exercise above is crucial for helping you become a better lead guitarist:

1. You learn and understand exactly how to make any guitar lick sound killer regardless of the notes you are using.

2. It forces you to focus on making every note a GREAT note in your lead guitar playing by preventing you from covering up phrasing mistakes with ‘extra notes’.

What You Should Do Now

1. Practice this exercise consistently by using the concepts above on every new lick you learn. Keep doing this until it feels totally natural and easy to implement.

2. Practice the lead guitar exercise in this video about how to play rock guitar licks.

3. Study the information in these lead guitar licks resources to get more ideas to enhance your guitar phrasing.

4. Find a great guitar teacher who can help you learn the best methods for playing lead guitar with maximum expression. Then study with that teacher to quickly reach your guitar playing goals.

About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, songwriter and a pro guitarist. He uses the best online guitar lessons to train guitar players to reach their musical goals. Go to to get more guitar playing resources, guitar playing eBooks, and to read more guitar playing articles.

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