Help--how do I learn to be a competent lead player?

Discussion in 'Playing and Technique' started by dnauhei, Feb 12, 2012.

  1. dnauhei

    dnauhei Member

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    For the first time I find myself in the role of lead guitar player in a bad full of excellent players. Crap! How long will it take them to figure out that I don't know what I am doing. How does one learn to become a really competent lead player? Rock n Roll and country stuff mainly. I have played music all my life. I know the basics. I can play a passable solo, especially if I have an opportunity to work something out ahead of time, but how do go to the next level (before they discover that I suck?)!

    My rig, if it matters, is tele, Egantor Tweaker, HOF reverb pedal, and a RC Booster (although I don't usually use that pedal).
     
  2. Michael_V

    Michael_V Supporting Member

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    Interested to hear this.

    :munch
     
  3. Funky54

    Funky54 Member

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    Since you know these guys and they know you .....and chose you. I would say they didnt want an arrogant overly confident guy to take over and over play on top of everything. They very well, see you as someone that plays to the song. Someone who is part and doesnt think they are the whole.


    I would just keep doing what your doing, and keep listening to them and see what helps and compliments.

    ah..heck scratch all that cause I'm not a compitent lead player either.
     
  4. Manicstarseed

    Manicstarseed Member

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    Hi...
    my take....

    Not long, really... one or 2 rehearsals, certainly after the 1st gig. If they are as good as you say they are and you are as "bad" as you claim to be, they probably already know, if you played with them at all.

    You got the gig, right? They heard you play and played with you, right?

    Perhaps you are better than you think (my suspicion) and are simply freaking out. This could be your biggest liability. Lead guitar requires a certain confidence... audacity...to step out and be heard. Without that, it is going to be rough.

    You should likely know this. This might force some dedicated focus on particular weaknesses. My guess is that you have no more than three months to get up to speed over all. That assumes that the band sees the improvement, each and every time you gather. if after a month, the band can not say "our new lead player is coming along" your are dead in the water.

    - Relax
    - Don't overcompensate for your self perceived weaknesses.
    - Is there anyone who you can trust to give honest, useful feedback? Ask them about this and listen to what they say.
    - Play less notes and make the ones you play sound good.
    - Relax and go easy on your self.
    - Quickly pick the top two weaknesses and correct them over 3 weeks. Plan a minimum of 15 min a day on each weakness, no more than an hour a day each one. You still should be doing 10-20 min of 'technical' warm-up when practicing this stuff.
    - Avoid burnout.
    - Learn the current "set lists". one song nailed a week or two pretty well learned, depending on how many songs the band knows. find out what they want to rehears with you and get ready.
    - Focus on being in tune with what the band is working out. Get in on the ground floor on the band's future. If you progress through the new stuff with the band at the same pace, you are proving that you are on par with them. It will buy grace while coming up to speed on the back-catalog.

    Good luck and feel good about your playing.
     
  5. rshull07

    rshull07 Member

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    For me it all boils down to my ear, Knowledge of theory and scales and what to use when is great. It can make life easier, however at the end of the day I think most good or great lead players will tell you, it all comes back to your ear. My advice would be to take some players that you really really dig. Pick a few of their solos each week and TRANSCRIBE them. DONT lookup tabs, use your ear. There are great programs you can download online that make this alot easier, I use "the amazing slowdowner" (spelling?) that will slowdown the song without changing pitch, you can also loop certain parts and do lots of other stuff. Also take advantage of YouTube, there are literally thousands and thousands of videos out there dedicated just to lead playing, granted some are better than others. Just find what works best for you and stick with it.
     
  6. Manicstarseed

    Manicstarseed Member

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    :agree the band picked you right? I am sure it is for a reason.
     
  7. Guitarchitecture

    Guitarchitecture Member

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    This sounds like a great situation to be in! Playing with great players will inspire and push you as a player. Just do your best and work on developing and refining your playing.

    Great lead players become great lead players by learning a lot of other people's music and solos, and soloing on their own a lot over other people's material.

    Don't get hung up on what you're currently doing - just work on refining what you already have and making the best of it.

    (Oh and for Rock and country - you could do a lot worse than checking out Scotty Anderson!)
     
  8. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    Ha, well, there's no crash course in becoming a good lead player. Usually, the guy that plays lead got that role because of his/her lead playing, haha. My advice is to keep it simple and more importantly, tasteful. You don't have to be a shredder to be an excellent lead guy. Heck, look at Mark Knopfler (sp?). He never really tore the strings apart but played very tasteful licks on every tune.

    How does one do this? Well, for some, it's just as hard as learning to shred. A few things you should do though are - 1. learn arpeggios. I'm not talking about sweep picking and playing them as fast as you can. Just know that if the chords are A, D, A, E - you know where the chord tones are for each chord. Learn them in every position on the neck for every chord. When practicing the songs, go through only playing chord tones.

    2. "Play the changes!" This is huge and can be done easily if you do the above (learn arpeggios). Some people will just grab a scale and try to blow over the changes in a diatonic manner, totally ignoring the importance of chord tones.

    3. Be very deliberate in your note selection so that when the progression goes from A to D, you know ahead of time that your target note will be D, F# or A. Write out the changes and on each chord, write down a specific note from the chord that you want to land on. This is your target note. Find different ways to get there. Also, while on a specific chord, maybe pick out a note or two that you want to hang out with for a minute. Play it from a half step below and back. Half step above and back down. Mix it up. If the note is E, you can play F-D#-E with E landing on the strong part of the beat.

    4. Play phrases, not run on sentences. Do some call and response stuff. Play a riff, then play it again with a different ending. It doesn't have to be a flashy riff. This goes along with playing deliberately.

    5. Play with confidence. People can spot a fraud. Know the material and if you don't, either ask questions or figure it out before practice. There are so many resources out there to figure out songs. The better you know a song, the more confident you will be about playing it.

    6. Lastly, (and I learned this from my grandmother...haha). It's all about the beginning and the end. My grandmother told me when I was pretty young that to skim through a book for school, you just have to read the first and last sentence in each paragraph. What happens in the middle is usually summed up in those two lines. The same can hold true for a good solo. Start it out like you know exactly where you want to go. When your solo is coming to an end, make sure you get out with a good statement and with good timing. Maybe leave the listener with a little surprise, or something to remember. Make it seem like that solo lived there forever.

    Well, hopefully some of this helps. There's not a lot of people who have become great lead players over night. I'm very interested in how you progress! Please keep us posted and let me know if you have more questions.
    -g
     
  9. Manicstarseed

    Manicstarseed Member

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    My advice is ....first make sure you do this for the tunes that the band plays. Once you get a bulk of the repertoire under your belt, then by all means pick your favorites.
     
  10. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    How about this idea.....

    WHY DON'T YOU JUST LEARN THE SOLOS FOR THE SONGS YOU WILL BE PLAYING?
     
  11. anderson110

    anderson110 Member

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    I've been through the same thing.

    I think what you'll find is that your expectations (for yourself, and for what makes a "good lead player") are unrealistic. They've probably played with a range of lead players before, and while you may be afraid that they're expecting you to throw down brilliant studio quality leads at will without preparation, and feel like there's tons of players who can do that, the reality just isn't so. And they know it from experience.

    So, simply put, you're probably better than you think. Relax, do your homework, and you'll be fine.

    I really felt totally incompetent when I joined my latest group of players, and, despite that, they tell me I often play better than many of the folks they've played with in the past. Which is a total surprise to me, but after awhile you realize they must not be lying to you if you keep getting asked back.
     
  12. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    I don't understand this business about "transcribe them yourself, use your ear, not tabs."

    I have learned more solos note for note by finding free YouTube lessons than I can shake a stick at. I think seeing the solo played correctly is the best way to learn it correctly.

    I have seen guitar players who (for example) are not comfortable bending notes, so they use fretted notes instead of bends (a fairly amateur way to play, really, but a phase we all go through). That would happen to players using their ears instead of playing it the original way.

    I think seeing how a solo is really played (as in YouTube videos) and understanding that you are bending to certain note, is what makes a dynamic player.

    The ability to compose a really good solo on the spot is really for very advanced players. I would guess most even decent players can't do that consistently. You have to be in a place where your fingers will do what you brain hears - and that takes a LOT of playing and practice.

    Until then - learn the song's solos, and get good at playing them. You can't go wrong.
     
  13. Serious Poo

    Serious Poo Armchair Rocket Scientist Graffiti Existentialist Gold Supporting Member

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    My $0.02:

    Listen and make room for the other musicians

    Nail the rhythm parts to support the other musicians

    Focus on melody when playing leads

    Be fun to jam with

    Tech tip: if you ever get lost rhythmically, the high hat and snare are really helpful to groove against.
     
  14. djdrdave

    djdrdave Member

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    I was at a band practice last night and A similar topic came up. I said how with time i could learn most solos but i am not good at improvising solos on the spot. I know i need to learn my modes and CAGED theory and things of that sort to improve in that respect.

    In the meantime id just suggest learning the songs the best you can, there are so many type of players out there and even the best players have their weaknesses. Stay positive. I was really worried prior to yesterdays band practice but am feeling better today.
     
  15. Manicstarseed

    Manicstarseed Member

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    Would you mind telling the brief story? It sounds like you mentioned (to the band) that you felt like you "sucked" and they said "No way! We like what you do."
    That's a great story that's worth hearing ... Its one thing being critical, its another thing dismissing our own skills with concerns of 'sucking'
    Is that what happened? How did it go down?

    I think for every blind-wall-of-notes egomaniac, there are as many self-depreciating 'ego-less'maniac.
    - The message to the over confident.... shhh, listen, make music
    - The message to the under confident ....right on, be heard, make music.
     
  16. Michael_V

    Michael_V Supporting Member

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    I am learning that it takes more than CAGED chords and modal theory to play compelling solos. It also requires a vocabulary of licks and phrases, which are usually best built up by listening to and learning other people's stuff and then making it your own. Something I haven't done enough of over the years.
     
  17. Motterpaul

    Motterpaul Tone is in the Ears

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    And don't list to this guy...

    "How to write melodic solos" = funny, he says he has a technique for it, but his solo is anything but melodic.



    When I need to create a new original solo, I usually look for a few key notes I know I want for each chord in my section. Then its just matter of finding ways to get to them.

    A solo works best when it starts simple and builds. It also helps if it resembles the melody, but is different (not the exactly melody, that is kind if trite).

    In a blues song, I suggest staying away from blues cliches and focus more on the rhythm of the song. Try playing the solo like a rhythm player just playing one note at a time, until you find a few things that work, and then build on those.

    HAVING to create an original solo for a piece can make it a lot easier to become a virtuoso on that song. I find that when I have to write a new solo, after a few days I can usually solo over the chords of the song pretty fluidly just using tricks I found when trying to write the solo.
     
  18. JonR

    JonR Member

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    How come you got the job if you don't know what you're doing? Nepotism? Bribery? Won it in a lottery? They mistook you for someone else who (a) looks like you, or (b) has the same name?

    Seriously, if they chose you, they must have enough confidence in your abilities. If you faked your way through an audition - carry on faking! (If you can fool them once, you can fool them again...)

    I can understand that you might feel you got in through the skin of your teeth (or by a fluke?) and don't think you can sustain it. It's a natural reaction to getting any job that's a higher level than you've had before. But I suspect you're better than you think you are.
    How will they discover that? "Passable" is all you really need for rock'n'roll and country. No offence to country and rock'n'roll fans - I love that music too - but solos in those styles don't have to be technically demanding or astonishingly inventive. It ain't JAZZ for chrissake! :rolleyes:
    As long as you play the cliches with enough confidence and impact, that should be fine.
    Make sure your RHYTHM is strong: simple lines played with solid timing, well controlled, will always work, and can be highly impressive. Attempt to stun with something flashy where the timing wobbles, and you'll be exposed. Play well within your technical skills. That will help you feel relaxed, which will - in turn - improve your confidence; and that, in turn, will help you look more grounded, inspiring them to have confidence in you.
    It doesn't :). It's absolutely the last thing that matters. (er, I mean specific brands don't matter, but I guess a tube amp is advisable; I gather the Tweaker is one of those, so that's OK.)

    It's your command of the genre(s) that matters: your knowledge of the distinctive little things that make the songs sound "right".
    If you haven't already, make sure you listen HARD to the original versions of all the songs you're going to be playing. If there's any distinctive licks in the lead solos, learn them - or learn something like them. If it's not a tribute band, you don't need absolute note-for-note accuracy, but you need the vibe.
    In particular - for those genres - make sure your TONE is as good as you can get it. For vintage country and rock'n'roll, avoid distortion (although a little natural tube grit is OK); use some spring reverb, if you have it, and try a little slap-back echo - I find that gives me instant rockabilly. (If your current effects setup doesn't include a delay, I suggest getting one; you only need one setting: something between 75-250 ms, single repeat at maybe 60-70% of the main volume. Once you have that set, then really simple little phrases, with plenty of staccato or damping, can work like a dream.)
    In terms of scales - although you probably already know this - major pent is your foundation, with passing b3 and b7.
     
  19. flavaham

    flavaham Member

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    Hey, dnauhei, we haven't heard back from you here. Is any of this helping?

    One thing that needs to be stressed here is that you don't want to (EVER) change your style to suit the taste of others. Play what you play. Do what you do. If you do that, you'll be fine. If you find that in doing this that your style doesn't fit the band, then you need to move on and find another.

    It's okay to bend a bit if you do in fact like the music, but don't change YOU because you think THEY want you to be someone/something else. I'm not saying that you shouldn't keep learning new stuff, techniques, theory, songs, etc. I'm just saying that even when you learn this stuff, you still put your own twist on it whether you want to or not.
     
  20. dnauhei

    dnauhei Member

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    Yes, thank you all for the great suggestions, they really hit home. You have reminded me that I already have a lot of what I need to do the job. I have a lot to learn from a technical standpoint, but a huge part of it is musicianship, and that part I understand. Good pep talk. I am feeling a lot more confident about my ability to pull this off. Now for some practice!
     

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