Changing from rhythm to lead in a band - how

Fellow muso’s I have a problem that has been plaguing me for some time, and it does not appear any of Justin’s lessons goes into this sort of thing. I get together with some friends (and my wife) every week to have a jam. Basically, we are playing in a band environment for the fun of it. We have a drummer, a bass player (wife), keyboard, and two guitarists. Me being one of them. And I also do most of the singing.

The other guitarist is a lovely person but is not as advanced as me. She just plays simple rhythm, mainly with open chords. I tend to play barre chords up the neck so we are not in the same frequency range. I also tend to focus on the high 4 or 5 strings so as not to trip over the bass player.

Most of the songs we do have a solo section, but I am busy holding a solid rhythm and singing, and cannot figure out how to go from that to playing a very simple solo over the instrumental section. Sorts of songs I am talking about are Margaritaville, Swinging Doors, Your Sixteen. Sort of country and pop.

If any of you lovely people can direct me to some resources or offer some help I would appreciate it. If we had a more experienced lead type guitarist in our jam I could probably get some help, but that option is not available to me.

P.S. Playing ripping solo’s is not my bag.


I play margaritavile and it’s the only song where I break out and do a solo. It’s a struggle for me to change from rhythm to lead / solo. With margaritaville it’s getting easier as time goes by. Sorry I can’t offer more.


Hello Keith and I know your pain as I’m lead singer and only guitarist in our band so all of the duties fall to me for Rhythm and Lead. All I can really tell you is that it takes practice and some thinking about the song…and even then it can be tricky (which is why you have a lead guitarist in many bands).

In terms of tips and tricks what I tend to do just before coming into a solo is to try and keep the rhythm on the bar immediately before very simple e.g. just play one or even two strums, and then try to get my fingers ready for the solo (usually whilst finishing the singing for that part of the song). You at least have the advantage of another guitar player so I’d let them continue with rhythm for those one or two bars so you can set yourself (at least on the guitar) for the solo. Honestly from an audience perspective they wont notice with the drums, bass and other guitar playing.

The other possible thing is to look at the solos and see if you can change them to something simpler e.g. you playing triad chips or arpeggios, over the rhythm. That way it’ll be an easier transition from rhythm to solo.

I suspect some of the blues rhythm lessons will possibly help you mixing some rhythm and arpeggio together.


Good to see there are others who like this song. Cheers

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Great feedback. Thanks for that.
I have tried arpeggiating Triads, but it just sounds like practicing scales to me. I tend to want to play single notes over the various major pentatonic scales to create a sort of melody. When it works (with some bends and vibrato) it sounds nice but is very risky.
I have been doing more blues as an attempt to get better at this. I will probably have to keep at it.

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I’m sure @Richard_close2u will be along soon he has written some great threads to support Justin’s lessons on Triads… as with licks/solos everything needs practice it’s the only way to improve.


Something I struggle with as well, so buyer beware !

On the odd song that has needed a switch but has also included vocals, Blaze of Glory springs to mind, I try and create time by just playing the rhythm part on beat 1 of the bar before the solo. In other words, give yourself time to get there. But for me the biggest issue is zoning back into the rhythm, which is often a car crash !

I guess it is something like everything else, that needs to be practiced. I know I had to do this when I recorded BoG but I would be honest to say I do not do it enough and often take the easy options of playing the rhythm over a solo section or bridge ! So thank you for a timely reminder of something else I need to focus on.



Thanks @Rossco01

You’re right - I have a triads topic stated and other parts to follow along soon I hope. I try to open up ideas as to how triads can be used as frameworks for playing lead, targeting chord tones and good notes, and acting as a springboard for solos and improv.

Topic part 1 is here: Triads & Targeting Chord Tones Part 1 - getting started on the G, B & E strings

More to follow in due course.


Toby you are not the only one that “fills” the solo space with rhythm chords… sometimes it’s just the best way.

@Keith2 obviously your ultimate solution will probably be to hope your current rhythm player gets up to a good level and can either lock up lead or cover some of your workload.


@Keith2 you mentioned you play mostly barre chords up the neck and your solos are mostly melodies in the Major pentatonic. If this is the case your hand should already be in the position to start your solo. Do you know the 5 pattern of CAGED? For example if you are playing a C chord before the solo break and will be playing the solo using C major pent use the Barre shape of the pattern you want to solo in. E shape C barre chord if your solo is up around the 8th fret, A shape if your solo is around the 3rd fret.

Practicing call and response blue will help your lead lines using chord shapes and targeting chord tones to start your solo.


I play and practice with some very accomplished musicians --in the form of backing tracks. It’s ok to “play out” with a marginal at best drummer or bass player or group of folks, it can be great fun. That should be the purpose of it --to have fun. I’m thinking you will move your chops forward much better during your individual practice.

To learn the craft of moving between rhythm and lead, a backing track or rhythm loop is the best start. It will always be on time and you can switch it up as you will. The second thing I would recommend is unaccompanied playing. Can you pick up the guitar and communicate a sense of rhythm and lead with some proficiency? Hey, I’m not where I want to be there yet myself, but I’m constantly working on it. I won’t offer you links that nobody will click on (LOL). Rest assured I have examples on my YT channel.

If you get beyond just arpeggios, triads are a great tool to link rhythm and lead playing. You can build a bridge to lead playing with your beginner guitar player by comping with triads to build the groove and then break out and rock your lead chops.


Yes I am trying to get her to get more into rhythmic barre chords and the like to cover me. It will be a long journey though, and I still want to do some solid rhythm especially when I am singing.

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Yes I have a good handle on the CAGED system and the associated major pentatonic. I used to have the whole major scale thing down, but found the pent a little more practical and my brain can only deal with so much. My issue is more with the rhythm suddenly stopping and a lead break starting. It sounds like half the song has disappeared. I fear I am the predominant rhythm and will need to change that.

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Some wonderful responses. Many thanks to you all.

I have taken it all on board and have had a breakthrough today. I was trying to use the pent scale to create more of a melody, which suits my sort of songs better than ‘random’ licks, but that only sort of works for me. I have tried triads, but to me they just sounded like mini chords arpeggiated, so I may as well just arpeggiate the full chord. Although all sounding within the key and ok, not very musical to my ear.

So today, I thought I would revisit the triad situation and began playing around just strumming the triads over a simple 3 chord song. These are D, G and A for reference. I played these in 2 positions on the neck one around the 5 to 7 frets on the G, B and e strings, and the other around the 9 to 12 frets on the same strings. Still sounded ordinary, so I arpeggiated them and it still sounded ordinary. Then I treated the group of notes made up of the 3 triads in each position as a scale, but still recognizing the individual triads within that scale.

So now I am playing single notes, but sliding into some, vibrato on others, and using common notes to link the chord transitions. It is now music. I know there are lessons on all the ‘fragments’ behind this, but there was never anything to link it all together that I have come across (10 years or so of Justin and others).

I now know to let the rhythm drop just prior to the solo and let the rest of the band keep it going, then just use triads to form a nice musical solo. Obviously with blues the minor pent is still required for the dissonant notes, but seeing that I rarely play blues that is all good.


I’ve just done a little listening and searching.
In the song I heard 3rds, 6ths and triads for the solo.
I have watched a few lessons which confirm
Have a visit to and a read of - with a view to doing some guitar work, not just reading - this topic which happens to cover what you need also: 3rds in the key of D. 3rds & Thirds Part A : playing & having fun

As to the general approach with two guitars and you taking a simple, melodic approach to soling that still keeps the sounds of the chord movement going …

Yes, yes, yes.
The triads give you chord tones and if you target the notes within, but as you say played not as chords but as notes, with all the various ways that you can attack and approach and give dynamics to single notes, then you are soling over the changes and keeping the changes clear.

If you want to improvise a solo and make up your own thing for Maragaritaville, try this.

Are you familiar with a major pentatonic extended pattern that stretched across multiple frets? If you are great. If not, have a little try out and see if it falls nicely under your fingers.
In general, strings with two notes will be fingers 1 & 3, strings with three notes will be fingers 1 and 3 with a slide up using finger 3. But you may find it works better using different fingering.
Mix it up with the triad chord tones that you have been exploring.
Here are some diagrams to help.

I hope that helps.
Richard :slight_smile:

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@Keith2 , lots of good info here from members and @Richard_close2u . I’ve seen and heard everyone on this thread play guitar except for you and @stitch . For my money the folks that I’ve heard from so far have some pelts on the wall or skin in the game (so to speak). I think it would be helpful to hear you play something at this point.

Your assessment of playing triads has me thinking that you may be much better than you think, or maybe just not really ready for them. I’ve never heard of a player that explores triads and then dismisses them in such a way. Usually some sort of brain bomb explodes that opens up a new way of approaching the instrument. It kind of separates intermediate from advanced players (to my way of thinking).

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This video appears to be a practical demonstration of the D,G & B string triads in the last diagram Richard posted above:


Thank you Richard. This is a lot to chew on, so it will take some time to explore this. Just letting you know I will tackle it and appreciate your feedback.

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I have looked at triads before but from the perspective of providing a different dynamic in a rhythm rather than providing a framework for soloing. I use triads in ‘To Her Door’ for the intro and instrumental for instance and was using the open chords for the rest of the song. I have recently changed this to the E and A shaped barre chords and added more percussion to get the feel I like.

I have heard of chord tones but have for some reason thought this more about picking the E, G#, and B notes in the E major or major pent for instance. Although sensible, I found this was too complex for my old brain to put into practice. The epiphany for me was looking at it the other way round and using the triads as the basis. The scale these combine to make is simpler and the chord tones very visible to me.

I will take your suggestion and do some video of me playing. Might take a few weeks though, as I am not in a practical position to do this at the moment.


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I am finally back in town and hopefully can spend a little more time on my guitar. I have had some great comments on this thread and I thank you all. I thought I would start by trying a simple recording of myself to see how this all works and have decided a quick video of the Margaritaville solo would be a good start. I am using the major pent for this and just the original song as the backing with their guitar part muted. If this all works out I will have a go at the whole song.

I used the major pent for this instead of trying to use triads, as I just seem to be more comfortable with this. Will be interesting to see how this develops.

P.S. Excuse my focused expression, I was trying to see what my tablet was up to.