Counting while playing solo or lead

I seem to struggle with this task and get off track. Any suggestions?

Thanks, all. Terry, from Kansas

I don’t have any suggestion as I myself have just started learning lead solo. But your question does remind me, how important it is to learn and play as much as possible the rhythm guitar first in order to get the timing right and build a kind of counting machine in the head.


You raise a very good point, firstrazor! Maybe that’s just the ticket for me. I’ll soon find out. It makes a great deal of sense. Thanks from Kansas!

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Hello @Terryd913 welcome to the Community.

I honestly believe that anyone playing a meaningful solo or lead guitar part from the greatest virtuoso to the guy who plays in a covers band at weekends is not really counting time. Certainly not sounding out 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & in their head when playing / improvising.
Playing solos and leads require an innate sense of rhythm and time and tempo that develops over weeks and months and years of playing good rhythm. To such an extent that it is all internalised and second nature.
I know when Justin (other teachers are available) breaks down a solo to teach it he will count it out. But that is the post creative analysis. It is not the creation.
You haven’t said anything about your level, your ability, where you are in the many JustinGuitar courses (if you have followed them as your learning path) so it is difficult to suggest what step to take to begin addressing this.

Cheers :smiley:
| Richard_close2u | JustinGuitar Official Guide & Moderator

Thank you for this response. Makes good sense.


Counting - a subject close to my heart! Since returning to the guitar 18 months or so ago I have read/watched a great deal about the issue of counting out a solo whilst learning it. Whether you count or not you have to know what to do on each beat (quarter, 8ths, 16ths, triplets etc) i.e. what note(s) to play on that beat. Some prescribe counting out loud, slowly, as you learn the solo, lick, or riff. How long you need to do this when learning a new piece will depend on many things. How well you know the song, your own experience, do you know the rhythm/chords behind the solo etc. I have found that if I struggle with a particular lick the problem is almost always resolved by counting it out, slowly at first. There will, of course, come a time when you have the part memorized and you should be able to practice enough to the point where you no longer need to count. You will know when this time has come. I think it is also worth noting that you don’t necessarily need to count every note. I often find as long as I know where a certain lick starts and ends, the rest takes care of itself. Justin often recommends playing along with the original recording to “cop the rhythm” and I do this a lot. If I struggle, then I slow down and count.
Hope this helps in some way.