Trying to learn lead

I have been trying to learn lead guitar for a while now but my brain struggles to take it in. I suppose i consider myselfore of a rhythm guitarist and i can pick up the rhythm parts relatively easily. When it comes to the solo on songs I can play i usually just play the few licks i know and jam a bit of minor pentatonic. I have learnt some shorter solos and have decided i need to try and learn some instead of improvising. I have learnt the 1st 2 solos from On with the action by UFO, love a bit of Michael Schenker. I can almost play them both everytime but still have the main, faster and longer, one to go. I am also learning the 1st solo for Iron Man by Sabbath as i can play the rest of the song and with Mr Iommi being the only guitarist it makes sense to learn it. I think i used to try and learn things too quickly so have started slowing it down a bit and, so far it seems to be going in a bit better. Might just be wishful thinking on my part though. Anyone else learning lead have any tips?


I can’t even seen to learn short “licks.” I learn one and the next day it’s gone.

If it helps any, B.B. King said he rarely played a solo the same way twice. He said he played it the way it felt that night.


I know, it seems to take ages, but repetition is key. If i play it continously it eventually sticks

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Always learning.
Best tips: Dig into the Justin courseware regarding lead playing. Start improvising with a looper and/or backing tracks. Practice creating riffs, licks and coming up with your own phrasing.


In my humble opinion the solo of Paranoid is a tad easier to learn than the Iron Man one.
I found the Iron Man a lot trickier.


Yes… Paranoid is one i sort of play in the right place on the neck… but improvise most of it

Hey Ross,

Ive been getting into lead playing for the last 18 months, and have come to understand its a long term, continuous goal, years in the making. It is not an inconsiderable task. Doesnt mean we cant play some cool stuff along the way, while always look to improve. Its about the journey eh?

What I’m finding is the following;

  1. Learn the fretboard, and musical structures - notes, intervals, scales, chord construction.
  2. Train your ear
  3. Practice, repetition etc, till you want to stick a pin into the side of your head. :crazy_face:
  4. Continually experiment.

Cheers, Shane


Rosshkerr! Yea, buddy. I forgot I used to play “On with the Action” in the old days! Thank you for reminding me of my youth and UFO, some of the best R&R ever. I am in the same boat as you and am trying hard to increase my lead playing. So far just starting out! Good luck and practice to us both.

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Indeed. Love a bit of UFO and Michael Schenker. I’ve learnt the 1st 2 short, slow, solos. Just started the 1st few bars of the main solo. Good luck and practise to you dude

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I find it helps to break up solos into short sections and focus on one section (repetition) before moving on to the next section. When you have a couple memorised (finger memory taking over), string them together. My current project is Apache (Shadows) so I can get to use my tremolo at last.:grin:

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Hi Dave. Yes, that’s what i try and do. My trouble is these old fingers, and brain, struggle with the faster parts. Good luck with Apache, not got a tremelo myself

Resurrecting the thread. I’ve been looking at the use of triads or parts of them (Diads) in riffs. It’s surprisingly common. CCR, Allman Brothers, AC/DC to name a few bands, different genres. Riffs using simple arpeggiated triad based riffs with some, slides, bends and hammer-on pull-offs.
As Shane said earlier, it helps to know some theory and where to find the notes on the neck. CAGED System helps me locate roots and pentatonic patterns. Intervals make it easy to locate the 3rds and 5ths around the root for the various triad chord inversions. The beauty of the triads is that they are fully moveable (like barre chords), can be arpeggiated and sit within the five pentatonic shapes. If you know barre chord shapes, you can find the triads within those shapes.
I have learnt several riffs recently and by shifting positions along the neck (same shapes) and or moving to different string sets, you can play the same triads and intervals using the same rhythm, and yet they can sound quite different, while remaining musical. Add in some slides, bends and or hammer on pull offs and its music to the ears.
There’s a lot more to explore but for once I feel I’m making ‘musical’ sounds, instead of just hitting random pentatonic notes and hoping it sounds good.

Good stuff Dave. Glad to see you hooking into triads. As you probably know, I love me triads - they are golden treasures. They will continually reward you with fun, creativity and knowledge.
And yes, they are everywhere in music.

I’ve been hammering them hard for 2 years solid now, and I reckon I’m just starting to scratch below the surface. Enormous teachers.

Couple of things I’ve found, looking back so far, that have been significantly beneficial.

  1. Harmonise your major scales using triads.
    Make it a regular practice item. Really helps bed the triads down, helps to see the shapes across the neck, and helps with seeing the interval structures, how they fit into the bigger matrix of scales, barre chords, arpeggios. Importantly, it really accelerates learning all the base chords in a key. Things like double stops too, essentially diads, seem to become more visible, and automated.
    Lots of huge benefits I reckon by harmonising with triads.
  2. Learn the intervals immediately surrounding the triad shapes. Of course, the structure will differ with each inversion. I believe this process has been very helpful in lead playing. You can progressively branch out from there as they become more familiar.
  3. Use them - alot; in songs, learning solos, making up your own progressions, riffs, melodies etc.
  4. Find your own triads, particularly 7th triads, which sound very cool, and are very useful. Just drop either the 5th, or the root, and see what sounds good.
  5. For lead/ improvising etc. If I find a progression or backing track that hooks me, I’ll always start with triads. Its the besy way into the melody, generating ideas, I reckon.

Anyway, enough rambling. I could go on all day about triads, and I’m only getting started. All the best.

Cheers, Shane


Great points Shane. Only been doing this for a few days so far but it sure is addictive!
It started with playing D shape A chord on first three strings at 9the fret, arpeggiating the notes, slides into the pentatonic, run back up the arpeggio, playing down, up, back down the major scale intervals and dropping back to the same root note lower on the neck at 2 fret. Repeat at the new location with a A shaped A triad or switch to a D shaped D chord. Sounds cool and really gets you thinking about intervals relationships and shapes on the neck. Much to learn.

Sorry mate. I guessed you’d been at it for a while. Perhaps overloaded you a bit there. You’re in for a whole bunch of fun and learning. Take your time. This stuff takes a while.

Cheers, Shane

I’m still learning myself, but wanted to contribute a logistical thing - one thing that really helped me was just sitting and working on basic riffs or single-note improvising while watching TV with my wife in the evening after our daughter went to sleep. I think more than giving me some extra time to play, it was time where I relaxed and didn’t worry too much about having things sound perfect or progressing fast.

Perhaps a strange suggestion, but sharing in hope it helps :slight_smile:

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