How To Quickly Play Challenging Guitar Licks And Solos

By Tom Hess

You will have a very hard time playing awesome guitar solos if you believe this myth:

“To play hard guitar solo licks that utilize various techniques, you need to practice these techniques on their own until you can play each one perfectly. When you do this, you will be able to play the entire solo flawlessly at high speeds.”

While it is true that practicing advanced licks in isolation has the potential to increase your ability to perform those specific licks, it’s not the case that doing this will help you smoothly combine licks together when playing an entire solo. This is one of the most critical reasons why a lot of guitarists have a hard time playing difficult guitar licks and why they struggle to play “musical” guitar solos (most of their improvisations and solos sound like just a bunch of licks thrown together).

Critical Note:It’s important that you work on combining guitar techniques together RIGHT NOW… not “later” once you’ve completely mastered them in isolation. There two reasons for this:

1. You don’t have to totally perfect a specific technique in order to use it in music (truth is, you won’t master some techniques until you’ve put in years of work)

2. Do you really want to not have the ability to play anything with a certain technique while you spend years mastering it?

Plus, by getting into the habit of learning how to apply and integrate different techniques you haven’t totally mastered into actual music, you will uncover new weaknesses you never knew you had (and would’ve missed while practicing only in isolation). Watch this video on how to effectively practice guitar to learn why using this approach is the best way to become a better guitar player. Overall, this approach with help you gain complete control over techniques in isolation much times faster than if you were to exclusively use the conventional (and less effective) approach.

Fortunately, being able to combine several techniques together in a musical manner is not hard - You’ll find out why in just a moment. First, check out this video for a demonstration of how this process works and how you can use it to quickly learn how to play advanced licks:

Now that you’ve checked out the video above, go through the steps below to see how to practice combining different techniques in a musical way. As you do this, utilizes any of the following example licks or think of your own licks:

Lead Guitar Solo Lick #1:

Hear It

Lead Guitar Solo Lick #2:

Hear It

Lead Guitar Solo Lick #3:

Hear It


Step 1: Discover (Or Make) A Point Where The Two Licks Intersect

Play through the entire lick at a comfortable speed and find the note or general area where one part of the lick seems to end and the other lick starts.

For instance, in lead guitar lick #1 above, the final note of the arpeggio part of the lick ends on fret twelve of the high e string (followed by the scale starting on the seventeenth fret). This is where both licks intersect. It is important to locate this point, because this is where you generally must alter your picking motion (or playing mindset) to complete the second half of the lick. Going back to lead guitar solo lick #1, notice how the arpeggio part of the lick must be completed using a sweep picking motion, while the scale portion of the lick requires use of directional picking.

If you have not mastered sweep picking technique yet, don’t worry. It’s much easier to do than you might expect. Improve your skills with this technique by reading this article on how to easily play fast sweep picking arpeggios.

Note: If you have been practicing with your own guitar licks so far, you’ll have to find this intersection point for yourself. Make sure you do this before you continue on with the next step.

Step 2: Create A Transition That Flows Effortlessly By Isolating The Critical “Problem” Area

After finding the point where both parts of the lick join, isolate this part from the rest of the lick using this process:

*Go through the lick once again by playing it at a comfortable speed, only this time play the section from step 1 a few times when it comes up in the lick. The point of this is to strengthen the transition from one part of the lick to the next. By doing this, the entire lick will feel seamless and smooth (Note: don’t simply play with more speed to try to cover up mistakes).

*Next, play through the lick again (without any repeated notes) 3 times consecutively. Then on the 4th repetition, play the idea from step 1 several times as you did just a moment ago in the point above this one.

Go back and watch the video above one more time to see and hear the fast results that you get from using this guitar practice approach.

Don’t worry about playing as fast as you can right now, simply pay attention to emphasizing the note where both licks join together, and doing so smoothly and with great accuracy.

Step 3: Make Variations Of The Whole Lick Using Different Rhythms

Once you feel confident combining various techniques within in the lick you are playing, it’s time to make the lick sound musical. To begin, do the following:

*For 3-5 minutes, focus on playing through the whole lick with entirely different rhythms. As an example, if the lick you played originally contained only eighth or sixteenth notes, change it by making some notes last longer, shortening other notes or using other rhythm variations such as duplets or odd groupings. Challenge yourself to use as much variance from one repetition to the next (this will totally improve your creative skills). In addition, it’s fine if you repeat notes while doing this.

Learn more about using rhythmic variations in your guitar playing by watching this video on how to play guitar solos.

*As you play through the variations in your lead guitar lick, observe the musical tension (drama) that is made when you hold certain notes longer than other ones. For instance, as you play guitar lick #1, contrast the tension built by holding the last note on the 13th fret of the G string to the tension created when holding the note on the 17th fret of the high E string... as you can tell, this difference is HUGE!

Learn a lot more about building excessive amounts of musical tension while playing guitar solos by checking out this video about how to get women with guitar.

Step 4: Improve The Entire Lick Using Guitar Phrasing Elements

Now it’s time to make your lick feel as musical and expressive as possible using innovative guitar phrasing techniques. Pick any of the variations you played in the previous step, and make the lick as musical as possible by using these elements:

1.   Play exclusively with hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and other legato techniques. See and hear lots of examples on this topic by reading this column about how to play awesome blues guitar solos.

2.   Emphasize different notes in your lick by using different types of vibrato - from narrow to extra heavy. If you aren’t sure how to do this, read this article about how to play creative vibrato on guitar.

3.   Emphasize notes one fret apart with creative trills and ornaments like the ones in this rock guitar soloing article.

Once you’ve finished the steps above, you’ll be well on your way to playing tons of badass guitar solo licks that combine various guitar techniques. However, know that there is a lot more you must do before you become a great lead guitar player. To learn how to become a killer lead guitarist fast, take the best online rock guitar lessons.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is an online electric guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitarist. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website to receive many free guitar playing resources , mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.