Playing Solo Guitar

Response to a forum question: How can I become a good lead guitarist? 

One thing I remember doing, (about 6 years old) was choosing a phrase, making up my own scales I suppose, and working out a pattern, way before I even knew about scales. I now call them Dairian scales. I even made up my own chords. The phrases were based on flamenco because that was mainly what I had heard at the time, and what I wanted to do, and continuously playing this pattern. I'd fall asleep playing and wake up thinking about this pattern, subconsciously it was going in. Over the hours, days, I changed the pattern somehow to another one, still incorporating things I'd done with the first one. Eventually over a period of time, around ten or elven years old, I learned hammers and slides and pull-offs and all the other techniques you use. 

Some years later I started to actually learn guitar scales, but not really taking too much notice of them. I still preferred my own. It's much later, say in my twenties when I more or less sat down and concentrated on actual guitar scales and also Indian classical Sitar scales, but I have to be honest I still really play what I played originally but with many variations. I didn't even know what I devised as a small child was a scale at all when I began. I never even had a chord book until I was about seventeen and that of course opened up a whole new world and I still use it for reference today. It's called the Leeds Guitar Dictionary by F. Chierici 

When I was a kid I watched and listened to the guitarist in a band, always tried to get as close as possible to see what they were doing. I remember one time, I was about thirteen year old, I couldn’t get close up to the band, a blues band, and they were playing a lovely slow blues. The guitarist did a sliding chord and I couldn’t see what it was. When I got back home, remembering the sound in my head, I started trying to reproduce the sound. I just persisted until it sounded right, and now I can tell you it is a beautiful slide from the B to the A in an open E blues. 

So I have to say the only real way is non-stop playing. Listen and watch other guitarists when you can. Backing tracks are of great assistance in playing and learning, and you need to keep it simple at first with scales and just build it up. Listen very carefully to what you are doing and don’t try to go too fast too quickly. Everyone thinks solo guitar is all about speed. It isn’t. It’s about creativity, precision and a great deal of feeling, particularly for blues and jazz. 

Chris Dair 

17 December 2010

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