Learning to improvise lead guitar solos can be an extremely rewarding experience. There's an amazing feeling
when you manage to play something off-the-cuff that sounds great. At the same time, learning to improvise can
also be an incredibly frustrating experience at times. I'm sure almost every guitarist has gone through phases
of feeling like they can't express themselves how they would ideally like. (I know that I have certainly felt
frustrated with my improvising at times!).
And guess what?
This frustration is perfectly normal. It's part of the growth process. That frustration is
what drives most of us to learn more, practice more and eventually improvise with much more fluidity and
skill. And that's a great thing.
But this frustration can also cause some guitar player to seek out a magic bullet. In other words, they are
looking for some tips or advice that will magically improve their improvisation in a very short period of
And why is this a bad thing?
Because they'll waste heaps of time searching for the magic bullet rather than putting the time into
practicing things that will help their improvisation. It's kind of like some people looking for a magical
diet to lose weight…rather than just eating less and exercising more.
To see an example of someone looking for a magic bullet, below is a situation that I've
encountered a LOT over the years. (Any resemblance to a person living or dead is purely coincidental.
Be A Fly On The Wall During A Fictitious Guitar
Student: Craig, I'm not happy with my improvisation.
Craig: What about it don't you like?
Student: Well…it's just not good enough. What can I do to
Craig: It's not a simple answer. But here are a few ideas. Have
you learned any new licks recently?
Craig: What about transcribing? Have you worked out any solos
that you like by ear?
Craig: What about rhythms…have you been working on the rhythmic
motifs sheets that I gave you a couple of lessons ago?
Craig: What about scales and arpeggios? Have you mastered the
exercises that I gave you?
Student: Not yet. I kind of got bored with them. I practiced
them for a week and it didn't seem to help too much.
Craig: Well, maybe try practicing them until you have mastered
them up to the speed that I recommended.
[I continue to ask questions and give suggestions for the next 30 minutes].
Student: OK…I'll start working hard at the stuff you've already
[One month passes].
Student: Craig, I'm not happy with the way that I'm
Craig: What specifically don't you like about it?
Student: I don't know…it's just not good enough. I want it to be
Craig: Have you been working on the stuff that we talked
about a while back?
[Craig snaps and grabs a battle-axe and decapitates the unfortunate student].
Luckily, the vast majority of people who start getting guitar lessons from me aren't like
this. And the ones who are like this don't remain a student for long…
They usually stop after a few lessons when they realize that getting good at improvisation will require hard
work, internalization of many different musical materials, persistence and a long-term mindset. And to be
honest, I'm glad to see them go. I want to focus my energy on helping people who are enthusiastic, hard-working
and don't frustrate the hell out of me.
That's all for now. In a future article I'll give you some ideas of some specific things that you
may want to practice. But for now, I invite you to use your own brain and do the following exercise…
Please invest the next 30 minutes doing the following…
- Write down at least five specific things that you would like to improve about your
- Write down at least ten specific things that you would need to practice in order to improve
your lead guitar improvisation.
Practice hard and I'll see you next time!
Return To: Guitar Improvisation