What Are Your Guitar Leads Missing? | Lead Guitar Tips


Ready to impress your friends and family with your lead guitar skills? Check out these guitar tips from Dallas, TX teacher Mike E


A student new to lead guitar recently asked me, “What do my leads need?”

I told him they need four technique tricks. 1) Skiing, 2) Crying, 3) Dog Whistles, and 4) Double Dribbles.

I didn’t use technical terms. One of my best guitar tips is that playing music should be an expression of emotions and feelings. It is not just which notes are played and in what order. To sound like professionals, you need to consider exactly how they played those notes, including not just how loudly or softly they played the note, but also how they get to a note and how they leave a note.

1) Skiing is sliding up to a note or down from a note. This adds flow to your sound.
2) Crying is when you silently stretch (bend) a string up and then pick it so you only hear it go down. Try it. It sounds like crying.
3) Dog whistles are repeated up-stretches, killing the sound at the top of each stretch. Try three or four and you’ll hear the same sound as whistling for your dog.
4) Double dribbles are things like hammering from one note to another then pulling off back to the starting note, or hammering from one note to higher one and then to another higher one. Also you can pull off from one note to a lower note and then pull off again to a lower note.

These “tricks” are the techniques that the pros use. Listen closely to leads on songs and listen not only to which notes are played, but HOW they are played.

As an example, listen to the introduction lead guitar part of the song “All Along the Watchtower” by the great Jimi Hendrix:

You can hear on the first note that he “skis” up to it. Then, after one more note, he performs the “dog whistle” technique, stretching to a note four times. This is immediately followed by his picking the note at the top of the stretch and releasing the stretch while still pressing against the guitar neck, giving the “crying” effect. A few notes before the end of that introductory lead, he performs the “double dribble” with a hammer and pull. This is followed by a stretch to the key note and then a release of the stretch to ski down the neck. In this approximately 10-second introductory lead part, Jimi Hendrix executes all four of the techniques listed above.

The Importance of Listening

One of my “teachers” (at least from his records) was Eric Clapton. In the mid-70s, he was on the cover of Guitar Player magazine. They asked which guitarists he most admired. He mentioned B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, and a few others. When asked why he chose those players, he did not reply with “because of how fast they play” or “because of the unique scales they use.” Instead, he said, “Because whenever they stretch a string to a note, they never miss.” Most stretches are to the sound two frets above. Play that note, then back off and stretch to it, but be sure to listen carefully and try to hit it exactly. Missing a stretch is the kiss of death for a guitarist.

More great guitar tips come from the great Eric Johnson, from Austin, Texas, who was quoted as saying, “If you want to learn to play lead guitar, learn 1,000 leads by other players and learn them note-for-note, exactly the way they were performed. If you do this. you will gain a few small ingredients from each lead that you can use in your own recipe for improvisations.” I wholeheartedly agree and pass this along to all my students as one of my best guitar tips. Listen to the greats. Again, listen to how they play the notes, not just which notes they play. Technique is what separates the men from the boys.

MikeEMike E. teaches guitar, bass guitar, piano, music theory, and more in Dallas, TX. Mike’s teaching style combines “by ear” knowledge with theoretical training to provide a unique approach to music, chords, music theory, ear training, and more. Learn more about Mike here!



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Photo by Joshua Kruger

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