The Best Way to Improve at Lead Guitar

How does one break out of old patterns, improve at lead guitar and become more confident worship guitarist in general?

While this depends on your goals, there is one thing you can always do to get better at lead guitar.

Master the Major Scale

Forget the diminished 9 scale or whatever that shredder told you to learn. The major scale is the scale to know and being able to play it in every position (mode) will not only make you a more confident player but inspire your solos and your rhythm playing. You know that feeling you have where you are playing a solo and you timidly fumble around because you’re guessing at your notes? That doesn’t happen when you know know your major scale.

So how do you practice this?

Learn one position at a time. Learning the whole neck is intimidating and takes way too much brain power. Start with one position and nail it down. Start on the root (ionian mode) and go up and down until you can hold a conversation while you do it. It needs to be that ingrained in your fingers. Once you are there you can add the next position (Dorian mode) and so on. You can learn more about modes and scales in our Skill Set: Modes lesson in our 101 section.

Practice in context. Once you’ve got the scale under your fingers, start playing along with a chord progression that matches that scale position. It will sound good and develop your ear so you’ll learn how that scale actually fits into real music. Intervals will begin to sound familiar and you’ll probably even recognize some melodies in there.

Use a metronome. Sound boring? Get over it. Think you don’t need one? You’re wrong. If you’re not playing in time, you aren’t playing music. Period. Practicing with a metronome will both improve your rhythm and help you track your progress. Start at a speed that’s comfortable and then crank the bpm to a tempo that you can just barely lock into. When that tempo becomes easy, speed up some more and watch your confidence grow. You can find a ton of free metronome apps, but I'd suggest the Pro Metronome app. It's only a couple bucks and will do most of what my expensive Dr. Beat will do and you have it with you wherever you go.

Develop a routine. Practice and play are two sides to the same coin. They both help you improve. Set aside some time to practice what you’re working on and then have some play time. You’ll probably find yourself using the skills you’re developing in practice during your play time and that’s when the magic really happens.

All these ideas are great but I highly recommend learning it along with my Skill Set: Modes lesson. It includes tabs for all the scales, practice loops as well as chord progressions to play along with. Commit to mastering that lesson and your lead playing will take off.

Jason Houtsma is the co-founder and guitar teacher at Worship Artistry, where he is helping musicians of every level answer the call to worship with passion and confidence. Jason has been leading worship and writing music since he was 15 years old and currently serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA. He is husband to Alli and father to Bjorn and Asher.

The Best Way to Improve at Lead Guitar

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i like learning about guitar

I like what you write and I know you are generally right, but since I am more a blues player than a gospel musician, I suggest learning the major pentatonic scale in all five positions on the fretboard and then integrating it with the minor pentatonic. The blues is all about the ambiguity between major and minor music. Mississippi John Hurt was a gospel blues guitarist, and Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel musician who influenced Chuck Berry and Elvis.

Practice Loops for Lead Rhythm Concepts

Hello: I can't seem to get the practice loops for the Lead Rhythm concepts to work.
The instructional videos play fine. Thank you.

All fixed!

Sorry about that.