Tommaso Zillio: One Easy Trick To Break Out Of Your Lead Guitar Slump

Have you ever felt trapped playing the same lead guitar ideas? Have you tried and failed to get away from playing the same scales again and again? Do your ears lag behind your hands when you break into a solo?

I hear complaints like this from colleagues and other students all the time --- it happens far more than you would think. I believe, as a guitar instructor, the root of the problem is the way we've been teaching guitar since the '70s. All guitar students should learn how to play scales, but most "teachers" have insisted on showing only how to play them from the sixth to the first string and back again.
This teaching method created an entire generation's worth of students who get stuck in patterns that aren't all that fluid or useful to begin with; chances are, you've also learned it this way. For those who don't know what I'm talking about just yet, yes, it is the notorious CAGED system --- but I'll wait for another day to get into that one.

There are hundreds of ways to get out of this mode of thinking. One of the best, however, is to master the scales instead of just learning, and being trapped by them. In the end, there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way scales are taught.

To get started, we're going to go in the diametrically opposed direction, leave behind the scale patterns, and move across the fretboard in a different way. We are going to traverse the fretboard using intervals and paying close attention to the different sounds this makes possible. I'll show this specifically in one, simple example: playing diatonic intervals of sixth. Melodies created with intervals of sixth are soothing, and can be blended into any genre with ease, and if this doesn't strike your fancy, you can always use different intervals, like an open fifth or a tense seventh to spice things up.

I created a short video below to show you what I mean, as tablature and text can't always go deep enough. Take a look through it now:

Remark: the patterns that I've shown aren't the most important part of the lesson. The important part is how interval patterns (the 6th, in this case) can help guide how we move around the fretboard. Of course, this will not sound like the typical "linear" scale everybody is playing.
To really leverage the possibilities, try using these ideas with other intervals, or maybe also with an arpeggio (3 notes rather than just 2) to liven up your lead guitar in new ways. In the end, that's what we're all after.

About the Author

Tommaso Zillio is a professional player, teacher, and composer. Visit his website to know more about guitar and music theory.