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Lead Guitar Exercises

This article is a brief guide for learning some simple lead guitar exercises. Mastering these exercises will require hours of dedicated practice from you, but once you have developed the right technique and built up the strength in your fingers, you will be ready to start playing great guitar solos.
What do Kirk Hammett, Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, Slash, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen and John Petrucci have in common? Yes, they all play the lead guitar. The lead guitar, the instrument of long and enchanting guitar solos, the defining sound of a legendary band, the ultimate high in the song without which the rhythm and the bass are incomplete and the prized auditory expression that makes every song unique. The lead guitar brings character to the song, adds personality to the rhythm and lends the band's persona to the sound that they produce. There are not many bands that can be successful without the influence of the lead guitar.

To learn how to play the lead guitar is no simple task. A lot of work and practice goes into mastering this art, and it requires a lot of patience and sincerity, similar to the mastery of acoustic guitars and bass guitars. Performing lead guitar exercises once in a while is not enough, and you need to spend hours doing so, and performing the right exercises for lead guitar is absolutely crucial. The first thing you need to do is understand your guitar. Memorize the notes, the keys and the chords and know them off the back of your hand. These exercises are extremely difficult to perform if you do not know your guitar.

The purpose of guitar lead exercises is to develop your playing technique, knowledge of your guitar and most importantly, the strength in your fingers. Not everyone is blessed with tremendously agile fingers that can shift from note to note at the speed of lightning, and even the so-called pros were not born with this gift. This is something that is nurtured over the years, and there is no other way of achieving this than by long hours of practicing exercises.

Developing Finger Strength
Beginners usually find that their fingers get tired very fast and also experience sore fingertips. Even the pros that you see, will have deep calluses and depressions on their fingertips. If you are really keen to learn to play the lead guitar then you have to play through the pain. There is no other way. The only way to achieve this is to regularly play scales. The advantages of playing scales is that it teaches you where the notes are positioned on your guitar, it improves your speed and dexterity with the guitar and it also helps develop calluses on your fingertips. Procure a guitar scale chart, and play these scales on a regular basis in order to hone your lead guitar playing skills.

Exercises for Learning Lead Guitar
The primary objective of learning guitar lead exercises is to improve your playing speed. Achieving the perfect level of continuity is something you should aspire to be doing, and you must keep challenging yourself in order to get better.

A few exercises for lead guitars are illustrated here in order to help you build up your speed at playing the lead guitar. Before you get started, you should remember that the bottom most string in your guitar is the first string, and the open note that you play on this string is the 'E' note. In the illustrations below, the alphabets on the left denote what the open string note is, for that particular string. The first line denotes the first string, and the last line denotes the sixth string. The numbers 1-2-3-4 denote your index finger, your middle finger, your ring finger and your little finger respectively. The number mentioned here also means that you should play the corresponding fret on that particular string. Perform these exercises in order to boost your speed and finger strength. The faster you can perform them the better. Note that these are exercises meant for right-handed guitar players.

E------------------------------------------------------1-2-3-4-------|
B--------------------------------------------1-2-3-4-----------------|
G----------------------------------1-2-3-4---------------------------|
D------------------------1-2-3-4-------------------------------------|
A--------------1-2-3-4-----------------------------------------------|
E-----1-2-3-4--------------------------------------------------------|

This is the most basic guitar lead exercise that you can perform, and the variations that are available you are all derivations of this exercise. Here are some acoustic guitar tabs for beginners.

E-------------------------------------------------------1-3-2-4--------|
B---------------------------------------------1-3-2-4------------------|
G-----------------------------------1-3-2-4----------------------------|
D-------------------------1-3-2-4--------------------------------------|
A---------------1-3-2-4------------------------------------------------|
E-----1-3-2-4----------------------------------------------------------|

E-------------------------------------------------------3-4-4-3--------|
B---------------------------------------------1-2-2-1------------------|
G-----------------------------------3-4-4-3----------------------------|
D-------------------------1-2-2-1--------------------------------------|
A---------------3-4-4-3------------------------------------------------|
E-----1-2-2-1----------------------------------------------------------|

E--------------------------------------------------------2-4-3-1-------|
B----------------------------------------------1-4-3-2-----------------|
G------------------------------------2-4-3-1---------------------------|
D--------------------------1-4-3-2-------------------------------------|
A----------------2-4-3-1-----------------------------------------------|
E------1-4-3-2---------------------------------------------------------|

Pretty soon you can even start coming up with your own exercises. Try these patterns in a reverse order, invent your own patterns, you can even try frets further along your fret board. A very important point to remember is that you must pluck each string in an Up-down motion. This means that one note must be played with an upward stroke and the next with a downward stroke. Playing with Up-up strokes or Down-down strokes are not considered the right technique for lead guitar exercises.

Practice everyday for a few hours at least, and pretty soon you will find that your speed and technique have considerably improved. Once you have mastered these exercises, you will be ready to take the next step and start playing some impressive guitar solos.
By Rahul Thadani
Bouquets and Brickbats
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