Creating Vocal-like Lead Lines

by Vishaal Kapoor

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Photo: Sam Mogadam on Unsplash.

It is easy for guitar players to get trapped in scale shapes and sequences when trying creating a lead line or improvise. This is because of the way scales are taught to most players. We are told to memorise a scale shape by playing through it up and down and use some sequences over it. This is a great way to familiarise yourself and gain confidence with any new scale. However, many players often get stuck playing scales only in this way because of the way they practice it. This makes it harder for them to branch out of the typical way they practice scales even when improvising. This can result in their lines sounding repetitive and uninteresting.

Many great guitar solos consist of a combination of different intensity levels, slower, more melodic lines and faster intense lines. Scale runs and sequences are great for the more intense stuff, but it is often the slower melodies which get stuck in the listeners’ heads.

Creating great melodies is something every player can achieve regardless of their skill level. The challenge with this is more of what to create, rather than the execution itself, which is usually pretty simple. One thing which all great melodies have in common is they have varying degrees of space between the notes. This gives the melody a vocal-like and a more “human” and organic quality to it.

We hear this all the time with vocalists and brass or woodwind players. Since their lines are generated by their breath and lungs, they have no other choice but to leave space between their lines to catch their breath, unlike guitarists who can play non-stop without passing out.

This is a really simple yet effective strategy that guitar players can emulate. One way is to simply just “steal” a vocal line from an existing song and translate it to the guitar. The first step to doing this would be to just find the correct notes in the right sequence. Find out the key of the song and use the appropriate scale for this. Next would be to match the rhythm of the actual vocal line. The spaces between each note need to match the actual vocal line. in other words, your lead line should sound like the vocal line itself. The third and final step would be to match the phrasing of the vocal line. Here you would add all the right lead guitar techniques to that line. Use different kinds of bends, slides, vibrato and any other technique that would make your lead line sound like the actual vocal line.

Like anything you on the guitar, this might initially be a challenge if you are not used to it. The more vocal lines you transcribe, the quicker and better you get at it. The end goal here is to be so comfortable with playing vocal-like lines on the guitar that you can churn out great melodies with great phrasing on the fly.

There are many other ways to play vocal-like lines. What this article has outlined is just one of the simple ways which any guitarist of any skill level can do. Combine this with busier and intense lines in a tasteful and musical way and you will be fully equipped to create great vocal sounding lines and improvisations!!!

Learning to play guitar on your own can be frustrating and challenging, especially if you don’t know what to do. Having a great teacher makes the whole process more fun, enjoyable and gets you real results fast.

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