Suggestions please


Senior Stratmaster
Aug 30, 2016
I stumbled across a T-bone Walker lesson on Truefire. Honestly, I still don't understand his phrasing within the Minor Pentatonic he's working with. I love it and how cool his phrasing is and hope to absorb even a little of it to offset my leads. I need to plug my looper back in and set my drum machine to a bit slower tempo and really listen to my phrasing, it's been awhile. I'm glad Higgins1980 posted this because I seem to play more notes than I need on my phrasing. I am still surprised how few notes T-bone uses even though he repeats them in a phrase, especially at an up tempo.


New Member!
Jun 19, 2013
San Clemente
I would check out the following couses by Robbie Calvo on Truefire - Power Phrasing & Lick Logic

In addition to these 2 courses which will help your phrasing, think about learning more arpegio based licks vs scalular licks. I can offer some recommendations if there is interest.


Most Honored Senior Member
Jul 9, 2020
Republic of Gilead
Check out David Wallimann on the You Tubes. He has a lot of content about scales and getting out of phrasing ruts etc that really helped me break out of the same old thing.
That guy’s a good teacher, thanks for the tip!

This video of his specifically adds to this thread:

One thing that’s always helped me is taking the time to write out the notes in order to explore all the possible triads and embellishments. Before you start noodling, develop a short roadmap of chords that modulate, then use those annotations to explore opportunities for voice leading. Loop your own simple “jam track” and then practice playing over that. Start with a simple, single modulation (eg from C Ionian to C Aeolian and back) involving just three or four chords. Like Walliman talks about, try doing all of this within a relatively narrow section of the fretboard.


Dr. Stratster
Oct 16, 2018
This is good stuff thanks. Had not thought to try this. I’ve been focusing more on making sure I stay in the scale as opposed to making a melody.

I also seem to stay stuck in the same positions. Usually 5th fret and the 12th.
Try figuring out the arpeggios of the chords that are in the lead sheet. They are like stair steps moving up and down between the notes of the melody. Bass players are really good at that.


Gold Supporting Member
Jun 8, 2020
View attachment 594943
Been working on (read noodling a lot) with backing tracks and my looping pedal. I’ve recently starting to focus more on scales and playing some lead stuff. I’m finding that when I play especially if I’m using the same scale on different tunes my lead work always sounds the same and more less like somebody running a scale rather than the guitar singing along with the rhythm part. Anybody got any good online resources to help learn phrasing better. Thanks everyone.
First listen and imagine lead parts in your head, then find them on the guitar and learn them. Recording yourself humming or singing them is great for this. Imaging great leads and then picking up the guitar and finding them has worked well for me. Knowing more scales is also important, of course.

I'll read the rest of this thread now. lol


Gold Supporting Member
Jun 8, 2020
Two suggestions:
- Scales delimit the sandbox of what you can play to sound "in" the tonality (or "out"… depends on your choice!). But arpeggios (chord tones) give you a much tighter and precise note selection tool. Every song has a chord progression underneath. Pick a song and start (very slowly) to play the basic arpeggios (triads: root, 3rd, 5th; also 7ths) on every chord. And once you have that down, start using those tones to build phrases: by ear, or trying to connect (say) all the thirds in the progressions, or trying to find the tones that build a line with minimal movement ("nearest tones"), etc… You can start very easy (Pat Metheny said that you can sound great just spelling out the arpeggios in a song) and go up to Dojo Master level with all sorts of substitutions, extensions, implied harmonies… but as said, even at level 1 the rewards are immediate. Two little additional tips to see you on your way: (1) this approach works best with songs that have at least a little harmonic movement… if you have a one-chord vamp, playing root-third-fifth gets old pretty quick and you need to build into the harmony yourself… too difficult for now; play a blues, and you'll be on your way; many Beatles songs also are little harmonic gems and let you see the benefits of the approach…; (2) you'll quickly find out that some chord tones sound more "significant" and "unique" to a chord than others, and therefore spell out the harmony a lot more meaningfully than others… thirds and sevenths typically sound pretty darn great. Some extensions are also especially cool (sixths and ninths) but keep 'em for later. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, spend just 10 minutes looking up how chords are formed, it's very simple.
- Knowing scales and arpeggios shows you the notes that it is possible to play in any song at any given moment, but improvising is actually coming up with a melody on the spot. It's not something that's innate, and you have to train yourself to it: the more you do it, the better you get at it. Following the suggestions made by @gretev and @4wotitswurth, I'll recommend two exercises explained by Barney Kessel in his wonderful guitar course. "Play what you hear": strike a chord, and without thinking too much what that chord is, come up with a short melody inspired by the sound of that chord (say, 6 to 9 notes). First sing it, or whistle it. Then play it on the guitar. Make it a nice, memorable melody you can repeat and sing with some satisfaction. Don't get discouraged: it will be hard at first! "Play what you know": think of a melody you have in your head and try to play it right on the spot. It can be as simple as "Oh Susannah" or "Happy Birthday", and as you get better it can be something a little more complex, but the essential thing is to become able to nail melodies by ear on the guitar consistently. This will allow you to think of a melody as you're improvising, and execute it on the spot, with the arpeggios and scales as your signposts…

Happy playing!

PS: oh, I forgot. Transcribe some solos you think are great, and once you have them down, and have had a ball playing them, try to figure out why they work so well for you… is it the note choice, the rhythm, that great vibrato…?? Learn from the masters!
This is just a great comment! Well written explanation of ways to improve your lead playing


Gold Supporting Member
Jun 8, 2020
I think many of us are guilty of noodling like this.
Try a different guitar, or try using just fingers instead of a pick, or start with a skip string lick, or start by picking through a chord, etc etc etc.
Experiment outside the comfort riffs. A lot will fail, but you'll find some cool stuff along the way.

Then, when you find a nice phrase, work around it for a few bars, then work your way back to it (Josh Smith advice).
Playing with no pick is really great for expression. Since the pandemic, I've been working at playing with fingers only, like my now dead best friend and killer guitarist did. I'm still faster with a pick, but playing with fingers gets you a sound you can get no other way.


Dec 9, 2017
South Saturn Delta
I guess it's all about the vocabulary you develop over time. try changing the positions, get out of ''the box''. To start, try listening close and transcribing some melodic lines and solos you find interesting, like someone said before, learn from the masters. Zeppelin's ''Since I've Been Loving You'' comes to mind or Joe Bonamassa's take on ''Tea For One''. See what makes all those licks sound so good, what's the theory behind it all. I think of it like talking in a foreign language, the more words and grammar you know, it becomes easier and easier to express yourself while being able to sound spontaneous, always different, and to have a point at the same time. It doesn't have to be the blues either, in time you will be able to come up with a catchy line, in an instant, over any piece of music you find interesting.


Nov 25, 2011
Gravois Mills , MO
This is good stuff thanks. Had not thought to try this. I’ve been focusing more on making sure I stay in the scale as opposed to making a melody.

I also seem to stay stuck in the same positions. Usually 5th fret and the 12th.
This book has lead patterns and licks in every key, Major and minor . Paperback or e-book
Comprehensive method for all levels.


Feb 26, 2021
Play the triads instead of the scales.
Practice triads vertically and orizzontally, in groups of 4 notes and of 3 notes.

Also I strongly agree with those who suggested seeking the help of a teacher. I think I understand how you feel about your own playing, and I fear it won't be that very easy getting out of that alone. But hey I am sure you can do it if you want.

Frank Roberts

May 3, 2006
Hi Higgins180! I hope this may be what you are looking for. This guy has several suggestions that are real food for thought and easy to apply.

It took me forever to find it again, for you, so I REALLY hope it helps!!!

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Butcher of Strats

Most Honored Senior Member
Feb 28, 2022
Do you ever play along with records?
Many of us either learned lead/ single note playing that way or else broadened our initial smaller repertoire of cliche "licks" into more of an ability to come up with lines on the fly that fit and supported whatever song was playing.

One way or another, lines based on scales must be fitted to music in ways that do not sound like scales.
Do that sooner rather than later and you will not have to break habits that keep you sounding like you are still practicing scales when playing music.

Some folks choose to play along with songs on the radio to ensure the broadest range and not get stuck in comfort zone playing.
I find stuff like classic Soul more broadening than classic Rock & Blues which may be just endless rehashing of Chuck Berry!

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