Writing leads

Joe Giumarello

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Nov 11, 2019
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Hey guys, I had a question on writing leads. Instead of just playing arpeggios, what are ways to develop outside the box leads? Would changing the chords to something like a Phrygian dominant, etc. or changing keys mid progression help? Also for solo writing, I know it should be a bunch of licks strung together but how do you know what fits the best? Is it trail and error? Thanks
 

Lewis Blake

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Nov 11, 2019
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Don’t force notes to get those “outside notes”. The best players, Syn included, use them to their fullest as they will resolve, and feel natural as part of the melody.
There’s no right or wrong; whether you write the leads around existing chords, change chords to give more creative options, or whatever, always go by what feels and sounds right and interesting for you! After all, your guitar is your voice, and your voice alone.
 

Lewis Blake

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From a more technical point of view off the back of that (to execute more interesting ideas) modal knowledge is key. You can hint at key changes by changing the mode of the scale you’re using over any appropriate chord, provided that it resolves.
Look for key notes within modes that define them compared to a natural major; i.e. Phrygian has the flat 2nd, 3rd, 6th, and those flavours will really emphasise the change over a minor chord, although you may find you don’t want to hang around some of them for too long (or maybe you will, there are no rules!)
 

Ed Seith

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HOW you do it is a matter of your own style, and that includes approaching it from different ways based on how the solo section and feel of the song as a whole lead you.
For me, if the song has a simpler part under the solo, I’ll usually loop the part and improv over it repeatedly until I find bits that I really like and gravitate to. They form the foundation, and then I fill in the “white space” the more I go.
If it’s a bit more complicated, or if there’s already a strong melody in the song to work from, I may start with permutations on that melody, finding the dominant notes of it (to my ear) and writing down or improv’ing there.
Other times, I may look at all the chords in the part, find a mode in the right key that contains all of them, and try to write or improv something around that. I don’t “know” the modes and stuff cold, so that’s actual research type stuff, then getting the patterns under my fingers.
One or a combination of those approaches usually yields something I’m satisfied with, at least for the moment.
 

Lewis Blake

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Oh, another fun technique that’ll definitely get you writing outside of your comfort shapes and scales: record the section you’re going to solo over, and write the main themes of the lead without a guitar. Try whistling it. All great solos have a sense of melody, and creating that melody away from your instrument will completely free you. Then, it’s just a case of figuring out where to play those notes, and boom! Something new and interesting.
 

Lewis Blake

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Example of all of the above from myself: https://youtu.be/-u9nMIm8gjQ?t=3m1s
I’m pretty pleased with how this came out – it’s got some weird flavours, and an overarching melody (in my opinion anyway!)
 

Lewis Blake

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Thank you mate! It’s just a combination of everything – hear it, feel it, make your fingers do it, and you’ll find your voice!
Also, mistakes are literally the best. Embrace every failure, and focus on WHY something didn’t work, and it’ll inform you to approach things differently the next time. Recording yourself (if you don’t already, of course!) and listening to every sharp bend, every sloppy lick, worts ‘n’ all will expose those weaker areas of playing, and you’ll see the results really quickly.
 

Ed Seith

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Such a great solo you made everyone throw up. Nice!
Seriously, though – very cool. Some odd flavorings in there. I like it.
 

Richard O'connor

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Nov 11, 2019
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I think most things have been said here but I thought I’d post this.
I posted a video of one of my original songs on here and got a message back from the man himself syn. Thought it was pretty useful. It read…
“My only suggestion would be to think in Motifs. Try singing something before you play it, that way it has a sense of melody, then you can shred around it. Try and keep a theme throughout and always “create with intent”.
 

Josh Wright

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Nov 11, 2019
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I like to start on the scale and then I find all the notes in the box, I like to make weird things so I use the seventh note a lot. You want every not to have a purpose though, when you play you are typically coveying an emotion and so you want to make sure your emotion shines, make it rough if you are angry, smooth if you are sad, etc.