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Lead Guitar Building Blocks
Part 1
By Shawn Bradshaw

In this lesson I am going to show you 3 essential lead guitar building blocks. These are not full blown guitar licks, but some common picking and finger motions that you can use to build all kinds of ideas from. I will also show you how to apply these lead guitar fragments to a basic E minor pentatonic scale. The next lessons in this series will take you through other ways to expand these and other lead guitar building blocks into more complex licks.

Watch the video guitar lesson below for demonstrations of all of the examples and for additional insight into these lead guitar building blocks.

 

Lead Guitar Building Blocks Part 1
Video Guitar Lesson


To start I am going to use the same notes for all 3 of these lead guitar building blocks, just with different picking and hammer-on pull-off combinations. Above the tablature you will see the picking indicated. down pick is the symbol for picking down, and up pick is the symbol for picking up. I have also indicated a suggested left hand fingering under the tablature.

 

Lead Guitar Building Block Pattern #1

For the first building block pattern you are going to play the 2nd string 15th fret with your 3rd finger. Then pull-off to your 1st finger on the 2nd string 12th fret. And the last note is the 3rd string at the 14th fret with your 2nd finger. The picking that you will use for these building blocks is going to be very important. For this one you are going to pick up on the 2nd string, and down on the 3rd string. You are only picking once on each string because of the pull-off.

lead guitar building block 1

 

Lead Guitar Building Block Pattern #2

The next pattern is just going to be adding a note to pattern #1. You are going to play your 2nd string, 12th fret with your 1st finger. Then hammer-on to the 15th fret with your 3rd finger…then pull-off to the 12th fret again. And last you are going to play the 14th fret on the 3rd string. Picking is going to be exactly the same as pattern #1. You are going to pick up on the 2nd string, and up on the 3rd string.

lead guitar building block 2

 

Lead Guitar Building Block Pattern #3

The 3rd lead guitar building block is going to involve a little more picking, but is still the same 3 notes. You are going to play the 15th fret on the 2nd string with your 3rd finger…pull-off to your 1st finger at the 12 fret on the 2nd string. Then play the 14th fret on the 3rd string with your 2nd finger…then back to the 12th fret on the 2nd string. Again, the picking is going to be very important, so follow what is indicated above the tablature below.

lead guitar building block 3


Applying the patterns to an E minor pentatonic scale

Next we are going to apply the 3 patterns to a basic E minor pentatonic scale at the 12th fret. Below is a scale chart and the tablature for the scale we are going to use.

 

E Minor Pentatonic Scale - Tablature

E minor pentatonic scale tablature

 

E Minor Pentatonic Scale - Scale Grid

E minor pentatonic scale grid
* The numbers indicate the left hand fingering

 

Lead Guitar Building Block #1 out of the E Minor Pentatonic Scale

You will notice that the fingering I am using in the example is a little different than the one indicated for the scale. The reason for this is that when playing these lead guitar building blocks you are often using them in combination with bends. When bending strings your thumb is wrapped slightly around the neck of the guitar and using your 3rd finger instead of your 4th makes for a stronger combination. Most certainly practice these patterns using your 4th finger as well. I am just showing you the most common fingering used for these patterns.

Another thing that you will notice is that I did not include the 5th and 6th string combination. The reason is it is a little more awkward to play. Not that you should always avoid things that are awkward, it is just that as these patterns are used by many of your favorite guitar players, and in this particular scale form that combination is not common. If you are a completest, by all means practice that combination.

lead guitar building block 1 in the e minor pentatonic scale

 

Lead Guitar Building Block #2 out of the E Minor Pentatonic Scale

lead guitar building block 2 in the e minor pentatonic scale

 

Lead Guitar Building Block #3 out of the E Minor Pentatonic Scale

lead guitar building block 3 in the e minor pentatonic scale

 

Altering notes in the pattern

The whole concept of these 3 lead guitar building blocks is that you have 2 notes on the same string, and then 1 note on a lower string. One extra thing you might try out is to alter the lower of the 2 notes in the pattern. For example if you were playing the 1st pattern out of an e minor pentatonic scale on the 1st and 2nd strings....try playing the 12th fret on the 2nd string as your lower note. Since the minor pentatonic scale has 2 notes on each string, it is just a matter of swapping out one note in the pattern for the other note in the scale.

Pattern #1 with an altered lower note

lead guitar building block- variation 1

 

You may also try and play these patterns out of other pentatonic scale forms as well. Choose the strong string combinations. Not every combination of strings qualifies as a “strong combination”. If the fingering is awkward to play, then it probably is not going to be of much use to you out in the real world of playing lead guitar.

You can also use these patterns out of other scales in addition to the pentatonic. And we will look at some of those possibilities in future lessons.

Have Fun!
--Shawn