The Role of Lead Guitar in a Band – How to be a good Lead guitarist?

Lead guitar is one of the most popular role in the band because this role can often get more share in spotlight compared to other roles. Lead guitarists shine when the vocals are not singing or it’s time for them to unleash their solos. But it is important that you know the role of lead guitar in a band because they can either make or break your career.

There’s a lot of lead guitarist out there and you can have a lot of choice rather than sticking to a player, even if he is not good, because there is no one who can fill his spot. But I found that most lead guitarist doesn’t even know how to play with a band and they just want to get a spotlight.

For me, that can be a problem. Having this kind of attitude will destroy your band over time because he will not let anyone take a spotlight. For example, if the rhythm guitarist is doing an awesome riff and people are looking at him, he will do it as well and that can destroy the rhythm of your music. That’s why, I made this article so that you can know the role of Lead Guitar in a band.

A guitar player using a Fender telecaster guitar and doing some lead lines

The Role of Lead Guitar in a band

1. Add Embellishment to the Rhythm

In my example above, a bad lead guitarist will try to copy what the rhythm guitarist is doing. Adding embellishment is what a good lead guitarist do. You add something to the rhythm by either adding in-between notes or just doing some cool licks that is complementing what the rhythm section is doing.

Your job is not to provide rhythm but to play with the rhythm. They are providing a good foothold for your licks to sound better. So before doing a lick, make sure that you coordinated it to them so that you’ll know if what you’ve done will work as a whole.

2. Unleash a Brilliant Solo

This is the moment of every lead guitarist. When the band goes to instrumental, mostly in popular songs the lead guitarist will play a solo. This will either result in “you’ve nailed it” or “you’re doomed” moment.

When doing a solo, remember that your goal is to uplift what your music is saying. If your song has a sad emotion, play some emotional melodic solo that can bring out the sadness in the hearts of the listener. You should not serve yourself and unleash all your skills in one song. You should serve the music and play what will work for the song.

I find many lead guitarist who are getting full of themselves and wants to show their skills whenever there is a chance. The greatness of a lead guitarist is shown when he knows what is the right thing to do at every moment. So don’t show your skills, do what the song requires.

Some tips you need to know if you are a lead guitarist

1. Don’t Overdo it

One problem that every lead guitarists have is that they overplay and fills up a lot of space that they either destroy the rhythm or take the part of the vocals. This can be solved if you are not going to do improvisation all the time. Improvisation is not bad because if you are really into it, some remarkable lead lines can be birthed out of it, but because you are into it so much, sometimes you can’t control it and you end up overplaying.

I highly suggest that you prepare some lead lines beforehand rather than improvising. Do the improvisation on your rehearsals and when you like something, remember that and master it then do it on the performance without adding anything. That way you won’t overplay and your bandmates know when you’ll end because they already know your solo.

Remember always that you are not serving yourself, but the music. You should play what the music requires and unleashing your very fast lead lines cannot help in those sad and emotional songs. Again, play what the music requires.

2. Don’t get in the way of the vocals

One purpose of music is to deliver a message and it is often done by the vocals because he is the one delivering the lyrics. If you get in the way and the people didn’t understand the lyrics anymore, then you fail to do the very purpose of music.

You should not fill-in when your vocals is singing, fill-in when he is not singing to add embellishment to the rest time of your vocals. Many lead guitarist tend to add some lead lines at every time of the song and it is just distracting. Don’t do that please.

3. Use Proper Effects

Everybody wants those solid, growling, distorted solos with just the right amount of delay or reverb. Mastering the guitar effects can boost the beauty of your solos. Most of the time, doing your lead lines on clean sound can sound tiny and lacking but just adding overdrive effect, it will sound fantastic.

Knowing the right effects at the right song is a must-skill for every lead guitarists. Investing on the right gear can also help so you should also study and research for different guitar gears out there. Analog pedals vs Multieffects, Overdrive or distortion, Analog delay or digital delay, a lot of things should be studied and you should start now.

4. There are times that you won’t be playing anything

Yes. You read that right. Common habit of any musician is not stopping to play even when he is not needed. There will be specific time that you’ll gonna stand there and wait for your part to come. The rhythm section is already complete because of the presence of the rhythm guitar, but if you are the only guitarist then you should play the rhythm parts.

This is where your creativity comes to action. In those parts that you should not play, you can still add something. As long as your embellishment is complementing the rhythm, then you can continue doing that. Still, I suggest that you don’t overdo it since if not playing at certain times can improve your dynamics dramatically. .

5. Don’t play what the rhythm guitar is playing

Copying your rhythm guitarist will result to louder volume at specific range. If you have too much volume at certain frequency, it will be cut by your sound man. You should try to add something on different frequency by picking a spot where no one is playing.

This is the reason why you must listen to your bandmates so that your sound will distributed at different frequencies. Imagine you are all playing at low end frequencies, the bass will be cut and your high end will be tinny which is not ideal for a good music.

6. Using one electric guitar is not enough if playing a lot of genre

Who doesn’t want a lot of guitars? While it is ideal to have a lot of guitars, the reality is a little hard since having a lot of guitars means spending a lot of money. I know that you have spent a lot of time finding your first electric guitar. An electric guitar that is good for every genre but I know that you failed looking for that.

Investing in another guitar should be one of your goals. Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul has a lot of difference and are good on their own way. Acquiring both will definitely give you a wide range of genres you can play that will sound top notch. Legends may have their own signature models that they use all the time but I’m sure that some time of their life, they used another guitar.

7. Listen carefully to your bandmates

Your role is to add beauty to what they are doing, so you should be focusing on what they are doing and creatively add something to it. Doing something different will result to a very complicated, unpleasant performance. Don’t one-up what they are doing, instead, know the foundation (rhythm) and from there, do something creative.

8. Check your tune always

This should be a habit of yours. Bending your strings can make the string out of tune faster so you should check it out when you have a chance. When your part is not yet coming, try to check your tune.

9. Change your strings regularly

When you play a lot of times, your string will deteriorate faster. You should study ways on how to prolong it, like washing your hands before playing and wiping it with a clean cloth. The life of the string might be prolonged but it is not forever. Change it when it sounds lifeless already.

Final Thoughts

Lead Guitar is a good role that requires lots of creativity by the player. Without creativity, the lead guitarist will end up copying the rhythm which is not good as stated above. When your lead guitarist knows how to work with the band, your music will surely be beautiful.

If you have some questions regarding the role of Lead Guitar in a band, leave it in the comment box and I will gladly answer you.

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