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6 ways to avoid cliches with your chord and lead guitar playing

Yvette Young
(Image credit: Howard Chen / Future)

Guitar lessons: It’s all too easy to default to everyday chords and licks. Here we’re looking at a few ways to give your playing a lift. A handful of blues shapes provide an authentic bed for some slick solos. Two- and three-note shapes sound great in soul music. Finally, we’re looking at a prog style riff in 7/8 time.

1. Blues rhythm 

tab

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This slow blues uses 9ths and 13ths to add colour to the more common 7ths found in blues. Keep pressure on the neck as you slide to keep the notes ringing.


2. Blues lead 

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For an authentic blues vibe we’re making sure to target notes from the backing chords here. Bar 1 finishes on a long A note over the A13 chord; bar 2 targets the 14th fret – the major 3rd F# note in the D13 chord. 

Bar 1 also includes the blues trick of targeting both the major and minor 3rd intervals (C and C# in A13).


3. Soul rhythm 

tab

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Chord voicings played on the top three strings provide a snap to accent the backbeats. They also don’t muddy things as full barre chords do.


4. Soul lead 

tab

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Soul lead is more about melody than slick licks. This example shows how you can use chord shapes to create a melody that follows the progression.


5. Progressive rock rhythm 

Tab

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Odd time signatures help you break away from clichéd 4/4 riffs. This line is in 7/8, so split the music into groups of four and three and count ‘1 2 3 4 1 2 3’ to keep time.


6. Progressive rock lead 

tab

(Image credit: Future)

Playing in 7/8 is challenging, so start by using sustained notes while you count the rhythm. As you get more comfortable add a few embellishments.

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