Originally Posted by Cisc
These are two TOTALLY different questions, and really need to be addressed seperately, IMO.
Oh, by the way, welcome to the site.
For the later, learning how to play leads... Really this is just a matter of learning how to improvise melodies. There's two ways to work on this - first, really try to memorize the "sound" of various intervals, so when you're playing, you're not thinking "I want to hear the next note go up a bit, but not too
high" but rather "I want to hear a note a perfect 4th higher at the end of this line."
Next, sit down with a CD and work out some leads by guys who are really known for their melodic playing - David Gilmour comes to mind, and then since so much of lead guitar is rooted in techniques first developed by blues players, some blues stuff makes sense too - I'm on a huge Albert King kick, so I'd recommend starting there. Sit down and work out their solos - if you have to, grab some tabs, but also really listen to what they're doing. Then, figure out what key they're in, and spend some time thinking about how the lines that these guitarists are playing relate to to scale patterns you already know (and, just as importantly, how each line relates to the chord
it's being played over). In short, if you want to learn how to build a solo, start by looking at how other players do it.
Gradually work up to shreddier stuff - a lot of the shred guys borrow heavily from slower, more melodic stuff, so once you start to build a vocabulary of more melodic licks, you'll be able to see how shred players are using a lot of the same concepts, just executed a lot faster.
For technique, there's a ton of good resources on the net for free, so you can certainly find a lot of good practice material without paying a dime.
Rather than directing you to any particular resource (because I'm sure you're going to get a ton), I'll get into the philsophy behind good practice. Disclaimer: I'm a total hack myself, and pretty sloppy, but I at least have a pretty good idea why that's the case and as they say, 'those that can, do; those that can't, teach.'
Really, there are two aspects to successful practice - first, being able to identify technique gaps or weaknesses, and second, being able to isolate just that weakness, and find a way to practice it.
For example, I'm sure you've seen your typical chromatic drill, where you ascend 1-2-3-4 on a string, then 1-2-3-4 on the next, etc. I usually prtactice starting on the first fret and heaviest string, ascend up to the high E, and then shift up a position and descend 5-4-3-2 back down. Then, when I'm back on the low E or low B, I start ascendingh back up 3-4-5-6, etc.
When doing this, I've noticed I have a lot more trouble descending than ascending - the 1-2-3-4 stuff feels pretty smooth and even, but the 5-4-3-2 does not, and I can ascend much more cleanly than I can descend. I noticed two reason for this.
First, the picking motion is more natural for me when going from a thicker to a thinner string, since it's a downstroke on a downward shift. So, logically it follows that I needed to find a way to improve the way I move my picking hand, such that I can shift my hand upwards while doing a downstroke just as comfortably as shifting it downwards. Since that doesn't make mechanical sense (as a downstroke has downward momentum), I figured it made more sence to make the shift at the tail end of the upstroke
, coming off the fourth note on the string. I've been practicing that lately, playing pentatonic boxes so I'm only doing 2 notes per string and I'm forced to more a LOT more, paying closer attention to my hand positioning and working on making the move not in preparation for the downstroke on the first note played on the higher string, but rather during the upstroke coming off the previous string. It's obviously still a work in progress, but it's been helping, and I feel smoother and more accurate.
Second, I noticed that the fretting motion wasn't happening as smoothly either. Going back and forth, it seems that it's way easier for me to hit on 1h2h3h4 than it is for me to pull off 4p3p2p1. I.e - I'm having a fretting hand note articulation problem on top of an inefficient picking position transition. This one's a no brainer - the last couple days (I actually used to be pretty even, but I haven't had much time to play the last year or two so I've gotten sloppy and it's beginning to show) I've been basically "trilling" a 4-3-2-1 pulloff, over and over, starting at slow speeds and really focusing on crisp articulation, and then gradually speeding up my metronome and trying to keep it accurate.
So, what at first glance seemed like a picking problem (a problem with an alternate picking drill) was actually both a picking problem (shifting position) AND a fretting problem (pulloffs not being as accurate as hitons). I could have tried to work through it by doing the drill over and over again, but that just risks solidifying already bad habits. So, the better way to go is to spend some time thinking and observing, figure out WHY something is giving you trouble, and then come up with a drill designed just to test that skill, and that skill only.
I hope this helps... Really, practice is as much problem solving as it is repetition.