I've pretty much spent my time for the last 6 months getting the 5 minor pentatonic shapes and 7 major scale shapes (I only know 5 at this point) under my fingers. Trying to get the notes I can use so I can start to work on my soloing.
So I noodle around the shapes periodically come up with something I think sounds good until I hear it back then I think it's just lame/shitty.
I learned the solo to You Shook Me All Night Long this week - arguably one of the best rock-n-roll solos ever. I listen to that and I look at the pentatonic shapes in use and I'm thinking "I see that - why doesn't my stuff sound 'good' ??"
I realize now the downfall of approaching the guitar from a near pure academic perspective - I know lots of stuff (probably less than most here lol!) but I can't put it to the fretboard. And I have no phrasing skills at all - I just wander through the shapes mostly ascending/descending with little distance between intervals - everything just sounds flat.
I'm looking for ways to improve my phrasing and I'm thinking that the best things I could do would be:
1. Play more music instead of playing exercises
2. Academically keep working the scale shapes with an added emphasis on increasing the interval distance between notes to get out of the "just going through the shape top to bottom" mode of thinking.
3. More bends/vibrato/slides being careful not to over do it.
Any other ideas to work on?
Stop playing straight scales for a while. You're mad because your playing sounds academic, but you're practicing academically. There's merit to what you are working at - but limit the time in "academic mode" and move to "feel mode." Listen to how the various intervals fit into chords in a progression as you're playing.
When you do practice scales - STOP at the tonic note (e.g. if you're playing eighths, give the tonic a quarter or half note). Also try stopping at any "flavor" notes - in pentatonic minor that would include the minor third interval, and don't forget to flirt with the passing tone between the fourth and fifth (THE DEVIL NOTE, SON).
Try moving through the scales in patterns - up three, down two, up three, down two... or skip one up, come down one, skip one up, come down one...
Definitely practice bends. You can't over do this. Bend slowly. Hear the transition from one interval to the next and learn which ones sound shit and which sound awesome. Learn the most important ones - for example, the b7 interval bent up to the tonic. Or bending to/from the 3rd interval.
Food for thought. You've made the patterns fall more easily under your fingers - now learn some music and allow your fingers to take you away on autopilot. That's the point of exercises - liberating your hands from your brain. So now it's time to feed your brain!