Learning to play lead guitar the old school way is fun and easy. You will however need a record player and a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Back in the day before MP3 players and CD’s, before YouTube and Tabs, the most effective way to learn lead guitar solos was playing them by ear. For the novice lead guitarist this meant tape recording the lead guitar solo from the record and practicing it over and over until it was learned.

Learning To Play Lead Guitar From The Blues

If you’re a novice at lead guitar and not familiar with basic pentatonic scales, then the best place to learn them would be from old blues records. B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Albert King and Howlin’ Wolf are a few of the old time blues greats whose albums would be good starting points. You can find them at flea markets, garage sales and specialty music stores.

The blues scale is a five note ( pentatonic ) scale that is used as the basis for soloing in most forms of modern popular music. Learning the scale is one thing, applying it is another. The best way to learn how to apply the blues scale is from listening and copying other guitarists. Once you learn a number of lead guitar licks, you can form your own solos in whatever style of popular music you choose.

Using Record Albums When Learning To Play Lead Guitar

Yes, we’re talking vinyl 33 rpm record albums! You need a record player that has speeds of 16, 33, 45 and 78 rpms. For our purposes you’ll only be using the 16 and 33 rpm modes. The record player needs to be run into a receiver that has stereo output to 2 speakers.

Find a lead guitar solo from an album track that you want to learn to play. At first you should try finding a slow or mid-tempo lead guitar solo. Play the album track on your record player. Since the guitar is a higher pitched instrument you want to put the treble dial to maximum. Conversely, you will put the bass dial to minimum. Find which speaker the solo is prominent in, then put the balance to that speaker.

When you get to the lead guitar solo in the song, switch the phonograph speed to 16 rpm. This will effectively slow the lead guitar solo down and lower it a whole octave. You’ll be able to discern each note of the lead guitar solo at slow speed. All you have to do is play it on your guitar an octave higher.

Related: Types of guitars

Using a Reel-To-Reel Tape Recorder When Learning To Play Lead Guitar

Old time turntable motors weren’t made to be stopped and reversed by hand. So if you needed to hear a guitar phrase over again, you had to lift the needle off the record and hope you could place it back at the beginning of the phrase. This was near impossible. The solution: record the solo from the record onto a reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Recording a lead guitar solo off a record album is quite easy. Put the tape recorder’s microphone at the speaker where the lead guitar part is prominent. Play the album track and slow it down to 16 rpm just before the lead guitar solo starts. When the lead guitar solo comes on, record it onto the reel-to-reel tape recorder. It’s that easy!

Now, anytime you want to hear a lead guitar phrase again, just stop the tape recorder and move the playing reel back a little, then play it over again. Also, you can record many lead guitar solos onto one reel-to-reel tape.

Learning to play lead guitar by ear will train you to hear certain phrases and know instinctively how to duplicate them on the fretboard. Training the old school way will help you to recognize the patterns and licks that most guitarists use to create their masterpieces. Soon you will be creating your own!


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