Ear Training and Phrases Training

vocab16Lead Guitar Training

The rock and blues vocabulary is based on bending & wailing and lines which combine and contrast the major 3rd and minor 3rd. Although any and every note on the guitar can be bent at any time, in the modern vocabulary of lead guitar heavily involves playing two bending moves which are highly effective and clearly the most used. The two whole step bends found on strings 2 and 3, the ones you have been studying, are thought to be part of the most used minor pentatonic box pattern, the big kahuna one with the root on string six. The diagram at left is in the key of A and shows these two favorite notes of the pop, rock, funk, R&B & blues lead guitarist. These notes account for the overwhelming majority of licks and tricks employing bends.

The wailing quality heard in this type of lead playing comes from the fact that a bend is a way to smoothly, almost vocally raise the pitch of a note to the next note in the scale. In the diagram you can see that d is bent up to E and G is bent up to A. To wail, hit a regular fretted, not bent note with idea of bending that note up a whole step, when you reach the end of the whole step bend hit the fretted note on the next string, which is a whole step higher than where you started.

Bends and wails are commonly played in short repetitive bursts consisting of a few notes called clichés. These are the clichés you have been studying and are found in the playing of all big time lead guitarists. Bends, wails and clichés are systematically combined with minor pentatonic scale runs and chord tones to form more phrases, long licks and elaborate full length solos.

Stop And Go Method

In the exercises to follow you’ll find 5 exercises, one for each of the bending moves from the main lesson, and you will listen to cliche based musical phrases being played to you -that’s the ‘stop’ part of the stop and go method -it’s the part for extra careful listening. In the ‘go’ part of the exercise you will try to repeat the phrase exactly as you heard it -you’ll hear two bars of lead guitar work, followed by two bars of background only which is where you’ll play exactly what you’re heard in the previous two bars.

Bring your best concentration to the exercise and look at it as if you are trading solos with me, if you miss a note when trying to copy the solos you hear, don’t let it stop you, keep playing and try to turn your mistakes into a phrase or lick like the one I played but different. Alternatively, repeat the lick eith ypur own lirttle twist at the end.i can’t overstate the importance of this idea of letting your ear tell you when and what to play, it speaks to your ablity to be a musician and an improvisor. Music is after all often defined as ‘the art of hearing’.

Cliché Onevocab19In this example you’ll hear the G note, (string 3, fret 8) being bent up in pitch one whole step until it becomes an A note. Just as the bent note reaches its targeted pitch, A the bent second string is release and the fretted A (string 1, fret 5) is picked. Listen for and learn the vibrato technique, as sustained bent notes will sound much better and more in tune with vibrato. The best guitarists infuse all their playing with a solid beat so listen for and copy any slight variations in timing and rhythm.


vocab19ACliché Two

Here the G note (string 3, fret 8) is again being bent up to a picked A note but the quick addition of a C (string 1, fret 8) is played above the A”note to give a classic, cracking rock sound.

I have found this lick in countless famous guitar songs by such luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. The leadwork on this track consists of a 4 note series repeated over and over as is common in modern styles.


vocab19BCliché ThreeHere the wailing effect is produced the D (string 3, fret 7) and the E note (string 2, fret 5). The E note is the 5th of the key and is know for a very strong and free sound against the chord. I first found this lick in oldies but goodies like Johnnie B. Goode by the inimitable Chuck Berry but found this lick in countless old time rock and roll songs by everyone from Bo Diddly to The Beach Boys. No one lick belongs to any style and this great little two note bend can make a solo flow and seem coherant.


vocab19CCliché Four

Cliche 4 is simply the minor pentatonic scale passage, D – E – G, with a bend occuring between D and E.

This is also something I became aware of by listening to and copying classic blues tracks and by finding magazine articles and blues guitar books. I was not surprised to hear this idea as the opening bars to the solo for the Jimi Hendrix classic entitled Come On.


vocab19DCliché FiveThis is basicly a fast leap between the e and the a notes of the a7 chord sound used in the track. It really is a big money lick and create an impressive, exploding, crack of a chord

I first learned it by listening to and copying classic blues tracks and then found it on several Led Zeppelin recordings. Needless to say this idea can be heard in many legendary recordings such as the first few bars of the guitar solo in Roadhouse Blues by The Doors.



As you learn to incorporate these cliches try not to think of them as being carved in stone or sounding in any one particular way. In fact, you should try to play them slightly differently every time you play. The point is that these melodic devices are very much like simple vocabulary words or turns of speech. They themselves (the cliches) are not melodies or tunes of any sort but essential parts of the melodies and tunes you re making up. To drive the concept home repeat the playing exercises above only this time play a similar solo, one meant to be the musical answer to the recorded solo. By responding to and conversing with my recorded guitar you’re beginning to find and listen to your inner voice. This is called ‘trading licks’.

These cliches and melodic devices are certainly central and critical to all styles of rock, pop and blues. It would be a mistake however to take any one of the licks in the lesson or this study and assign it to one style or sub genre. Granted, most jazz players aren’t known for wankin’ and wailing on notes but the technique does however appear in lots of early jazz guitar recordings. The same point could be made concerning acoustic styles, its not common but you just can’t listen to hot shot acoustic players expecting not to hear a bend or two thrown in. It’s always up to the discretion and good taste of the individual player to use the bends in a musical and meaningful way.

Return To Lesson


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