How to Think Like A Lead Guitarist

Part 1: Finding Your Frequency

So you've been playing acoustic for a few years but the worship leader has asked you to take up lead guitar to fill the need. You agree confidently thinking it can't be much different than acoustic.  Turns out you're wrong. Sure you can learn the exact parts on our song lessons, but if you don't know what songs you are doing in advance, you need to understand how to approach a song as a lead guitarist. In this four part series, I'm going to give you some philosophical approaches to playing lead guitar for worship as well as practical examples so you can see how the pros do it. 

Find Your Frequency

You may have seen my Tasty Tips series on YouTube but I can't stress enough how important this is. The thing that makes a song sound full is a full frequency range. One of the biggest mistakes lead guitarists make is trampling all over a range that is already filled by another instrument. Instead of sounding epic, it just sounds like mud. So how do you find your range? Look and listen to what all the other instruments are doing. Unless your bass player is playing high up the neck, you usually don't have to worry about them. To stay clear of your acoustic guitarist, watch where they are chording on the the neck and steer clear of that area.  Keyboardists can be tricky because they have so much range on their instrument, but simply talking it over and finding out where on the keyboard they're playing should help you out. Usually you're safe if you focus on the the top 4 strings (D,G,B,E) higher than the 5th fret. It's kind of like a safe zone.  

Put It To Use

I've included some songs below that utilize higher frequency playing. Notice the range of the riffs in "At The Cross", the arpeggios in the first verse of "Depths" and the bridge of "Come To The Water".  You can also check out the triad lesson which will teach you 3 string chord shapes that you can move around the neck. Give those a try and then try applying them to a few other lessons. If you run into trouble, I'll take questions in the comments.


Jason Houtsma serves as Worship Pastor for Mosaic Church in Bellingham, WA, Husband to Alli, Father to Bjorn and Asher, and guitar instructor for

How to Think Like A Lead Guitarist

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Lead guitar

I can't over emphasize how important knowing the triads are, they will help tremendously.

Such a simple thing

but you're right. It opens up a whole new world.

Are you telepathic?

You've hit my exact situation, and I'm sure it happens commonly. Same instrument, just electric, right? Um, no. To do it right, you have to relearn the neck to do it well. Excellent topic-I'm waiting to hear what else you have to discuss!
I've already learned a lot from your lessons and appreciate what you do on this site. Understanding why and how is even more important than chipping away at each song.

Love your site (and insight)!!

I stumbled upon your site from a google search.
I love how you break everything down so nicely. I had originally been checking out only acoustic but I clicked on some lead guitar sections. You make it seem as if anyone can pick it up. I was so encouraged that I've purchased an Epiphone Les Paul, Ebow, IPB10 digital effects pedal board and am learning some of my favorites. Thank you so much for your dummying down these lessons so even a guy like me thinks it's possible.
You sir rock!!

No dummies here!

You're learning the parts the way they're meant to be played so give yourself some credit. You rock for taking on new material and stepping outside your comfort zone. Keep it up!