Last week we were talking about jams with two guitars and how you can get the most out of yourself when you accompany a song with your guitar while playing lead guitar, when the other guitarist is playing rhythm. Today I want to take you on a ride to lead-guitar-improvisation-university!
We’re not talking about straight solos here, but on the lead guitar itself – the pure riffs and licks that fill the space in between the lines of the lyrics!
Let’s listen to how the masters do it and focus on some of the songs with the best lead guitar accompany part. You are in for a ride that will get your chakras vibrating and get some catchy riffs stuck in your head for the next few days.
All these songs are truly great even regardless of the lead guitar that is improvising along it. If you do not know them, take a few minutes and listen, and see the examples of a song that is taken to the next level with the exact right touches of guitar licks, riffs, and phrases.
10 Songs with a Fascinating Lead Guitar Accompany:
10 – Otis Redding – Sittin’ on the Dock of The Bay
My favorite 60’s soul piece features light, but funky touches of electric guitar that show how you can add so much to a song even when you do it subtly. The piano here also gives light support to take the song up a notch. I once played this song at an open-mic in St. Louis, Missouri and was so happy to listen to how the lead guitarist by my side knew this part note for note!
9 – Joan Osborne – What if God Was One of Us (1995)
Talking about recognizable riffs… The lightly-distorted lead guitar here is probably what made this song one of the biggest hits of the 90’s.
8 – Oasis – Don’t Look Back In Anger (1996)
Brit 90’s rock is just so fun! The electric lead guitar here is playing a lot over the chords themselves instead of randomly improvising, and sounds nothing short of EPIC. A pleasure to listen to and a great solo too.
In the official video you’ll hear the studio version in which the lead guitar is much more prominent. But the Manchester live version below also rocks. (tho you can barely hear the lead guitar…)
7 – The Rolling Stones – Wild Horses (Acoustic) (1995)
This emotional acoustic version for the original classic from 1971 features Ronnie Wood playing lead to Keith Richards‘ rhythm guitar. This video gives us a glimpse into the recording studio where you can catch some live lead guitar action from the fingers of a rock legend.
6 – Jack Johnson – Better Together (Hawaiian Version) (2007)
“Hawaiian version” it is! Two classical nylon string guitars here give you the island atmosphere at it’s best. Combine that with Jack Johnson’s sweet voice and you get a big smile all over your face, even if you’re not a big fan.
5 – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Freebird (1974)
This 9 minutes classic masterpiece is known among guitarists especially for the unreal 5 minutes-three-guitars-non-stop eargasmic solo it features. But today, I want your attention on the slide-guitar accompanying the vocal parts in the first 4 minutes of the song.
The Americana vibes are full-on, and you can feel the wind blowing in your face as you are riding a shiny Harley-Davidson on the endless interstates of the USA.
4 – Joe Bonamassa – Feelin’ Good (2009)
This 1965 uplifting and optimistic jazz piece by Nina Simone was covered by more than 40 artists, but the one that stands out for me is the cover by the blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa. The lead electric guitar here makes the song and the lyrics so powerful to the point of making you want to head outside and take over the world.
“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me. And I’m feelin’ good”!
3 – Tupac – Thugz Mansion (Acoustic) (2002)
You didn’t expect to see a rap song here huh? Well, this song was actually only released seven years after the death of the west-coast rap symbol, and features a BEAUTIFULLY done trio of 3 acoustic guitars. Highly recommended.
2 – Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge (1992)
No list like this can be full without John Frusciante, even though this is not the “classical” definition of playing lead guitar on a song that also has a strict rhythm guitar, since Frusciante plays BOTH guitar parts here. (similar to what Jimi Hendrix was doing) Playing all the chords and then funkying them all up with some of the sickest licks we’ve heard.
Learning this song is sure to take your guitar skills up a notch and teach you some very useful tricks you can fill your bag with.
Be sure to check out this absolutely amazing acoustic version from the Amsterdam streets in 1992.
1 – Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing (1978)
This one is first on the list for a reason. Mark Knopfler is one of the best improvisers to ever walk the face of this planet. The Rock N’ Roll spirits here just ooze out of every lick he plays, not to mention the two solos that still blow people away almost 40 years later.
Bonus: Ben Harper & Jack Johnson – High Tide Or Low Tide (Bob Marley Cover)
Two great acoustic artists get together and give us one of the prettiest Bob Marley covers I have ever listened to. Ben Harper is playing a slide guitar on his knees here and also sings great harmonies to back up Jack Johnson’s voice.
Have fun and let us know in the comments of other great lead-guitar showcases that you love. If you need to shape up your theory skills before you work on lead guitar yourself, check out this link right here for the best ways to do that.
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the songs. Peace!
*Originally posted in December ’14.
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