Learning to Lead: Blues & Rock

Skill Building Guitar Course from David Isaacs

A great guitar hook or solo can be the emotional peak of a song, especially for a guitar player! Great players have the touch, tone, and vocabulary to make a guitar speak and sing. Learn the basic vocabulary and musical concepts behind rock and blues lead guitar, and how to make the most of working with backing tracks.

39 Lessons

Complete course with step-by-step lessons and practice examples.


Course filmed with 6 cameras for the perfect angles.

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Full Course Breakdown

This course is a beginner’s introduction to lead guitar, and the approaches and tools you can use to become a confident melody player. Yes, you’ll learn some scales and finger patterns, but good lead playing is all about phrasing, tone, and feel. Learn how to make a powerful statement with just a few notes, or lay the groundwork for a full-on shred attack. If you’ve ever wanted to step up and soar like your heroes, this course is for you.


Learning to Lead: Series Introduction

Dave introduces us to his course, Learning to Lead, where we will learn things like the basic vocabulary and musical concepts behind rock and blues lead guitar, and how to make the most of working with backing tracks.

4:38 Runtime

0.0 Difficulty


Rhythm: The Pulse

Simply put, phrasing is learning to organize your ideas in time. When fleshing out this concept, learning how to play various note groupings, rhythmic subdivisions, and rhythm 'cells' is key. In this lesson, Dave starts us out by showing us how to execute rhythms on a single note in time against a track.

9:18 Runtime

1.5 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Pentatonic Patterns Part 1

What is a pentatonic scale, and why does it work so well in so much of the music we play? The answer to these and other questions are found in this lesson, as Dave shows us how to execute pentatonic fragments in time against a track.

9:35 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Phrasing: Shape and Line

Phrasing sometimes involves the shaping of intervallic contours in a line or scale. In this lesson, Dave takes a look at the rising and falling of intervals and the steps or jumps in scale degrees.

8:20 Runtime

2.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Pentatonic Patterns Part 2

Now we take a look at a new pentatonic formation, and how to duplicate melodic figures in different positions.

12:50 Runtime

0.0 Difficulty


Phrasing: Call and Response

When it comes to phrasing, the call and response technique is certainly foundational. In this lesson, Dave takes a look at the technique, specifically at how it is used in blues playing.

12:44 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Phrasing: Call and Response Part 2

Let's take that same call and response technique and use it across different positions. This helps create contrast in your lines, and an overall variety in your playing!

11:35 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Major Pentatonic

The major pentatonic is where we're headed now. Dave will show us two different ways to find this scale, as well as some variations between major and minor 'flavors'.

16:32 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Pentatonic Patterns 3

And now yet another pentatonic pattern! This lesson will focus on moving up the neck with more E minor pentatonic fragments.

11:15 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Improvising with E Minor Pentatonic

When learning to improvise, it's wise to learn to use fragments of scales in multiple positions. This gives you the most options when traversing the neck.

7:36 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Practical Theory: Chord Tones from Pentatonics

Don't let the word 'theory' scare you away! This lesson is a simple, practical, useful way to learn how to relate chords to scales, and it will serve you well down the road!

33:56 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


The 12 Bar Blues: Slow Change

In this lesson, Dave introduces us to the 12 bar blues. This 'slow change' pattern can be used in many situations. The 1-4-5, bass riffs, and offbeat shuffle are some of the concepts that we'll cover in this lesson.

19:23 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


The 12 Bar Blues: Quick Change

Now Dave shows us some moveable chord voicings that we can use in this 'quick change' 12 bar blues.

23:36 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Vocabulary: C Major Scale

Let's move to our first major scale. In this lesson we will learn the C major scale and concept of key, and the intervallic contruction of the scale. As we walk through the fingerings and patterns, we'll see that this scale give us more options for tension and release.

24:48 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Phrasing: Melodic Sequences

What is a melodic sequence? Dave explores this concept by looking closely at note groupings, and using repetitive sequences to organize melodic ideas.

15:20 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty

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Vocabulary: Melodic Sequences Over Chord Changes

Now let's apply what we learned about melodic sequences and use it over chord changes. We'll find that the opportunity to use chord tones and tension tones will add another dimension to our sequencing.

18:02 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Chord Tones in the Blues

In this lesson, Dave takes a look at the chord tones found in blues music. We use the slow change blues track again to learn our 7th chord arpeggios.

18:30 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Major Scales 2

The ultimate goal is to learn all of our scales in any position. That means 6 forms and variations, with multiple fingerings from any bass note. Whew! This may seem daunting, but Dave gets us going in this direction with this exercise where we will learn to climb the neck in the key of F.

11:04 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Scale Practice for Ear Training

Dave shows us how to map the neck by identifying scale degrees within each fingering. This helps us to use the scales in a practical way, improving our ear.

17:45 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: More Chord Tones and Transposition

With the availability of more chord tones with different fingerings, this now allows us to explore transposing. We start with transposing the exercise from lesson 17.

20:24 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Blue Note

The 'blue note' is a classic tonal variation that allows for great tension in a line, or use as a passing note. In this lesson, Dave shows us where this note is located, and how to use it best.

21:23 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The G Major Scale

Now it's time to look at the G major scale. Dave explains the concept of forming a cycle up the neck of the guitar, as well as using 3 scale forms from a single bass note.

19:25 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Chord Tones and Arpeggios

Chord tones can be played as arpeggios derived from the scale. Dave shows us how to map out the arpeggio fingerings, and how to use the arpeggios in a melodic way.

26:52 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Melodies from Chord Tones

In this lesson, Dave shows us how to derive melodies from chord tones by identifying the connecting notes. Then we wrap up the lesson learning a melodic use of those chord tones.

17:56 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Phrasing: Tension and Release

Tones found outside a given chord or scale can help create tension, and subsequently release when resolved. This can help create more interesting movement in our phrases and lines.

24:21 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Articulation: Slides and Slurs

Articulation techniques add nuance and dynamics to our guitar playing. In this lesson, Dave gets us started with some key articulation movements: slides and slurs.

29:08 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Natural Minor Scale

Dave takes a look at the natural minor scale, it's fingerings and it's parallel and relative relationships.

26:51 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Minor Blues

By combining pentatonics and the natural minor scale, we arrive at the minor blues. Dave shows us the minor blues progression, and how to add these scale combinations to get a great, classic sound.

24:07 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Articulation: String Bending

The next step in our articulation development is string bending. Acclimating our ear to quarter, half and whole step bends is key to mastering this technique.

32:14 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Harmonic Minor Scale

The harmonic minor scale can be easily played by slightly altering the natural minor scale. In this lesson Dave shows us that alteration, as well as some practical uses for this scale.

18:42 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Playing Over 1 and 5 in Minor

Now let's take the harmonic minor scale and apply it to chords. We'll identify key chord tones, then learn how to place it properly in our backing track.

17:16 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Dorian Mode

It's time now to explore the modes! Dave starts us with the Dorian mode. We look at two different ways to dervive the modes as well as analyzing some practical ways to improvise over Dorian.

12:39 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: The Mixolydian Mode

Next up is the Mixolydian mode. Derived from dominant 5th degree of the scale, Dave shows us how to access this scale and the best ways to use it in our improvisation.

14:26 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Vocabulary: D Major Mixed Modes

Dave now shows us a very cool way to mix Dorian and Mixolydian, creating unique tonal opportunities!

7:48 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Playing Changes

In this lesson, Dave shows us yet more melodic ways to use chord tones. Arpeggios are the key in this lesson!

31:24 Runtime

3.5 Difficulty


Vocabulary: Jazz up the Blues with Chromatics

Chromatics work great as passing tones and connectors in our playing. They also lend themselves to creating a 'jazzier' sound in our improvisation!

29:53 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Using the Abacus Concept to Change Keys

In this lesson, Dave teaches us the 'Abacus Concept' of changing keys.

10:19 Runtime

2.5 Difficulty


Building a Solo

A good solo tells a story as ideas unfold. We can use the scales and concepts that we've learned in previous lessons, but it's HOW we put them together that ultimately decide how good the solo will be! In this lesson we will learn to use rhythm, texture and dynamics, as well as a number of the melodic concepts we've learned in the series to create a cool solo!

14:58 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty


Free Improvisation

Free Improvisation is just that - you are free to move around the neck and the rhythmic universe without constraints. Learn how to organize your ideas through rhythm, dynamics and texture to create something that is uniquely yours!

9:12 Runtime

3.0 Difficulty

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Dave Isaacs Group

  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Playing since 1980
  • 390 lessons at JamPlay
Nashville-based Dave Isaacs has made a name for himself as one of Music City's top guitar instructors, working with both professional and aspiring songwriters and artists at his Music Row teaching studio. He is also an instructor in the music department at Tennessee State University and is the coordinator and artistic director of the annual TSU Guitar Summit.

A seasoned performer as well, Dave has released eight independent CDs and gigs steadily as a solo artist, bandleader, and sideman. He continues to write, record, and perform as well as arranging and producing projects for other artists.

Reviews & Feedback 91/100 with 255 ratings



A nice approach in exploring the guitar neck. Feels good!


All of the above choices! I was able to "improvise" and make it sound decent for the first time ever. Definitely following along with this one! Thank you!




Clear instructions - knows where he's going with this. Thank you


Dave is my favorite teacher.


David Isaacs is likable, competent, and every lesson is easy to understand. This goes for all of the lessons I have taken from Mr. Isaacs so far. I have been playing for a while but I am learning things I never knew before. When I get through


Systematic. Step wise. Forced me into the open position - good for me. Exercise sounds just like "music"" imagine that!?! Highly motivating


First time things started to actually make sense. Very good!!!!!


For 12 years I have searched for that one thing to teach me to play guitar like the greats. I do believe I have finally found what my brain and understanding is looking for. Small assignments to gradually put me on the path to understanding lea


Good lesson.


hes all over the place WOW how to remember


I consider this as one of the most important things in music, and few teachers talk about it.


I learned so much from this course. It was exactly what I needed. Dave gives the raw materials needed to play lead. His instructions that go beyond the technical stuff is invaluable. Can't say thank you enough. Amazing job!!!!


I like the concept and will hopefully rise to the “scale comfort” in order to take this course. I’m not there yet. But I like.


I took Dave's beginner course. I appreciate his patience that is reflected in his lessons! He makes it fun to learn. Kerry Winkler A thirty year beginner


It is so easy to understand David Isaacs. He is so clear, i.e, his voice and his explanation.


It seems like a great fundamentals course for lead


Just what I needed!



gary 1

Teacher is good and easy to understand


Thank you


This is a mind-opening listen


This looks what I've been looking for for some time!


This series of lessons are the best that I've seen in Jam Play. Thank you!