These five short licks are some of my favorites. Each of them is great for coming up with additional ideas, using their basic structure as a starting point. Most of them use more than one fingerboard position so if you are the type of player who gets caught in a 'box', or particular scale and can't get out, then these are the licks for you. Each lick is demonstrated and can be used in either in the key of E minor, or where you might typically play an E blues run.
This first lick has some hammer-ons and pull-offs in thirds, which yields an unusual sound. For good measure I toss in the Bb note and a double stop to maintain a bluesy feel.
Example 1: slow - MP3
I like the second example because halfway through the lick are some string skipping sections, but since it's a short lick you are not skippin' all over the place. Anytime there are melodic jumps in the line, it gives your ear a nice break when you have been playing too many notes right next to each other.
Example 2: slow - MP3
I love the idea of bending into notes from notes that are not in the scale. Usually you're talking half-step bends here, and for some reason half-step bends sound great when you add a bit of harmonics to the note. The example here was recorded with a bit of pick harmonics when the half-bent notes were struck, but it can be added to taste.
Example 3: slow - MP3
The fourth example is a blues lick that I like because of the jump required to hit the bent D note on the B string. Repeating the double stop makes the lick more memorable as well. Also, I like throwing in chromatic runs from time to time and, what do you know? The blues supports chromatic runs!
Example 4: slow - MP3
The fifth example is the most exotic of the licks I have here. The fact that the C note on the D string is used three times makes it sound like the old Japanese scale or something. I also find that when you are running up and down the neck without a purpose, one good way to get yourself to slow down is to start repeating notes three and four times. Sounds cool too. Worked for Mozart.
Example 5: slow - MP3
Just for fun, take these licks and turn them inside out to try and milk more ideas out of them. I would be interested to see some more variations on these themes. Good luck!
Dan McAvinchey is a guitarist and composer living in Raleigh, NC.
He believes every musician or composer has the power to write, record and release their own music.
His 1997 CD release on Guitar Nine was entitled "Guitar Haus".
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