Short Lick Primer, Vol. 1

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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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.

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