Short Lick Primer, Vol. 2

Here are four more short licks (five additional licks are in the Short Lick Primer, Volume 1) that 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, G major, or where you might typically play an E blues run.

The first lick originally evolved when I was determined to evolve from a three-fingered guitarist into a four-fingered guitarist. I forced myself to play this lick over and over using my little finger. That's why the intervals are all three frets apart, and it's also why the lick sounds the way it does. I wanted something that sounded cool, especially as my little finger developed and I could play it faster.

Example 1:


Example 1: slow - MP3
Example 1: quick - MP3

The second example is a descending lick where the character or sound of the lick kind of changes as it descends (and it about forces you to use your little finger). The second group of hammer-ons and pull-offs give you the impression that it will be a diminished lick, but the third group changes the sound to more of a major scale sound. The change adds a twist to what could easily be played as a standard "every-note-in-the-scale" type of descending lick.

Example 2:


Example 2: slow - MP3
Example 2: quick - MP3

The next example is another lick using some rapidly repeating notes, that ends with a very short chromatic flourish. If you can play licks with pedal notes quickly, you will be able to play this one with a lot of speed. I love using chromatic runs anytime I can get away with them, because it's a fairly painless way to introduce non-scale tones into a solo.

Example 3:


Example 3: slow - MP3
Example 3: quick - MP3

The fourth and final example is a simple lick made up of all double stops. You can play each double-stop with alternating up and down strokes, or use all down strokes, for a tougher sound. Be sure to whammy or shake that last double stop! Licks such as this are great if you have a tendancy to play only single-line solos (one note at a time). It's a great routine breaker to try and incorporate double-stops into the solo somewhere, to help simplify things just a tad, and to help you "put on the brakes" when you may be playing,, "...too many notes!"

Example 4:


Example 4: slow - MP3
Example 4: quick - MP3

I encourage you to use these licks as raw material in the process of making up some new licks of your own. The idea here is to get you busy inventing licks that feel comfortable underneath your own fingers. If you try to play some of these licks and make mistakes, listen to the mistakes! You may have just come up with a better, more interesting variation that will feel more natural to you. Remember, a lot of professional guitarists have developed their styles by trying to copy other guitarists, and failing! In the process of failing, they created their own unique style. Have fun!

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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