Lick of the Week

I've personally experienced how learning a single guitar lick can bust me out of a soloing rut, giving me fresh ideas and fresh insight as well. I hope the licks in this series help you do the same in your playing!

Make Progress

Every time I deeply learn a new lick, my playing takes at least one step forward. Yours will too. 

Multiply Usefulness

Practice new licks in different keys, tempos, and styles. Locate them in different scale patterns too, and watch their usefulness multiply!

Massive Fun

Watching your playing improve, and creating better music than before is tremendously fun and fulfilling. Enjoy the process!

The Stash!

Below you'll find every Lick of the Week. Sure, you can binge-watch these if you really want. But please don't. As soon as you find one that sounds cool to you - one that you'd like to be able to pull out of your hat at anytime during a solo, then stop, grab your guitar, and start really, deeply, learning that thing. 

How To Extract Maximum Benefit From A Lick

It's easy to learn a new lick and move on, and not let it have too much impact on your guitar playing. Unfortunately, loads of guitar players have fallen into the trap of learning intro lick after intro lick, and while they now know loads of intro licks, all that knowledge isn't accessible to them during a solo. 

There's a process we can take when learning licks to ensure that we can get the maximum benefit from each and every one. Even a very, very simple little two note lick can go through this process and yield great benefit. 

The best thing is, the process isn't hard, and done right, it should be a lot of fun

How To Learn A Guitar Lick
For Maximum Usefulness

  • Identify what key and scale pattern the lick is coming from. 
  • Work through the mechanics of the lick as slowly as necessary until you can play it accurately, even if it is still very slow.
  • Analyze the notes in the lick to determine if the lick is best played over a particular chord or chord change, or if it can be played pretty much anywhere. Most pentatonic licks can be played anywhere, though they may also sound optimal over a particular chord. 
  • Analyze the lick, determine what the starting note is, then look around your fretboard for another place where you might be able to play that sequence or arrangement of notes. For instance, if the lick is in Box 1, find the same starting note in Box 4, and work out how you might play that lick there. The fingering will be different, and they won't all work this way, but many will. If you can find 2-3 (or more) places to play that same lick in the same key, you've just massively improved its usefulness to you. Even more when you consider that you can now use this lick as a melodic theme in a solo, playing it in different locations low and high for increased dynamic range. 
  • If the lick is a "play anywhere" kind of lick, pick a favorite jam track in the appropriate key, and start working with the lick over it, getting familiar with how it sounds, how it feels, and how the rhythm of it fits into a bar. Let that lick be your primary theme for a solo - not your exclusive theme, but play something else then keep returning to the lick, allowing it to be used before and after all kinds of other licks that your normally use. Feel free to follow any tiny breeze of inspiration that comes to you while doing this - it could very well lead you to a variation of the lick that becomes your go-to standard. 
  • If the lick is a targeted, chord or change-specific lick, then find or make yourself a simple jam track to work with. If you don't have the skills to do a fancy track or a simple midi track, don't be discouraged. A simple voice recorder on your phone should work just fine for this. Play the appropriate chords - ideally with a drum track or click track to keep you on time - into your record, then play it back on a loop and practice practice practice! Once the lick feels comfortable, move to a proper jam track that includes this chord or change in it, and start working that lick into the context of your solo. 
  • Repeat this process with other jam tracks in different keys, tempos, feels and styles!

Yes, this WILL take you more than five minutes. It may take you an hour (or more!) to go through this whole thing with a particular lick, but I promise you, if you will follow through, then these licks will not only become super useful to you, you'll also remember them when you need to. You'll gain truly useful soloing vocabulary, and improve your fretboard knowledge at the same time. 

In short, your overall guitar playing will be improving!