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Basic Rock and Blues Licks

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Here are some of my favourite rock guitar licks I like to start students off with. I use these in my solos to this day and they never get old if used correctly. I have included some videos and TAB of these licks individually as well as an improvised solo at the bottom using these licks and / or permutations of these.  The last video is me just jamming over a backing track using these little licks with some Pentatonic and blues scales thrown in.

All these licks are repeated four times to create a musical phrase and then ended with a bend on the note G to A on the second string to finish things off nicely. This will add a ‘full-stop’ to the end of your musical ‘sentence’. I have recorded all videos to show three tempos: slow, medium and fast.

Before you start checking these out please make sure that your guitar is tuned. Also pay special attention to the bent notes as these should always be in tune otherwise the licks may sound like a cat giving birth… at best.

I have also included some famous songs where these licks can be heard. These are all great songs so you might as well listen to the whole tune and get to know them and eventually be able to play the whole thing!

All of these licks will appear in the key of A minor, but it is easy to transpose them to any other key using the first pentatonic shape. All of the following licks can be used as repeating patterns or as a transition towards different places musically.

So without further ado, let’s tune up and rock out!

 

Lick 1

This lick is one of the most commonly heard licks in rock and appears on every single guitar orientated rock and blues album ever recorded. This lick can be heard on everything from Chuck Berry to Jimi Hendrix to Metallica and everything in between and beyond.

The lick consists of only three notes, D, E and A.

  1. To begin this lick barre your index finger across the first two strings (E and B strings) on the 5th
  2. Now place your ring finger on the 7th fret, 3rd Make sure to put your middle finger behind the ring finger on the 3rd string as this finger will help support the bend that follows. It is always a good idea to support fingers with other available fingers whenever possible bending strings!
  3. Now push the 3rd string with the ring and middle finger up towards the ceiling making sure to maintain pressure into the fretboard as well otherwise the note will die out. The most important thing here is to bend the note a whole tone /full step. This means that the note D will sound like the note E on the 9th fret after the bend has been completed.
  4. After you have bent this note do NOT release it! You want to mute this note so that the note does not release back to the note D.
  5. Now pick the B string and then the E string.
  6. Repeat as necessary.

This lick in its purest form is played with a triplet rhythm but you can experiment to your hearts content!

This lick like I said can be heard on practically every guitar solo ever but here are a few examples:

Panama – Van Halen

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin

Nothing else matters – Metallica

Back in Black – AC/DC

Deep Purple

Stevie Ray Vaughan

 

Lick 2

This lick I first discovered while working out some Hendrix tunes and consequently discovered it lurking within many rock solos showing its face in various guises.

This particular lick uses the notes D, E and G and here’s how I play it normally.

  1. Start the lick like Lick 1 but there is no need to barre across the first two strings as the first string will not be used. Just place the ring finger on the 7th fret, 3rd string (with the middle finger behind to support with the forthcoming bend) and the index finger on the 5th fret, 2nd
  2. Now bend the 7th fret (D) up a whole tone to E, again muting the string after the bend is complete as to not have it released.
  3. Pick the 5th fret on the 2nd string and then on the same string play the 8th fret with your pinkie.
  4. Now the tricky bit… You have to pull-off back to the 5th fret after the 8th fret has been played. To do this, flick the pinkie towards the floor. (It is called a pull-off and not a ‘lift-off’ after all.) The 5th fret should now ring. Make sure that you keep things nice and quiet as far as other strings are concerned as with distortion the mistakes will sound very prominent.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

 

Lick 3

This is but a variation on Lick 2 in that the second note is placed on the 1st string as opposed to the second. (Note A instead of E)

You can as in Lick 1, barre your index finger across the first two strings, however I prefer moving my index finger as this creates a cleaner and more accurate sound without the notes tending to bleed into each other.

  1. Start the lick as in Lick 2.
  2. Again bend the 7th fret (D) up a whole tone to E, muting the string after the bend is complete as to not have it released.
  3. Pick the 5th fret on the FIRST string making sure as you lift your finger off the 3rd string to keep things nice and quiet.
  4. Pull off the 8th fret to the 5th fret on the 2nd string as in Lick 2.
  5. Repeat as necessary.

 

Permutations and variations

The most important thing about learning anything new on the guitar (and music) is to as quickly as possible make it your own! In other words, work it into your solos and riffs and then start making your own variations of it.

For instance you can take Lick 1 and add the pull-off found in  Licks 2 and 3 to create a five note hybrid lick. Not dissimilar to what is heard on Ozzy Osbourne’s recording of ‘Crazy Train’ with Randy Roads. The lick also features in the solo section of ‘The Forgotten part 2’ on Joe Satriani’s album, Flying in a blue dream.

 

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