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Old 04-03-2016, 04:21 PM   #1
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Licks and coming up with new ones

So this is the problem that I need help with. I know a few scales but I really have problems coming up with licks of my own. I know techniques like hammer ons, pull offs and bending so that is not a problem. I can even do tapping The problem is that when I look up licks they are usually all in the first box of any minor scale. I can never really find any outside the first minor pentatonic box. Also I can't really come up with my own licks despite knowing entire scales which is kinda embarressing. Coming up with my own licks is something I need advice on a lot if you could give any Could you give me some tips for coming up with new licks or if you have any? links to any good one for me that are in different positions of the scales could you show me please?

Thank you!

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Old 04-03-2016, 05:09 PM   #2
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Maybe you should start jamming along to some backing tracks and freeing yourself from licks. Playing a solo isn't stringing licks together. It's more like talking. At least that's what Roben Ford says.
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Old 04-03-2016, 05:22 PM   #3
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It doesn't really matter that all of the licks you have learned are in one position. You can play them in any position. Actually, that could be a good exercise - how to play the same lick in a different position?

If you want to learn new licks, learn to play other people's solos. That's the best way.

And as said above, solos aren't just a bunch of licks played one after another. That will most of the time result in a very generic sounding solo.

How to come up with your own licks? Well, just listen to the backing track and try singing something over it. What you sing may not necessarily be an actual "lick", but that doesn't really matter (as I said, a good solo is not just licks played one after another). Using your ears is always important. When you sing, you are free from muscle memory and scales and all that. That may help you with coming up with something that you wouldn't come up with on guitar. And that way you can make sure that your playing doesn't sound like generic guitar playing.
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Old 04-03-2016, 06:30 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by MaggaraMarine
It doesn't really matter that all of the licks you have learned are in one position. You can play them in any position. Actually, that could be a good exercise - how to play the same lick in a different position?

that's what i was going to say as well as that a lot of licks are first position because a lot of solos are first position. even (maybe especially) some of the really good ones.

also taking those licks and playing them every possible way by reorganising the order of the notes, or making one note longer or others shorter can work. also use different dynamics and embellishments (maybe pick instead of legato, add vibrato where there wasn't, make a quick bend a gradual bend, and vice-versa, etc. etc. etc.).

get as much money as you can for the old rope if you know one lick, with a few tricks you can turn than one lick into maybe 5 licks.
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Old 04-04-2016, 12:11 AM   #5
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At least 5. Maybe 5 million.

Improvising isn't about having a bunch of cool licks you whip out when it's solo time, that's not the skill you want to train.

You want to train the ability to develop clear coherent ideas over chord changes.
"There are two styles of music. Good music and bad music." -Duke Ellington

"If you really think about it, the guitar is a pointless instrument." - Robert Fripp
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Old 04-04-2016, 06:32 AM   #6
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Learn some MELODIES. You know, stuff that singers sing.
Stop thinking about techniques (hammer-ons etc), scales and positions, and start thinking about melodic phrasing and rhythm. You need to absorb some vocabulary.

You're saying you know enough about hammers and nails to be able to bang a couple of pieces of wood together, but somehow it never ends up looking like a chair!

Or - closer to home - you know a few words of this foreign language, but you can't string sensible sentences together. Like I say, you need the vocabulary. The grammar too, but mainly the vocab. You have to listen and learn to get that, it doesn't come from inside your head. Or rather, it does, but only once you've crammed enough stuff in there to begin with.

Check this out:

- especially from around 2:15

More on that language here:

Of course, he's talking specifically about jazz, rather than rock or blues, but the same principle applies. Just like jazz, rock and blues have their own languages. It's a simpler language in many ways (not so involved harmonically), but it's still about creating appropriate sounds, based on what you've heard in that style of music. "Make it sound like this."

Your technical skills and fretboard knowledge are only the tools you need. You may need to improve those tools, but just doing that won't make you a better improviser.

Last edited by jongtr : 04-04-2016 at 06:36 AM.
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Old 04-04-2016, 07:33 AM   #7
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There's a lot of great advice on here so far. It should really help you out. I usually like to think about music as a language, with an alphabet (notes, rhythms), vocabulary (chords, melodic patterns, rhythm patterns, etc.), and a grammar (music theory). Like any language, people could learn all of the same information but not speak it the same way. And few people (if any) actually speak using perfect grammar. That's what makes language interesting and rich. So it is with music. With that in mind, try these steps to develop your lick-based soloing:

1. Learn one or two lick from your favorite guitarist. Get very comfortable with it so that you can include it in your own improvisations. This will take a lot of trial and error so be patient and take your time.

2. When you feel somewhat comfortable with that (don't try to master it at this point-just go with familiarity), try developing the lick in different ways. Here is a link to a sheet that I use with my students to help them make a lick there own.


It will help you figure out how to turn licks upside down, backwards, and upside down AND backwards. There are many more ways to develop a lick but these are good ones to get you started.

3. Work through each of the new licks as well as well as the original though many different chord progressions to hear how the licks sound. You many find that you have to change notes or alter the lick in some way to get it to fit with the particular chord. That's what you want. The more you can figure out how to vary a lick in different contexts, the easier it is to generate ideas on the spot. Make note of these variations.

4. This is generally an unpopular solution among guitarists, but I also strongly recommend learning how to read music. Just like any language, having a visual representation of how the music of a given song sounds, it makes it a lot easier to understand the things we hear and incorporate them into our own expression. As for improvising, seeing how melodies can work, helps generate ideas as well. Learning to read helped my overall playing immensely.

In short, it's pretty simple to spin a short lick into a lot of music. It takes time and dedication but the exploration can be really exciting as you discover new sounds. Keep at it and good luck!
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Old 04-04-2016, 11:51 AM   #8
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There's always the classic "learn licks from other instruments" answer, especially the jazz and country instruments, but I'm not the biggest fan of that. I would say if anything, try picking up some guitar licks from genres you don't play since it will give you access to concepts that are completely new to you while still being directly transferable (as opposed to sax, keyboard, banjo, and pedal steel licks which often don't work as well on guitar as some would have you believe).
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Old 04-04-2016, 05:58 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Jet Penguin
(a) At least 5. Maybe 5 million.

(b) Improvising isn't about having a bunch of cool licks you whip out when it's solo time, that's not the skill you want to train.

You want to train the ability to develop clear coherent ideas over chord changes.

(a) Yeah definitely.

(b) yeah definitely. it's not all (or even mainly) licks, as MM said. plenty of classic solos (talking rock here) will have a lot of licks but even in that instance they sound best when they really fit the music. You (the person listening, I mean) can kind of tell when you're just randomly linking licks together.
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Old 04-04-2016, 08:49 PM   #10
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The tips above are pretty good. Try to connect the patterns and licks you learn. It's best to write your own licks and incorporate them into your music.

I have a method I use for making licks and song ideas. First have a theme in mind for your piece. Now listen to lots of music that even vaguely relates to your theme (this should take at the very least 1 hour) along with some of your own music. Now immediately write down what comes to mind and listen to it a little while later. Even if the lick or phrases you wrote aren't that good, they're your and there for when you need them. The trick is that the songs/pieces used for inspiration will mix and mash in your brain into something fairly original.
"I don't know what you're trying to suggest. There's no shame in taking what you need to hold your position!"

Super Buu (DBZ) on assimilation (it could also apply to blues guitar and guitar soloing in general).
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Old 04-18-2016, 12:54 PM   #11
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My advice, some of which is posted above, is the following:

1) learn solos - Your output is only as good as your input. Blues is the obvious starting point for it's simplicity and it's the basis of all rock music. SRV and Albert King are good studies because it's easy to use what they play in other contexts. For metal or rock, learn some early Sabbath or Maiden - solos that are melodic and aren't too fast. Blues is really the entry point for improvising.

2) learn solos by ear - this is crucial and often overlooked - if you want to create, you need to be able to transpose what you hear in your head to the guitar - learning solos by ear is one of the key ingredients.

3) experiment and modify what you learn - take a lick that you like from a solo and mess with it - use it in another context, change the rhythm, play it faster or slower, take out one note, or add a a note, or keep the pattern but change the notes etc. you will never be good at creating if you don't tinker ALOT!

4) start improvising now - shut your brain off and just go for it - get into the habit of recording your improvisations. You will sometimes have like one good accidental lick in a 5 minute improv - re-learn that one lick and make it part of your repertoire - do this enough and you will build up a library of your own musical phrases. Don't be afraid to take risks and play gibberish.

5) start playing scales to a metronome, not for the purposes of speed, but of beat subdivision - play the same pattern, like A Minor, to a metronome set at 90bpm and play in in half notes, then quarter notes, then triplets , 8th notes etc. It's important the you go from one to the other so you can really interiorise the different rhythms and feel comfortable switching between them - good solos have rhythmic variety.

6) Curate your favorite solos: part of creating a style is making choices as to what you prefer and plagiarizing them - eventually you will outgrow those influences, but that exercise really helps give you perspective on what moves you as a musician. Joe Bonamassa and Eric Gales clearly ripoff Eric Johnson, who in turn clearly rips off Mahavishnu Orchestra's violin player with his middle eastern sounding phrases etc. SRV heavily takes from Hendrix and Albert King. Satriani combines Allan Holsdworth and Hendrix - Vai takes from Jimmy Page and Zappa etc. Wes Montgomery started out learning all of Charlie Christian's solos note for note.

Last edited by reverb66 : 04-18-2016 at 12:57 PM.
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