How To Improvise Using Nothing But Licks

Ever listened to a guitarist say "You don't need scales" or "Learning that is a waste fo time". Well, they aren't wrong, but they aren't right either.

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Ever listened to a guitarist say "You don't need scales" or "Learning that is a waste fo time". Well, they aren't wrong, but they aren't right either. If you ever listened to a lesson by Carl Verheyen or Robert Conti, you must have heard when they say the use no scales, they use lines, or licks if you will. I have studied this technique recently, and I think I got it pretty good so here it goes. Ok so first, we are not going to use any scales in this lesson, well, technically, we are going to depend entirely on licks. First, what is a lick? A lick is like a mini solo, it is a group of notes that guitarists usually use when they aren't getting inspired, they use this licks to play while thinking what to do next. An example of a lick can be something as simple as:
E/-------------12-----15-12--------------------------------------------------
B/---------------15-12-----15-12-------------------------------------12-15b17
G/----14b16-16-------------------14b16-14b16-14b16db14-12------12-14---------
D/-------------------------------------------------------14------------------
A/---------------------------------------------------------------------------
E/---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Or something more complicated like:
 
E/-----------------7-----9h12p9-14p12-17p14-------14-------------------------
B/-------------7-5--9/10--------------------17b19----17b19-17----14----------
G/----------6-------------------------------------------------16----16-14----
D/--------7---7-----------------------------------------------------------16-
A/------7--------------------------------------------------------------------
E/--2/5----------------------------------------------------------------------
 
E/---------------------------------------------------------------------------
B/-----------------------------------------------------2---------------------
G/-14\9h11---------------------------------------------2---------------------
D/---------11-----9\7p4h7p4---4------------------------2---------------------
A/------------9\7-----------7---7p4h7p4---4------------1---------------------
E/--------------------------------------7---7p5h7p5\2--2---------------------
As you see, a lick is like a mini solo, you can start a solo with it or even base an entire solo or melody around it. How these guys improvise so many solos and stuff based on this? The trick to master this technique is to write down all the licks you come up with, after you memorize them, start playin with them, play them in reverse, play them in different octaves, connect licks together, always try to cover as most area of the fretboard as you can, the more you cover, the better. Also, don't forget to know your theory, know about chords, relative chords, and of course, intervals (thirds, fourths, fifths, sixths, sevenths, ninths, elevenths, thirteenths...) To be able to master this technique, have the habit of coming up with at least 1 lick per day, each day you practice come up with 1 lick (minimum) and write it down. Get a notebook or something and write your licks there, be sure to write them down including over what chords you can use it, over what TYPE of chords you can use it, etc etc. Hope this lesson was useful and of course, keep playin, keep practicin and keep writing and memorizing those licks!

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    krypticguitar87
    how do you write licks with out using scales? and to understand theory and chords don't you need to know scales? and if you know the scales, aren't you subconsiencely using them? that being said, to know which licks can be played over what chords states that you must have some form of scale that you are basing the lick off of.... if not then how would you know what chords to play the lick over.... I really don't understand the point of this article, since it basically says write licks down then play them later..... oh yeah btw I've never heard a guitarist say "You don't need scales" or "Learning that is a waste of time"... it seems like you are trying to pass this off as a very common thing, and it really isn't
    munky2089
    You dont need to know scales to write licks. You need scales to understand them,same for solos
    krypticguitar87
    munky2089 wrote: You dont need to know scales to write licks. You need scales to understand them,same for solos
    I get that, but to understand the licks the way it's explained, you need to understand keys and scales..... you don't just randomly play some notes then decide "this sounds great over a Cdominate7 and also Dsus2".... you have to understand scales and keys to be able to judge that.....
    Get a notebook or something and write your licks there, be sure to write them down including over what chords you can use it, over what TYPE of chords you can use it, etc etc.
    This is what I'm refeering to when I say you have to know the scales to understand this, and if you know scales you are most likely going to be using them anyway.... even if you don't think you are.... I've tried to not play to a scale but when I'm done writing a riff I see that it plainly fits into one.... maybe not major/minor sometimes its harmonic minor and sometimes melodic minor. or some times just in the blues scale.... but every time I write a lick it ends up being part of a scale, adding to my point that this article is useless, and it doesn't tell me anything about how to create a song using only licks like it said it would....
    stoltobot
    I've never heard a guitarist say "You don't need scales" or "Learning that is a waste of time"
    How old are you/how long have you been playing the guitar? Growing up in the nineties I remember that being said commonly in interviews. I think you'll find that many great players don't know jack about scales. In the end it's your ear that decides whether a lick fits in the space you have it intended for. Here's an experiment for you: without any backup music noodle around on your guitar until you find something cool. Memorise it. Turn on the TV, the radio, your CD player, find whatever music you can, find its tempo and keep playing the lick, moving it upwards one-fret at a time until it finds the key. It won't work on every song (major/minor tonality also being a factor) but you will find a hell of a lot of places to stick your little lick.
    slowlybilly
    Ha. This is booboo, learn scales. yes, you may have some success without them, but how do you work in a band when you can't communicate to me what you're doin? I've played with those types before and wont even use them for a rythym or bass player now....communication is key...And I grew up in the nineties too, and no not a lot of them knew what they were doing, but if you add the music up, it fits into theory. Theory cannot hurt you....come on.