Spicy Rock Licks

Learn a simple trick to add a outside/fusion flavour to your rock Llicks (without struggling with theory).

Ultimate Guitar
Hi guys!

This is my first lesson on this website, I hope you will enjoy this one!

Let's see a useful tip to spice up your soloing!

What we are trying to achieve here is an outside/fusion sound despite not having a deep knowledge of theory and harmony.

There is a couple of things we should talk about before to touch the main topic:

1. One of the methods our brain decodes music is by rhythm patterns and interval patterns (that's why you still recognize a song even if you change its key, because the intervals between the chords remains the same). So you can use this illusion to "overlook" the wrong notes, since you brain will justify them because of the pattern you are playing.

2. "Tension" and "Resolution" are your keywords. Even in your diatonic scale there are notes that create Tension (aka what sounds dissonant, unstable such as the 4th and 6th tone) and notes that resolve in a stable sound (like the 5Th tone or, obviously, the root). This will be more accentuated when you are play notes outside the key. What's important here is to constantly keep an eye on the resolution notes, so you can safely complete your licks!

So, what I'm basically saying is to pick up a fingering or a musical pattern and repeat it "randomly" on the fingerboard.

Something like this:

This lick is built on the A minor pentatonic scale (the key signature suggests A Dorian). As you can see from the red squared notes I simply took the fingering of the first two strings and repeated it along the fingerboard. The notes are changing but the intervals between them stay the same. The very last note is in key.

Here is another example (all the following examples are in A Dorian key. Feel free to - well. You should - make experiments using all the keys, positions and scales you know):

You never really play outside notes in this lick (except for the Eb, which is the 5b which add a cool bluesy feel), but the repeating pattern creates a nice unstable sound.

Here you go for another one:

This is interesting because your are repeating a three-notes pattern on sixteenth quadruplets moving one fret onward while changing group of strings.

Notice how it always ends on a resolution note.

This sounds nice on a transition from A7 to D

This last one includes sixteenth triplets:

I hope this concept could be clear!

Once you feel comfortable with this way of playing you should be able to enrich your guitar playing with more flavorful licks!

The examples above (and this approach) perfectly match on pretty up tempo rock funky music.


8 comments sorted by best / new / date

    These key signatures are wrong; it should be written as A minor with every F sharpened with an accidental. The dorian mode is a minor mode, and the key signature should reflect that, it's nothing more than a minor scale with an accidental.
    So in other words, to add outside fusion elements to your playing you need to be lazy with fingerings? This trick might work well in a specific context, but it also might sound horrible and uninspired. And this is just unnecessary boxing, it'd be a lot better to just understand the basics of borrowed tones, and not just randomly repeat patterns.
    Yes, your objection are totally grounded, but what I meant to suggest here is a quick trick to add something cool to a guitar lick.. It may work and it may not, of course! And I agree with you when you say that is better to understand what you are playing, but that's only a quick trick and doesn't want to replace an in depth approach to the Guitar!
    I understand your point, and to be fair this was quite a long and clean article, and I appreciate the fact that you took the time to write this. I still think that it's important to less advanced guitarists to understand some of the problems with this or any approach, and the reasons why certain approaches work the way they do.
    really. I play mostly minor pentatonic because its the easiest to improvise and jam almost continuously without sounding canned. So I take the riffs that sound cool and run w them. The sixteenth Triplets are cool. THanks !
    Agreed, you add accidentals to reflect the scale change. Key signatures are based on major contexts, also in conjunction to the "Relative Minor" But, hey. I thought it had some good points, music is fun, and this article reflects that. I think it was a good job.
    Thank you all for your comments! I really appreciated your objections and suggestions