Stuck in a rut with your practice regime? Need some inspiration? Lewis Turner takes us through 11 guitar licks, that use 11 different approaches over the same backing track.
…next time you sit down to practice, ask yourself; “Am I truly practicing, or just conditioning my muscle memory?”…
Firstly happy new year to all you Guitar Jar readers. It was the arrival of the New Year that inspired me to write this guitar lesson. New Year is often a time for reflection, setting goals, and of course New Year resolutions. I’m going to make a statement that not every one may agree with, or it may ring very true with others:
“Guitarists are very good at practicing things they are already good at…“
I truly believe this and I don’t think it applies to just guitarists. Here is my personal theory on practice; I don’t believe that sitting down and playing through repertoire that you know the back of your hand, or blazing up and down scales at 200bpm is really productive practice, because you can already do it! I think true practice should involve tackling something new and getting that feeling of being a beginner again.
So why don’t many players truly “practice”? The fact is that playing a song really well and racing up and down scales at 200bpm is good for your ego, it makes you feel good. When trying something new for the first time it can be a daunting process and really give that all important ego a knock.
Nobody wants to feel bad about themselves or their ability. However, those that are able to see beyond this and look at the bigger picture I think will become better players. It is only by pushing one’s self that we can truly understand our own potential. I often find that younger players are better equipped to go through this process rather than adults. Maybe it’s because as adults we become less used to that feeling of learning, or are less willing/have the time to start a whole new learning experience. It seems that the more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn!
About this lesson:
This lesson is based around the idea of trying something new. I have written 11 licks using 11 different approaches over the same backing track. The actual licks themselves aren’t that important, (as they don’t all suit the style of the backing track) but more the concept, and approach behind them.
I have outlined the thought process below for each lick, and I hope this might give you some inspiration or fresh ideas for putting something new into your own playing. Have a go at the licks, but more importantly understand the concepts and try to apply them in your own playing. I have also written the names of some players to check out who use the concepts explained in that lick.
- Lick #1: Ah minor pentatonic, the guitarist’s oldest friend! And with good reason. No matter how many other scales you know, going back to just good old minor pentatonic always sounds great! The idea behind this lick is not just confining yourself to one area of the fretboard. Here we have position shifts within the scale and string skips, which are a great way of adding interest to your lines. The lick is also played using 8th note triplets, and when coupled with a two note per string lick, gives a cool rhythmic displacement. So much going on in one little lick! Check out: Eric Johnson.
- Lick #2: This is a country style like. The new thing here is hybrid picking, which is used by many country players. This involves using the pick and fingers of your picking hand. Put together with a nice twangy tone it can give a real snap to your notes, as well as giving you the ability to play un-conventional lines a lot quicker and smoother. Be sure to follow the pick and finger recommendations on the tab for best results. Check out: Albert Lee, Danny Gatton.
- Lick #3: Applying different arpeggios is the concept behind this lick. The backing track is just a static C major vamp. This doesn’t give you much harmonic content to play around with. However, you can imply many different harmonies over a static chord. If one is familiar with the harmonised major scale (major, minor, minor, major, dominant, minor, diminished) then you can use all these arpeggios/triads and more. This little lick uses C Major 7, F Major 7, G7 and E minor 7 arpeggios to give a very modern sound, as all these chords are contained within C Major. Check out: Frank Gambale.
- Lick #4: Wide intervals are the future! They can add so much harmonic depth to your playing. This lick is based around 5ths and triads. You can practice any scales that you know in intervals such as; 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths, octaves, triads, and arpeggios. To play a scale in 3rds, play the first note then skip to the 3rd note, go back to the 2nd note and then skip a 3rd above that etc. This will really help you learn your scales inside out, and possibly show that you don’t know your scales as well as you may think, watch that delicate ego! Check out: Carl Verheyen.
- Lick #5: This lick also uses intervals most notably 6ths. However, the more important thing to notice in this lick is that we are using the Lydian mode. Lydian is the 4th mode of the major scale and is a major mode. It’s exactly the same as the major scale (or Ionian to give it its modal name) except that it has a raised 4th. Its construction is; 1,2,3,#4,5,6,7. In the case of C major this will give you an F# note. Lydian can give a really dreamy and melodic feel to your playing and is well worth experimenting with. Check out: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai.
- Lick #6: If you don’t have a whammy bar this lick won’t interest you much! The phrase is based around a B minor 7 flat 5, and E minor 9 arpeggio (the latter again implies a Lydian sound). I have played the whole phrase using the whammy bar. Try dipping the bar playing a note and letting it rise, this is called a scoop. If you have a floating trem you can also raise the pitch of the notes. I personally use the bar a lot as I find it can add so much depth and expression to your playing. Check out: Jeff Beck.
- Lick #7: Onto the fast stuff. The technique used mainly here is sweep picking. If you haven’t yet explored this technique it’s well worth a look. Even if you’re not interested in “Shredding” it will make your playing a whole lot more economical. This lick uses a 3 octave A minor triad with a right hand tap adding the root and then sliding to the 9th. Tapping and sliding is another really cool technique to try. The lick then goes up to a C major triad finishing with a right hand tap on the root with vibrato. When adding vibrato to a tap, it still comes from the picking hand not the tapping one. Check out: Vinnie Moore, John Petrucci.
- Lick #8: This is a multi finger tapping lick. I remember this technique taking me ages to get down; my picking hand fingers were so weak for tapping it was just like learning to play the guitar all over again! And as for that little finger… this lick also uses groupings of 5 or Quintuplets. I believe rhythm is the most important thing in music. If you refer to my article on “Progressive Techniques” I go into it in far more detail there. The phrase finishes with a tapped A minmaj7 arpeggio which gives it a bit of an “outside” sound due to the G# note. Check out: Ron Thal, Guthrie Govan.
- Lick #9: “There are no wrong notes, just badly played ones” a wise man once said. I think there is much truth in this statement. If you truly believe that the note is right then I think you can convey this to your audience, play in a restrained self conscious way then you won’t be so convincing. One can step outside the harmony to create tension as long as your resolution is strong. This is a concept that is used a great deal in jazz. This lick uses C Lydian #5 (A melodic minor), C Lydian and G super Locrian before making a strong resolution to a G note the 5th of C major. Try playing a minor pentatonic scale a semi tone above the root attempting to make it sound convincing, maybe make sure you are alone in the house before hand though! Check out: John Schofield, Robben Ford, Scott Henderson.
- Lick #10: This is a similar idea to lick #3 only using complete chords this time. This is a great trick especially if you are playing with just a bassist. Some of these aren’t strictly chords, but note clusters from the C major scale. Try using a little delay and chorus, with volume swells for a very effective haunting sound. Check out: Allan Holdsworth.
- Lick #11: Tapping doesn’t just have to mean playing fast licks. You can be really melodic and create wide intervallic lines. Try improvising just using tapping. Again this is very hard at the start as it requires you to look at two hands at once, but you can come up with lines that would be otherwise impossible to play in the conventional way. Check out: T.J Helmerich, Stanley Jordan.
|Resources for 11 Guitar Licks for 2011 – © Lewis Turner
|Guitar Jar Lesson – 11 Guitar Licks for 2011 (46KB pdf)
|Guitar Jar Lesson – 11 Guitar Licks for 2011 – Complete Track (2.1MB MP3)
|Guitar Jar Lesson – 11 Guitar Licks for 2011 – Backing Track (1.8MB MP3)
Enjoy playing through and learning from these licks, and next time you sit down to practice, ask yourself; “Am I truly practicing, or just conditioning my muscle memory?”
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