We all know a great lick when we hear one—Jimmy Page’s solo breaks in “Whole Lotta Love” and Mark Knopfler’s blistering triads in “Sultans of Swing,” for example.
Moments like these grab your attention and aurally brand your ears forever.
Or, sometimes it acts more subliminally: You suddenly find yourself playing a certain lick over and over again, wondering, Where have I heard this before?
Through the years, these licks have evolved into a vocabulary for the guitar. And like great writers who are always able to find the right word to make a point, great guitarists always have that essential lick at their disposal to express, in the moment, what they’re feeling. And whereas the best writers are able to string those words together to form remarkable prose, the best guitarists link their licks to form living, breathing, musical statements.
Today, we bring you this slippery Mixolydian lick in the vein of the late, great Duane Allman.
Origin: Prior to his passing in 1971, Duane Allman produced some of the greatest rock-flavored slide-guitar licks ever waxed. This beauty comes courtesy of that special evening in 1971 when ABB played Live at Fillmore East.
Theory: Mixolydian is the mode of the blues, particularly blues-rock, and Allman milks the D Mixolydian (D–E–F#–G–A–B–C) mode for all it’s worth in this slippery medium.
Playing Tip: Allman plied his slide in open E tuning on this one, but seeing as this lick occurs on the top two strings, you don’t need to retune your ax.