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.
Regardless of what style music you play, it will do your ears and your chops good to go through each of these licks. Learn them, master them, and keep them on file for the next time you’re looking for just the right way to say what’s in your soul.
Today we bring you a crazy legato lick from Paul Gilbert. Hope you can pull it off! Get it? Legato? Pull-off?
Origin: Shred guitar extraordinaire Paul Gilbert comes up with some of the wackiest yet coolest guitar licks imaginable. This one features some crazy chromaticism and lots of legato.
Theory: The lick is a bluesy combination of the E Mixolydian and blues scales (E–F#–G–A–Bb–B–C#–D).
Playing Tip: This lick sounds very fluid when pulled off properly, so work to achieve even 16th notes, being careful not to rush the pull-off sequences.