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.
We called upon our mighty stable of instructional writers to assemble these 101 Amazing Guitar Licks, spanning over eight decades and ranging from rock, metal, and blues to jazz, country and bluegrass. 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.
Origin: Okay, raise your hand if you’ve never seen Paul Gilbert’s renowned REH instructional videos. If your hand is in the air, go out and get them now, particularly the first one. This lick is a precious practice tool offered by Gilbert to work on your alternate picking chops.
Theory: This line is a four-note sequence using the 2nd through 5th scale diatonic scale degrees of the A minor scale. The tootsie-roll center of this lick is the double-back move back to E from D on the final 16th-note subdivision of beat 3 in measure 1 and on the second 16th note of beat 3 in measure 2.
Playing Tip: This is meant to be an alternate picking exercise. Practice using strict down-up-down-up picking, and then reverse it an to up-down-up-down pattern.
Check back tomorrow for Figure 40!