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How to Never Run Out of Licks Again

(Image credit: Cindy Moorhead)

Learning other people's licks is great, not to mention essential, as pretty much everyone reading this sentence can attest.

But, according to guitar instructor Claus Levin, one thing those licks don't teach you is how to create music on the spot.

"Of course, you can learn a lot of licks," Levin says in the clip, "but what you really end up with is, you become kind of a person who can put together pieces of a puzzle. And you can put them together in different ways, and that makes up a different puzzle each time."

But pretty soon, Levin asserts, it's going to seem like the same thing every time—the same pieces, the same puzzle, the same ol' stuff.

This is when you realize you're running out of things to play.

"What you really want to do, in order to break free of that, is to say, 'licks are a cool little study in how another person put together stuff. But to base your improvisation and solos on that isn't such a cool idea because you're basically playing the same solo over and over again'."

According to Levin, that's where sequences—yes, sequences—come to the rescue. Check out the video below to see Levin's ideas in action. Feel free to skip to 3:35 to get past everything we've covered above.

For more from Levin, check out his YouTube channel. You also can visit his lessons page at cequentia.com.

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Damian Fanelli
Damian Fanelli

Damian is Editor-in-Chief of Guitar World magazine. In past lives, he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor, and his non-Pulitzer-Prize-winning stories have appeared in Guitar Aficionado, Vintage Guitar, Total Guitar and countless other publications, including 13.7 metric tons of daily newspapers. He's written liner notes for major-label releases, including Stevie Ray Vaughan's 'The Complete Epic Recordings Collection' (Sony Legacy) and has interviewed everyone from Yngwie Malmsteen to Kevin Bacon (with a few memorable Eric Clapton and Ty Tabor chats thrown into the mix). Damian, a former member of Brooklyn's The Gas House Gorillas, was the sole guitarist in Mister Neutron, a trio that toured the U.S. and released three albums (one of which appears in the 2015 Disney film 'Tomorrowland' starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson). He's in two NYC-area bands and plays Teles with four-way switches, B-benders and semi-snazzy aftermarket pickups. He quotes Terry-Thomas twice daily.