Joe Robinson shows you 5 essential licks that demonstrate everything from fiery SRV-inspired blues-rock soloing to quirky, angular phrases.

Chops: Intermediate
Theory: Beginning
Lesson Overview:
• Develop rapid-fire blues-rock licks.
• Understand the importance of dynamics and accents.
• Create angular lines that are also melodic.

Click here to download MP3s and a printable PDF of this lesson’s notation.

Hi folks, it’s nice to be writing a lesson for PG! We'll look at five different licks that hopefully will spawn some ideas in your own playing. Each one focuses on a different technique or approach that I use a lot when improvising or composing. I’d recommend practicing these slowly and trying to focus on playing with dynamics as much as anything. Having dynamics within the notes of a phrase can really make it “bounce” a lot better and feel way more musical. And by accenting certain notes to create interesting subdivisions, you can make the line swing a number of different ways. When I play licks such as these, I’ll often change up the accents depending on how I want the phrase to sit. This is a concept I learned from watching and listening to drummers and how they will accent different strokes within a groove.

In terms of technique, I think it’s really important to keep checking yourself for arm and shoulder tension. When playing these examples, you may be using note combinations that feel a little alien, but if you walk through the ideas slowly and have a relaxed, light touch, you’ll be able to absorb them effectively.

If you have any questions about these licks, feel free to leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter.

I think it’s important to steal ideas from players you like, but even more so to figure out your own lines. Be creative! You don’t want to sound like every other bland, derivative player out there. Your highest achievement as a guitarist is to build a musical vocabulary entirely your own.

In Fig. 1 you can see a triplet-based idea with a bit of a blues-rock feel. Even though it’s written in 4/4 time, it does lie nicely in 7/4 as well. Give the first note of each phrase a SRV-style attack to really bring out the bend. Don’t be afraid to dig in and keep those pull-offs moving! I’m basically thinking in the standard blues scale shape, first in A (A–C–D–Eb–E–G) and then moving it up to C (C–Eb–F–Gb–G–Bb).

Sometimes I’m asked how I approach playing a phrase such as Fig. 2 that goes from the low to high end of the neck. It’s just a matter of learning the scales and practicing playing with a more linear approach. For example, learn a few positions of A Dorian (A–B–C–D–E–F#–G) and work on connecting them. Start slowly at first and then expand until you can tackle the entire neck. This phrase has a couple of cool little inflections and is a good example of something I might play over an Am groove. Check out the bluesy b3 bend in the third measure.

I love repeating a motif and moving notes around a central note or notes. Fig. 3 feels really comfortable to me for some reason, I guess it just has good economy of motion. This is an idea you can try on any string, in any scale, with any rhythmic combination, so have fun with it. Again, try different accents.

I came up with this line (Fig. 4) for a song of mine called “Piece of the Puzzle."" It’s a cool, quirky lick with a nice melodic quality. I feel like we can blow over all kinds of exercises to build technique, but when it comes to actually making music, you really want it to sound inspired and melodic and not coined by a technical approach.

I actually came up with this idea sitting on my couch watching Lost on Netflix and for some reason it just stuck with me. I used to always have a guitar in my hand when watching TV or riding the bus to school. Of course it’s invaluable to have practice time with silence and focus, but sometimes playing when your attention is elsewhere can be effective too.

The lick in Fig. 5 is the tag line from the title track of my Toe Jam EP. It starts in a D minor tonality—of course throwing in some bluesy b5 notes—and then moving to an E minor sound before returning to D.

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