Ranked: Best Reasons to Learn Guitar Licks

Guitar licks are one of the most important ideas that we have as players and the more licks we know, the better our phrasing and technique will be for every melody and solo we create...

Guitar licks are phrases (short musical ideas) which are made up of a series of notes that we both develop and then incorporate into our melodies and improvisations.

The guitar lick makes up a small part (or fragment) of an entire sections melody line or of an improvised solo. Good guitar licks can add real magic, excitement and drama to riffs, melodies and solos. So, learning a lot of them is extremely valuable.

Learning, memorizing, dissecting, rebuilding and incorporating licks into our playing is a vital investment of time in our guitar studies. This time spent will enhance, expand and upgrade our ability to phrase lines in many ways.

The variety of licks is infinite. They come in all shapes and sizes, styles, moods, tempos, timings, keys and levels of playing, so it’s important that you learn why and how to use them. 

Here at Creative Guitar I've developed a series in the FREE members area called, "QwikLicks," (users must be signed in to follow the above QwikLick hyper-link). 

This series breaks down all types of different licks by key, tonality, scale type and by guitar style. 

The result is a series of licks that you can understand and begin using right away. Sign into the members area and start studying the licks I've organized so far. 

There are over 2-dozen QwikLicks episodes ready for you to watch and learn from. And, every episode comes with a detailed PDF handout that you can print and then place right onto your music stand for easy study away from the computer.

Now, let’s take a look at the vital reasons to learn guitar licks:

1 – Building technique and dexterity.
Licks are perfect training tools to develop the dexterity and flexibility you need to able to solo and improvise.

2 – Acquiring inspiration.
Learning new licks will lead to inspiration and more brilliant musical ideas. You learn licks and then learn from the licks. You use the notes, turn them around, upside down, take some notes out of the licks, put some new ones in there and create your own ideas from those licks. You need input to create output!

3 – Building a vocabulary.
You can see licks as words to build sentences. Building a vocabulary of fancy, cruel, light hearted, fast, slow, elegant, brutal, daring and lovely licks will give you the freedom to express yourself. With phrasing you can determine the emotion of those words to create an exciting story line.

4 – Learning and understanding new insights.
Now and then you’ll learn a new lick that will make your mind blow. It will give you insight in different ways to shape melody and bring new life to your improvisation.

It could be a great timing or phrasing idea that will open up new doors to your soloing. Also observing and analyzing the licks of your favorite guitar player will give an idea of the style, techniques and musical approach.

5 – Sounding original and fresh.
Learn different kinds of licks from different styles of music like blues, rock, jazz, latin, country, classical and heavy metal to disect, rebuild and incorporate them into your soloing.

Influences from different guitar players and musical styles will make your soloing sound fresh, bold and interesting to listen to.

6 – Learning how to apply soloing ideas to a particular scale.
Each scale has it’s own mood, charm and way of soloing. Licks can give you ideas how to use a particular scale for improvisation and how to create lovely melodies and produce cool sounds with that scale.

It’s great to learn and build a vocabulary of licks, but you need to do more than just practicing licks for the sake of practicing.

You want to know how to use them properly to get the most out of your licks.

– Know the scale and the key
Knowing the scale and the key of a lick is essential to incorporate the lick into your playing. Know it and you can apply it. Practice a lick and the scale that goes with it. – Learn your licks in every key. Learning licks in different keys is critical.

Don’t assume when you’ve learned a lick you can automatically play it in every key. Licks feel different when you go higher up or lower down the neck. Learn your lick in different positions to get comfortable around the entire fret-board.

– Copy and dissect.
Copy licks from every guitar player you know, but don’t copy them verbatim. Rip them apart, leave out notes, add other notes, use hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, vibrato, bending and create your own sounds, melodies and ideas from those licks.

– Connect and combine.
Practice connecting and combining your licks with other licks and ideas. Learning how to glue your musical phrases together is the key to creating a entire solo and for being able to improvise.

– Practice with jam tracks
Once you know how to play a particular lick start practicing it over a backing track to work on timing, tempo, feel and rhythm. Knowing how to play a lick and playing it over a backing track are two different things. Practice them both!

– Incorporate
If you don’t apply your licks, they will soon vanish into thin air and you will forget what you’ve learned. Incorporate your licks into your daily soloing and improvisation practice. Make it a habit to learn and apply. Make it stick!



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