How to Play Licks in Between Chords

If you had a nickel for every video on YouTube about how to play guitar licks, you'd be sitting pretty right now. Then again, that doesn't say anything about the quality of the information in those 'how to play licks' videos! For this reason, I wanted to create the definitive guide on how to play licks as they're used in one of the most common applications - between chords...

Regardless of where you are, whether you're just starting out or you're really good at playing licks, this video will help. I'll take you step by step through a plan that will work for any level of guitarist and I'll also tell you exactly how to apply these ideas along the way.


Every guitar player loves the sound that comes from playing a few guitar licks in and around the chords of a song. 

The only problem is that for most players - who are not sure of how this works - this whole idea will often seem like it’s a skill that’s reserved for guitar greats like; Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen or Eric Clapton.

In reality, what you need to do when it comes to developing this, is actually pretty simple. 

You need chord patterns that are well known, (so that you feel confident about them under your fingers). You need a few small scale layouts that are committed to memory.

And, you need to have a decent feel when it comes to your sense of rhythm and groove.

It all doesn’t have to be perfect. But, on the flip-side, this workout will also help you develop those skills. 

So, once you have those three abilities down - playing licks between chords will feel quite natural. T hen, over time it will become easier to do. 

(Step 1). 
In getting started, let’s learn some smaller chord patterns that will help you get used to shapes that you can move into more easily and more quickly for developing licks around chords.

(Step 2). 
The next topic that were going to focus on has to do with learning small scale passages. You’ll find that most of the short melodic phrases that are inserted in and around chords will tend to be composed out of notes from either the Major or Minor Pentatonic scales.

Let me demonstrate a collection of small scale shapes that work really well for connecting one chord into another.

Connector Scale 1: 

Connector Scale 2:

Connector Scale 3:

Process Re-Cap:
Let’s re-cap what we’ve done so far. When you start this type of “licks with chords” workout, you need to begin with the study of basic chord patterns that are simple and manageable to play.

Small 3-note shapes like I’ve shown here in this lesson are perfect. You can also try using Major and Minor triads as well. And, eventually you can also build your way up to bigger chords.

When it comes to scale patterns for this “licks with chords” sound… at first, go with short run Pentatonic ideas. Then, work at expanding your ideas from there.

Scales work the best for this approach if they can be located within a position based upon a 3 – 4 fret span.

They can also be spread out a little further along the neck as well. But, if you do that, keep the number of strings limited to just two at the earliest days of your practice on this.

After you get better at adding licks in between chords, you can take the scale patterns a little further (day by day).

(Step 3). 
The next thing I want to do is to build an example of a “licks with chords” phrase right here with you, so that you can experience how this stuff gets applied.

Licks Between Chords Example:

Once you have a few of the small chords nailed down to start this idea off with, (and you can move them around the neck in a fairly smooth way), the other element in all of this has to do with those scale shapes.

They need to be practiced as much as possible so that they become almost “second nature” on the neck to you.

The other part of doing this work involves getting a feel for and getting creative with your sense of rhythm and groove so that your ideas are interesting and they slowly become more and more natural to play! 

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