Are you new to playing guitar? One of the most difficult things about becoming a musician is trying to learn all of the different jargon and technical terms that other musicians like to use in casual conversation.
This can be very frustrating for those who are just starting, but it’s important to know what these words mean so that you don’t get confused by them.
The term ‘guitar licks’ is likely something you’ve heard more than once, and if you’d like to know what exactly this means, you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we will explain some of the most common guitar licks and how they work.
We will also go over some of the more obscure terms used in music theory, such as chord progressions and scales.
This should help you understand the language of guitarists better, and hopefully make your learning process a little easier.
What Is Meant By ‘Guitar Lick?’
A guitar lick is simply a musical phrase or melody played on the guitar. These phrases are usually short, catchy melodies that are often repeated throughout a song.
The reason why guitar players call these phrases ‘licks’ is because they are often used to create a distinctive sound when soloing.
The best way to think about guitar licks is that they are simply one part of a larger composition.
They may not always be the main focus of the piece, but they play an essential role in helping to shape the overall feel of the song.
When writing songs, composers often use guitar licks to add interest and variety to their compositions.
For example, you might hear a guitarist playing a simple blues riff, followed by a few seconds of silence before he plays another lick.
This gives the listener time to reflect on what has just happened and helps to keep the song interesting.
In addition to this, guitar licks can also be used to give a song a unique identity.
If you listen to any number of classic rock bands, you’ll notice that many of their songs have a distinct rhythm section (bass and drums) and lead vocalists.
However, each band tends to have its signature style, and this is largely down to the guitar licks that they choose to use.
For instance, Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” uses a guitar lick called the “Taurus loop.”
It consists of two chords (E major and D minor), with the notes E-D-C-F being played at regular intervals. You can see this lick in action below:
As you can see from the above example, the Taurus loop is a fairly basic pattern, but it works well within the context of the song.
When you hear it again later in the track, you’ll instantly recognize it as the same lick.
Another great example of a guitar lick is the famous “Alligator” lick from Van Halen’s “Runnin’ With the Devil”.
This is a much more complex lick, consisting of four chords (Am7, Gm7, Em7, C5). Each note in the lick is played twice, giving us eight repetitions of the entire pattern.
As you can see, there are hundreds of different types of guitar licks available to you. Some of them are extremely easy to play, while others are incredibly challenging.
There isn’t a limit to what you can do with a lick – you can even play a whole song using only a handful of licks!
How To Play Guitar Licks?
Learning guitar licks is quite straightforward. All you need to do is learn a couple of patterns, then practice them until you’re comfortable with them.
Once you’re ready to start improvising, you can try adding your variations to the original patterns.
If you want to start with something relatively easy, I would recommend trying out the following three licks.
Chord Progressions And Scales
Before we move onto the actual licks themselves, let’s take a look at some of the terminology used in music theory.
In general, when talking about chord progressions, we refer to the chords that make up the progression. These will usually consist of either Major or Minor chords.
The reason for this is that most popular songs tend to follow the key of C Major. As such, all of the chords in the progression must be based around the C Major scale.
This means that if you were to play a chord progression like Am-G-Em-C-D-G, you’d be able to tell which chord was which without having to count anything.
Similarly, when discussing scales, we talk about the notes that make up the scale. Again, these will generally be made up of Major or Minor chords.
So, if you wanted to play an ascending scale, you could play Am-Bb-C-D-E-F-Gb-Ab-A.
You might think that playing scales over chords sounds complicated, but it’s very simple.
The main thing to remember is that every time you add a new note to the scale, you’re going to change the chord type.
For example, if you added F to the scale, you would now be playing an Ab Major chord instead of an Am Major chord.
So, once you’ve learned how to identify chords and scales, you should be able to start learning guitar licks. Let’s go through some examples…
The Power Of Pentatonic Scale Licks
One of the best ways to get started with guitar licks is by learning pentatonic scale licks.
These are just one note per string, so they’re perfect for beginners who don’t have any experience with other styles of guitar playing.
Many beginner players use the pentatonic scale before they even know how to read music. They simply find a few good-sounding notes on their guitar, and then build upon those.
For example, here’s a basic pentatonic scale:
Let’s break down each line.
Line 1 consists of five open strings, followed by two closed strings. This gives us a total of seven notes.
Line 2 consists of four open strings, followed by three closed strings. This gives a total of six notes.
Line 3 consists of three open strings, followed by four closed strings. This gives six notes.
Line 4 consists of two open strings, followed by five closed strings. This gives eight notes.
As you can see, the pattern repeats itself throughout the entire scale. It’s not too difficult to figure out, but it does give you a great starting point.
You can then experiment with the scale as you play along with the backing track.
The Power Of Arpeggios
Arpeggios are another fantastic way to get started with guitar lick ideas. They work by playing multiple notes at the same time.
To do this, you’ll need to learn how to fingerpick. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can start experimenting with arpeggios.
Here’s a quick video tutorial showing you how to play an arpeggio:
The Power Of Triads
Triads are another great way to create your guitar licks. They’re essentially chords built from three notes.
They’re also incredibly easy to play. All you need to do is learn the root, third and fifth notes of the chord. Then, you can combine them to form your unique sound.
Chords are probably the most important part of learning guitar licks. If you want to write songs, you need to understand what chords are.
This means understanding the different shapes of chords. There are 12 major chords in all, which include:
Major 7th 9th 11th 13th 15th 17th 19th
Minor 7th 9th 11 th13th 15th 17th19th 21st 23rd
The first step towards writing your guitar licks is to learn how to recognize the different chord types.
The Power Of Scales And Modes
Scales are patterns of notes that repeat themselves throughout the neck of the guitar.
Modes are similar, except instead of repeating the same set of notes over and over again, they change up every time.
Learning these will help you to develop your style of playing.
Once you’ve got a good grasp of the basics of guitar playing, it’s time to move on to fretboard diagrams.
These are visual representations of the fretboard. They show you where to place your fingers when you play specific chords or scales.
You can download free ones from sites like fretsmoothie.com.
Playing Along With Music
Now that you know how to play the guitar, it’s time to start practicing!
When you practice, try to focus on one thing at a time. Start slow and build up speed gradually.
If you find yourself getting stuck, take a break. Try something else for a while until you feel ready to come back to it.
Improving Your Technique
Improving your technique is essential if you want to become a better guitarist.
Practicing regularly will help you to improve your skills. Here are some things you should be doing:
- Practice slowly. Don’t rush through each exercise. Take your time and concentrate on making sure you’re doing everything correctly.
- Play along with the music. Listen to other people playing so you can hear exactly how they’re using their techniques.
- Have fun! Enjoying yourself while you practice will make it easier to stick with it.
So there you have it, this guide was a short introduction to Guitar Licks, as well as an overview of some other guitar techniques and how to get started with them.
In many ways, it’s best to think of guitar licks as one tool of a larger list that you might have in your toolbox. As you add skills to your repertoire, the better player you will become!
We hope that this guide has helped you to understand what Guitar Licks are and that you now feel a lot more confident on the topic.
If you still have some extra questions, check out our short FAQ section below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Get your last-minute guitar lick queries answered below!
How Do I Learn To Write My Guitar Licks?
There are lots of great resources online that can teach you how to write your guitar licks. Some of the best places to look are YouTube channels, where experts can walk you through the process!
How Can I Get Started Writing My Own Guitar Licks On Piano?
There are plenty of piano tutorials available online that can help you to learn how to write your own licks on the piano.
You could also use a MIDI keyboard which allows you to play any song on the computer.
Is There Any Way To Improve My Guitar Skills Without Learning How To Play The Guitar By Ear?
Yes, absolutely! It’s possible to improve your guitar skills without learning how to read music.
The easiest way to do this is by listening to songs and copying the chord progressions. This is called ear training.
Can I Use Guitar Pro For Guitar Lessons?
Guitar Pro is a popular software program that helps you to learn how to play the guitar.
It’s designed to work alongside your existing guitar lessons but it won’t replace them.
However, it does provide a very useful way of recording your practice sessions and keeping track of your progress.
How Long Does It Take To Master Guitar Licks?
This depends entirely on you. Some people pick up guitar licks quickly and others don’t.
However, most people who master guitar licks say that it took around two years before they were able to play all the licks perfectly.
If you enjoyed this article, you might enjoy our post on ‘What G Chord Is Correct?‘.