What Is A Guitar Lick? – Fret Not, It Does Not Involve Your Tongue!

Guitar Lick Get It?

You may be relieved (or perhaps not) to find out that the guitar lick doesn’t require you to use your tongue (or anyone else for that matter!). A guitar lick is another useful tool in your toolbox. You have come to a great place to find out an answer to the question, What Is A Guitar Lick?

It Sounds Tasty – It Sure Is!

The easiest way to describe a lick is a standard musical sequence. I know right? (super helpful). An easier way to think of this may be to refer to these musical terms in relation to language. A lick is like a well known saying in language (for example the words of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, “Without music, life would be a mistake”)

You can say that with different words or in a slightly different order, but the same basic message will be conveyed. Licks are very much the same. A lick is essentially a very versatile tool in your musical toolbox that can be used in many different songs.

What Is It Used For? – Solos N’ Stuff!

Guitar Solo

Solos! Well, I am sure you could use it for other things as well as adding seasoning to your song, but I find that the lick is a very useful tool for soloing. Due to the fact the fact that a lick is versatile and often easy to transpose to different keys, they often provide a very stable foundation to your solos.

When improvising on your guitar, it may be tempting to play every single note you have ever learned in your life in the space of 2 minutes (or however long you go on for). This is often done by either the very new or the very advanced guitar player (often separated by technique, skill and execution).

As you begin to progress through your guitar journey you will find that you will most likely do more with less (huh?). What I mean by this is that you will find that you really only need a couple of notes, a few patterns, and some clever tricks to play something that sounds really great to you (and maybe some other people too!) This is where licks shine.

A good example is to think of a good blues song with a solo. Very often, the guitarist will use a set pattern and scale for a while. They may add in a few unexpected notes along the neck, but when it’s solo time they almost force you to feel every note they play. With the iconic sound of the lick, a guitarist could play the same note a few times before you get bored.

That is the power of the lick. It will give you access to new ways of branching out your playing and can definitely help you as you look for your sound.

A Few Licks – Just to Whet Your Appetite!

Due to the near infinite variabilities of guitar playing, the amount of knowledge you Can acquire about a particular subject is limited by time (your lifespan) and access to educational resources. Luckily for us, the internet has the second point covered, however, the first one is currently non-negotiable.

Below you will see 5 of my favourite guitar Blues Licks. There are many out there but these are the ones I like to play the most. You can easily find licks all over the internet and I would suggest learning the ones you like the most because chances are that you will probably remember and use them if you like the sound.

These ones use mostly slides, hammer on and pull-offs. You can play these as fast or slow as you like adding expression where you feel it is “right”. These licks are moveable so try them along the neck when you feel comfortable.

Guitar Lick 1Guitar Lick 2Guitar Lick 3Guitar Lick 4Guitar Lick 5

Great, I know Some Licks – How Do I Use Them?

These licks are used to add expression to your playing (I suppose many techniques exist to do this, but anyways!). You can use them whenever you feel comfortable, but try not to use them too much, and by too much I mean don’t spend every second of the song trying to pull off amazing licks – you don’t want to lick the song to death!

This is probably why it is a good idea to keep licks mainly for solos until you get comfortable with them. As time progresses you might find yourself using certain parts of licks (like three or four notes perhaps) randomly in one of your songs. You may even throw a lick in on a whim and find out whether it works or not while jamming with your friends.

Much like many techniques, a lick is mostly for seasoning. Some people like less salt while others think the oceans flavour is bland! It is totally up to you how you throw these licks in or even which types to use. I could tell you to use lick A over this chord or lick b over that chord but the truth is it may not sound good to you at  all, (although licks sound good in general)

Give Them A Try Lickety-split 🙂

Well done amigo! You have successfully navigated your way through this taste (haha) of guitar licks! Equipped with your new knowledge you are ready to learn even more about this cool topic. Licks can definitely build your confidence and sense of adventure on your guitar.

I hope that by learning these licks you will begin to see yourself grow and become a more disciplined musician. Pursuing your musical interests may seem paradoxical as it requires a fair bit of self-discipline (which doesn’t sound that fun!) in order to expand your musical freedom and proficiency – which does sound like fun.

No matter how small you may feel your progress is, remember, like many things in life playing the guitar is a cumulative effort. This effort can also snowball. Maybe you start with a note, then a scale, maybe even a lick! hen one day you stop and realise what you are capable of. Not too shabby right?

Please feel free to comment below with any thoughts or questions. Until our next meeting friend!





8 Replies to “What Is A Guitar Lick? – Fret Not, It Does Not Involve Your Tongue!”

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. And I think you have a great sense of humor as well haha. The way that you were able to engage me with you’re creative writing while also sounding like you’re having a conversation was great. I actually learned some things about the guitar! And the way you used licks multiple times, like as relating to a tongue was very funny I thought. Great job.

  2. Hey Renton, I lick, I mean like your explanation of licks. Is this different to a riff? Or can you tell me how riffs and licks relate to each other. I know some dope guitar riffs and they’re almost always solos so I can’t help but think they’re the same thing.

    1. Hey Jay! Thanks for the comment. I am currently writing a post on Riffs which will try and clear up the confusion, because make no mistake there is confusion about this. From what I can gather, a lick is a stock pattern (can be used anywhere without “contaminating” the song) a Riff is essentially a lick that has become popularized by a particular song. For example if you play the main “Riff” from Thunderstruck (AC/DC) it is instantly recognizable and essentially refers back to that particular song.

      So I guess a Lick is generic and a Riff is specific. At least this is my current understanding. I hope this helps!

      1. Ah, thanks for the explanation. Makes a lot of sense and I’ll be looking for the article on riffs when you do post it up.

  3. Hi Renton,

    Thanks for sharing this informative subject about guitar licks! Is there any kind of brand that you would suggest that will give a nice guitar lick sound? will a particular kind of brand affect how the lick will sound? how many year will it take for a  guitarist to feel comfortable doing the lick? 


    1. Hi Glenda! Thanks for the comment. This is a tough one because it depends on you as the guitarist. If you like to play a particular genre then the guitar you select will be different. If you an comfortably afford a good name brand guitar definitely head to a guitar store and try them out to see if you like the sound. For example hollow body guitars have a “bigger” or fuller sound to me so this affects the natural sound of the lick.

      You can add effects (pedals and amps) but always test the guitar clean (no effects or pedals) to make sure you like the actual sound of your guitar. Different wood types, pickup types, resonating chamber shapes can all affect the guitars “voice”

      The licks are usually simple enough for a beginner to learn easily (in my opinion). Focus on starting slowly and playing each note correctly and clearly (no buzzing strings, muted strings) If you really like the sound of a particular lick I would wager that you will learn that one a lot faster because those bring you the most joy.

      Learning the licks is simple (a few days to a few weeks) but combining them and linking them will require you to play around on your guitar (this could take months to years to “master”)

      I would suggest trying out a few licks and see how you like them, if it isn’t for you skip them and find other ones. Licks are very fun to play and can make you sound like you really know what you’re doing :). So give it a try, friend!

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