10× Your Guitar Lick Library

Do you want to 10x your lick library?

Das Bild zeigt eine Person, die eine E-Gitarre spielt.

Having a big lick library is incredibly useful, if you want to sound good as a guitar player. Every lick we want to learn is already proven to sound good. And just by listening to our favorite guitar players, we get numerous real life application examples, that teach us exactly how and when to play those licks.

But that does not make you a great guitar player…yet.

Always learning new licks can limit you to always depend on new licks, if you want to be more creative. And knowing more »stuff« does not make you a creative guitar player. It’s how you use what you know.

Not knowing how to apply the licks in other situations, will eventually make your playing sound repetitive and boring, even though it sounded amazing at first. And learning more licks to compensate for that, is not the best way to go.

What if you could play the same lick in all the different keys and modes? Wouldn’t that make your lick library seem at least 10x greater?

Here is a fun idea you can do today to expand and apply your lick knowledge.

Play licks in different modes/positions

This one is a bit different from just transposing from key to key, moving the lick up and down the fretboard. Here you actually need to change the notes as well as the fingerings to adapt the same idea over a different mode of the same scale.

Start simple, start pentatonic.

The first step is to start modulating simple pentatonic licks to different pentatonic shapes. Note that I do not mean to play the same notes in a different position, which could also be potentially useful, but here you focus on the ‚function‘ of the notes in that mode.

Let’s use this simple lick as an example:

Here’s what NOT to do (in this case):

  • Don’t play the lick that uses the notes: A C A G A in shape one and then 
  • Try to find the same notes: A C A G A in the second shape. This will sound the same, only the fingering will change.

Incorrect example:

Here’s what you WANT TO DO (in this case):

  • Play the lick that uses the notes: A C A G A in shape one
  • Recognize what is the geometric sequence of the notes in this shape: 
    • let’s say that A is the 1st note on the 1st string of this shape, 
    • C is the 2nd note on the 1st string, 
    • G the 2nd note on the 2nd string
  • Play the same sequence of notes in a different scale shape: 
    • play the 1st note on the 1st string of that shape, which is now C,C is replaced by the 2nd note on the 1st string, which is now D,
    • the G is replaced by the 2nd note on the 2nd string of the new shape, which is now A.

In the end you get a completely new sequence of notes: C D C A C. Graphically, and fingering-wise it’s very similar, but it will sound completely different.

This new lick will also sound better over different chords than the original one.

You can use this concept and modulate the lick over all the pentatonic shapes you know, horizontally and vertically.

Here are a couple of examples to help you out:

Das Bild zeigt verschiedene Formen der Moll-Pentatonik auf einem Gitarrengriffbrett

I know it’s going to be a lot harder transposing more complicated licks, but it’s totally worth a try. You can make it easier, if you write it down using paper and pen, or even software like Guitar Pro, and work it out slowly. Over time, it’s going to be a lot easier the more you do it.

Good luck creating and applying new licks!

About The Author

Janez Janežič helps many ordinary people learn to play guitar like they always wanted. If you would like to take guitar lessons locally in Novo mesto, Slovenia, be sure to consider joining his forces.