5 Essential Blues Licks that Anyone Can Master
Master these and never buy another beer again…
Looking for some inspiration, tired of playing the same old licks? Welcome to the club! Sometimes just a few new licks can spur you on to great things. Here we look at 5 Bluesy licks and how you could use them. (Remember, you can always alter the phrasing to suit your own style and doing so could push these licks into Country, Rock or Jazz territory too.)
Here, we’re going to look at licks that work over a typical I, IV, V Blues Progression let’s say…in the key of A, the staple of any late-night Blues jam.
Lick 1 uses a note “outside” of a traditional Blues Scale, encompassing a minor 6th interval, but this note actually works perfectly over a Dominant 7 chord, in this case A7. If you’re a Scales junkie, we’re implying either A Mixolydian (which is the 5th Mode of D Major) or A Dorian (with a bluesy bend on the minor 3rd) which is the 2nd mode of G Major.
If you’re not sure what all that means, don’t worry. You could simply try playing D Major Pentatonic over an A7 chord to get a gist of the tonality we’re using here. Actually, switching between A minor Pentatonic and D major Pentatonic during your solo gives you all the notes A Dorian.
Dorian and Mixolydian are great modes to use to turn your Blues playing into something really interesting so they’re worth further investigation if you aren’t yet familiar with them.
Lick 1 works over the A7 because of the bend to the minor 7 interval and the bend up to the Major 3rd.
Lick 2 works over a Dominant 7 chord and in this case, we’re thinking about the IV in our I-IV-V progression, the venerable D7. The notes used derive from D Mixolydian, which is the 5th Mode of G major but with a little chromatic run at the end which can make this a great lick for Country too.
Lick 3 is VERY bendy! The first bend calls for a 3-fret bend (1.5 tones). If you’re still getting to grips with bends try playing the target note first so that you can hear where you need to get to…then attempt your bend, making sure you get some fingers to help you. We recommend bending this note with your third finger whilst your first and second finger support the pressure.
Once you’ve nailed that part of the lick, the only other bend to contend with is the semi-tone bend on the final note which really brings out the Bluesy feel of the lick.
Those of you wanting to work on some chops whilst incorporating some blues into your playing would do well to try some Jo Bonamassa-style, quick-fire Pentatonics as used here. Use alternate picking and time the last note to coincide with the E7 chord on an A Blues turnaround for full effect.
Getting some extra mileage out of the humble A Blues scale here by using a cascading phrase. The tricky parts for those who don’t really shred, are the jumps back and forth between the B and G string…stick with it though and you’ll wow the crowds at your next jam…especially if you play it behind your head!
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If you’re after the perfect guitar to capture your bluesy licks in style, then check out our “Best Guitars for Blues“.
On the lookout for an amp to go with the guitar? Then check out our “5 of the Best Amps for Blues“.
In case you were wondering what it is, then check out our article, “What is a Blues Scale?” and go on the way to become a master of the craft.