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Blues Guitar Institute

Acoustic Blues Lesson: How to Build an Acoustic Blues Lick from Simple Micro Licks

Your stomach turns.

Your hands freeze…Sweat pours.

Ever felt like that when it’s your turn to take a lead break when jamming with friends?

You’ve practiced and practiced your scales, but when the spotlight is on you, something happens and your fingers let you down.

I’ve been here more times than I care to admit.

Fortunately, I’ve been working on a technique that’s been helping me write licks on the fly that saves my bacon when jamming.

Start with Simple Four Note Licks

The trick to being ready for that big jam night moment is to be prepared. Most of us think that means playing scale after scale and learning tons of complicated solos.  Sure that’s helpful but, it’s left me flat more than once.  There’s another way.

Work on amassing several short licks that are no more than three or four notes long. Keep it simple and interesting.  Here are a few of my favorites in the key of E:

Be sure to watch the video on each to quickly add them to your lick repertoire.

After watching these three, I bet you could come up with a few licks of your own.

Get Comfortable with the Short Licks as Standalone Licks

To start, practice these three licks over and over. I call them MICRO LICKS. Practice them until they become second nature.  You need to be able to pull them off at any give time, all while staying on beat.

You’ll find that even though we want to build longer licks from these guys, they work incredibly well as short little lead fills.  They are a great way to spice up your rhythm playing.

OK, I know these short licks won’t get you through a standard 12 bar blues chorus, but the magic comes when you leverage these tiny little guys into longer licks.

String Together a Series of Simple Licks for Longer Licks

If you have a collection of three MICRO LICKS under your fingers in a single key, you can link them together to form longer licks.  Check out this video where I put together the Train Whistle Lick, Hammering Thirds and Zeros and Three.

Once you see and hear this acoustic blues lesson in e, I think you’ll see the impact these little licks can have once you string them together.

Watch in YouTube | GRAB the TAB – PDF | GP6 | GP5

The trick is to find the linking note.  The linking note is a common note in two MICRO LICKS that can be used to join together two smaller licks.

Overcome “Jam-Fright” by Utilizing these Short Licks

Think about it for a second…

We’re looking at just three licks here and I bet you could use these three to write a lick long enough to get you through the E chord in a standard 12 bar blues.

Simply add more tiny licks that work over the A and B chord and you would be set.

That ‘spotlight’ moment comes by and you have to be ready. Instead of thinking about box patterns and scale notes, why not free your mind and keep it simple? Face the freeze with a good bank of tiny licks that you can link together with ease.

So, what about you?  Have you ever had one of those “jam-fright” moments?  Share it in the comments, I know you’re NOT alone!!

When you are ready, there are two ways I can help you:

Back Porch Blues Course:  A proven system to fingerpicking the blues.  This step-by-step course guides you through building fundamental fingerpicking skills.  Plus, you’ll learn three levels of a delta blues style performance study to put your new skills into action.

Become a myBGI Member: Membership comes with access to Back Porch Blues plus over 70 step-by-step courses.  Get proven results with one of myBGI’s structured Roadmaps.

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