Blues Guitar Institute

MICRO LICKS: How to Transpose an Easy Blues Lick in 4 Steps


That’s how many notes are in the Train Whistle Lick.  You may remember this lick from the MICRO LICK lesson Train Whistle Lick in E.  Today we are going to take our short, sweet and easy blues lick further by learning how to play it in a different key – A.

Ok, I know what you thinking…

“This reeks of music theory…I’m outta here!”

But, before you go anywhere, there is very little music theory in this lesson.  In fact all you need to know to transpose (move to another key) is the names of the notes on your guitar and how to count in half steps.  Both of these I’ll walk you through in a bit.

So stick around!

Transpose Licks to Different Keys to Maximize the Lick

Before we get in to how to move licks from one key to another, it’s worth knowing Why we would ever want to do this.

The biggest reason to learn how to do this is simple.  You spend so much time learning a lick, why not get as much use out of it as possible by learning how to play that lick in different keys.

If you take one lick and learn it in 5 different keys, you’ve increased your lick vocabulary by 5 times!  In many cases, fingerings are the same or at least similar.

So, put the hard work into learning the lick up front, then maximize that investment by putting the lick to use for you in more situations.  More keys.

You will also find that as you begin moving licks around the neck that you will gain more confidence on the fretboard.  You will start to internalize how things are laid out.

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t master the fretboard (does anybody?) by using this one technique, but it will help you organize things in your brain.

And that leads to more confident improvising – jamming.

How to Transpose a Lick in 4 quick steps
Watch on YouTube | Grab the TAB PDF | Guitar Pro

Watch the video for details, but here’s the basic steps for transposing a lick:

  1. Identify the key of the lick you begin with (base lick) and the key you want to move to (target lick).
  2. Count the number of half steps in between those two keys using the chromatic scale.
  3. Identify the names of the notes in the base lick.
  4. Move each note in the base lick up by the same number of half steps you counted in Step 2.

Your Turn…

Take some of your favorite licks or even the other MICRO LICKS and transpose them into a different key.  This is a great exercise to get you thinking about your fretboard a little more musically. If you keep at it, you will be able to transpose licks with out much thinking.

So, what do you think?  Will you be able to move your licks into different keys now?

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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