How To Play Killer Blues Guitar Licks (Without Playing Sloppy) Part 2

Author: Tom Hess

Before you read the article below, understand that this is a continuation of the first entry in this article series about playing killer blues guitar licks where I showed you how to play clean and aggressive blues licks. If you did not already read that article, quickly review the concepts it contained by watching this killer blues guitar licks video to catch up.

You will now learn how to utilize the muting technique you learned in the previous article along with several creative blues guitar techniques that will make your blues phrases sound much more expressive.

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To get started, watch the video below and observe how to perfectly use the techniques I will be discussing:


Once you have seen the demonstration in the video above, follow these steps and start enhancing your blues guitar licks:

Step #1:Quickly create a short blues guitar lick that you can easily play several times without making mistakes. Make this lick contain no more than two to five notes. By using only a few notes, you will enable yourself to get the maximum amount of expression possible when you use the techniques discussed below.

Below, I’ve provided you with three quick examples to use for getting started. Notice how I have not included the rhythm along with the tablature. I want YOU to be creative and think of your own unique rhythms.

Notice: the licks I have provided for you above are NOT complex (on purpose). I want you to focus heavily on the techniques mentioned below in order to make these ‘plain’ licks sound totally KILLER. Watch the video above again to see how you can do this.

Step #2:Now it is time to enhance the original lick you created (or chose from the examples above). Follow the instructions beside each of the three individual techniques below. Do this ‘one at a time’, focusing on getting the maximum expression out of each technique.

Technique Number One: Sliding Ornamentation:

Select any note within your blues lick and use the finger that was fretting it to quickly slide up 3-5 frets or so and return back to the original fret before continuing the lick. Don’t focus too much on the specific amount of frets you are sliding to. Instead focus on enhancing your lick with the unique sound that is creating while using this technique (rather than trying to pinpoint a specific note to slide to). When you apply this slide to a note in your lick, it will greatly increase the overall level of expressivity in your phrase. After you have become comfortable with this technique, come up with several variations of your original lick by applying slides to the other different notes within it. There are many ways to implement this idea into your playing (each one sounding more interesting than the previous one).

Technique Number Two:Intense Vibrato

Identify the notes within your blues guitar lick that are held out longer than the rest (these will usually be the last one or two notes of the phrase). Then apply wide vibrato to these notes – HOWEVER, do not apply it instantly after you play a note. Instead, play the note and let it ring out for a moment or two… then apply a WIDE and powerful vibrato. This will add tons of tension and intensity into your lick by first creating a sense of anticipation and the providing an ‘answer’ to what the listener was waiting for. Additionally, the vibrato naturally makes your lick sound powerful and aggressive. After applying this technique to your lick and getting comfortable with it, create many variations of your original lick by delaying your vibrato for different lengths of time.

Technique Number Three:Slow, Crawling Bend

After playing the penultimate note of your blues guitar phrase, ‘slowly’ bend the note up to the last note in your lick. This will create massive tension that will make your phrase much more intense. Important notice: this bend will be MOST effective when you ‘delay’ it and will lose its effectiveness if you simply bend up to the note immediately after playing it (check out the video above again to see how long this bend needs to last). Then once you reach the target note with your bend, strike the string with tons of force! After you’ve mastered this, improvise several more variations of your original lick using bends in this manner.

Step #3: Once you have gone through the instructions of each individual technique from above (and made many new variations of your original lick), choose a new lick and repeat the process. Since there are countless ways you can apply the techniques above to a single lick, this will provide you with something you can practice for a long time. Increase your creativity by coming up with all the different ways you can enhance one to two notes in a phrase using all the techniques in combination with one another. Really focus on getting as much expression as possible! By pushing through and forcing yourself to be creative, you will greatly improve your blues guitar playing.

Listen to a short demonstration of various phrases I’ve created using the techniques in this article.

Listen to a short demonstration

Now that you’ve gone through each of the steps above, you have learned how to make some truly killer blues guitar licks. It’s time to apply the musical element of ‘rhythm’ into your playing to become an even more creative player. Learn how this is done by watching this free lead guitar phrasing video.

About The Author:

Tom Hess is a professional musician, composer, and highly successful guitar instructor who trains and mentors guitarists with online guitar tuition. Visit tomhess.net to get free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

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