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A Mean Sounding Blues Lick

Guitar Lick by Kirk Lorange

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The Lick explained

I think you’re really going to enjoy this one. It’s got that really nice, bluesy dissonant, mean sound to it, at least the opening bit, and it resolves nicely. It’s moveable up and down the fretboard, which is always a bonus.

That very opening interval, momentary as it is, is the hook to this one I reckon. It’s known as a ‘tritone’. It’s a very important interval in the blues and jazz genres and I’ll be getting into more examples showing why, but it’s interesting in that it’s composed of three whole tones (hence the name), meaning that it’s exactly half an octave. If you measure it up (or down) from a root, you wind up at the #5, but it’s better known as the interval between the major 3rd and minor 7th of a dominant chord — measured from either direction, up or down. This is why it can be used in ‘tritone substitution’. It’s a whole can of worms that I won’t get into here because it’s not relevant to this lick, but I will show how it works in licks to come.

You’ll see in the video that I analyze the opening bit from two different perspectives. I prefer to just see it all as being played over the one chord (A for most of the video). It’s much easier to file it all away mentally and simplicity is always best. Why clutter the brain needlessly? But it is interesting how music can be broken down from different angles, especially when you get into these dissonant intervals.

Watch out for those double stops. You really need to bring your fingers down onto the strings nice and perpendicularly so as not to muffle the other string. It’s only when you get both notes ringing away that you hear that neat jangle.

Once again, we have that flat 3 to 3 move. It’s without doubt the most used of all when it comes to the blues, so knowing where those 3s are on the fretboard at all times is essential. In non-blues tunes, they are even more crucial as they are the difference between major and minor and nothing could be worse than hearing a major third played over a minor chord, or vice versa. In the blues, however, it can work.

There’s that D chord there — I could have written that as a 1-4-6 of A, but it is in fact a D triad, specifically 5-1-3 from bass to treble. I didn’t add any numbers to the video over the D chord to avoid confusion.

Drill those numbers into your brain! Knowing the numbers is knowing the line. Numbers don’t change when you switch key. The note names do, but not the numbers. The numbers are it, and the the easiest way to always ‘see’ them is to use the little visualization ‘trick’ that my PlaneTalk package teaches. When I look down at my fretboard, that all I see: numbers — relevant to ‘now’. One of the reasons I love playing the guitar so much is because it truly is the epitome of ‘Be Here Now’.


Guitar Lick by Kirk Lorange

Kirk LorangeAs well as putting together these guitar licks and lessons, I am also the author of PlaneTalk - The Truly Totally Different Guitar Instruction Package, which teaches a mindset, a way of thinking about music and a way of tracking it all on the guitar fretboard. Yes, there IS a constant down there in the maze of strings and fret wire, a landmark that points to everything at all times. I call it The Easiest Yet Most Powerful Guitar Lesson You Will Ever Learn and many testimonials at my site will back up that rather superlative description. If your goal as a guitar player is to be able to truly PLAY the guitar, not just learn by rote; to be able to invent on the fly, not memorize every note; to be able to see the WHOLE fretboard as friendly, familiar territory, not just the first 5 frets and to do it all without thinking about all those scales and modes, then you should read more here.