If there’s one thing I can never get enough of, it’s Marvel Legends action figures. If there’s two things, I guess M&M’s are next on the list. But if there’s THREE things I just never get tired of, add in an endless supply of lead guitar licks.
In this blues rock guitar lesson, I’ve mixed ideas inspired by classic blues licks, shred guitar, and rock n roll. Take the ones you like, ignore the rest. Or go for the gold and master them all.
I recorded this lesson a few years ago and never did anything with it, so here it is, birthed to the world- the complete “10 Blues Rock Guitar Licks” video lesson with TAB.
The backing track riff we’re jamming to is in E minor pentatonic- E G A B D
Greg Howe Inspired
Example 1 is a fast and slippery string skipping idea inspired by jazz fusion shred guitar master Greg Howe. It adds in the blue note (b5, 15th fret on 3rd string) and the Dorian note (raised 6th). Slow it down and you’ve got a classic blues lick.
Example 2 outlines an E7 arpeggio with a classic major blues move of minor 3rd to major 3rd (12th to 13th frets on string 3). This alternates going up to either D or E on the second string (15th and 17th frets). In order, we’re playing G G# D, G G# E.
E7 is spelled E G# D B, so we’re hitting 3 of 4 notes from the chord, which is never a bad idea. The added G creates tension that resolves to the G# for the ultimate blues move.
Example 3 is an idea I picked up from Joe Satriani around the time of his Super Colossal album. It’s strictly Em pentatonic and includes a grace note hammer on and string rakes. It’s a great percussive sound that takes a little practice but really grooves when you’re in the pocket.
The Jimi Thing
Example 4 is 100% Jimi Hendrix. Bend the second string up a whole step at the 15th fret, then grab the 15th fret on string 3 while you’re at the peak. Release the bend while still holding onto the third string.
This takes time to get consistently without losing your grip on the strings. Finally, experiment with releasing the second string when you hit the third string versus continuing to let second string ring out. I’ll let you decide which version you prefer.
Example 5 is an all time classic blues guitar lick. It starts in the extension box above Pentatonic box 1 (see my guitar lesson Mapping Out The Pentatonic Scale for details). Slide into box 1 then add the blue note (b5, 15th fret on string three). Then go minor 3rd to major 3rd (frets 12 and 13) before resolving to our root note E on the 14th fret of string four.
The 15 to 14 then 12 to 13 idea (intervals b5 to 4 and b3 to 3) is a common blues move and adds complexity to your playing without sounding pretentious.
Example 6 is descending through box 1 of the Em pentatonic scale in groups of 4. Just add in that b5 on 15th fret of string three for extra blues greatness.
Open String Shred
Example 7 is straight up shred guitar. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. But it does hit some target chord tones of an Em7 (which is really what our backing track is centered on)- E G A Bb B are all getting used in tandem with a pedal open E. The A is not a chord tone but still comes from the scale and Bb is the b5 that just won’t quit showing up.
Pluck the fretted note, pull off to open, then pluck open again. Master this pattern at a high speed on just one fret before tackling the whole lick. The final 5 fretted notes do not include the extra picked open string and likely won’t need as much practice.
Example 8 requires holding a bend while hitting another string at the same time. It’s fun. I promise.
Example 9 contains a rhythm motif, which is a simple rhythm repeated over and over. Sometimes guitarists focus so much on what notes they’re playing they forget to think about the rhythm. Frequently, the rhythm you play during your solo will be just as impactful (if not more) than your note choices.
Count the rhythm “1 2 and 3 4.” Practice improvising with just that rhythm but change which notes you’re hitting. It’s a fun challenge with aural rewards.
The second measure is actually “1 2 and 3 e and uh 4” but it retains the same rhythmic feel.
Last Shred Lick, I Promise
Even though Example 10 is fast, it works equally well at a slow speed. Hold fret 12 on the second string and fret 14 on the third string for the duration of the lick. Then you just have an alternating pull-off. Sounds harder to play than it is. Hooray! We’ll impress everybody with minimal effort.
I plucked with inside picking in the video for Example 10, but you could just as well pluck up on string two and down on string three.
For maximum results, choose two ideas at a time and improvise by going back and forth between them until its easy. Then replace one of those licks and repeat the process until you’ve done it with all of them.
20-30 minutes a day of improvisation to a backing track will be the fastest way to get these ideas embedded int your repertoire of go-to guitar licks.