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The Secret To Playing Badass Blues Guitar Licks
By Tom Hess - 01/06/2014 - 12:14 PM EST

Before you can create truly intense and passionate blues guitar licks you must master the ability to mute ALL unused strings while you are playing. If you are unable to do this, your licks will sound sloppy and you will struggle to play music that sounds as expressive and inspiring as you want it to.

For most guitarists, unwanted string noise frequently occurs while playing blues licks and using wide vibrato, double stops or extra power in the picking hand. Unless you figure out how to eliminate extra string noise, your blues guitar playing will sound very unclean and your musical expression will suffer as a whole.

Throughout the rest of this article, you will learn the steps to take for cleaning up extra string noise to make your blues licks sound awesome. Before you look through the steps on this page, watch this killer blues guitar video so you can hear how it sounds when you are correctly using the ideas I will be talking about below:

After youíve finished the video above, grab your guitar and complete these steps to make your blues guitar licks sound truly mean (without sacrificing cleanliness or accuracy).

Step One: Quickly create a new blues guitar lick containing a maximum of 2-3 notes. To give you some ideas to get started with, look at the examples below:

Example #1Example #2Example #3
It is very critical that you only create guitar licks with no more than three notes maximum. By using a limited number of notes, you will have no choice but to think creatively about achieving maximum expression in every note you play. This will help you become more musically expressive (increasing the quality of your licks). This is also important because it will help you focus on using proper muting technique to keep your phrases clean. Also observe how I did not notate the rhythm in the examples I provided for you. You are free to think creatively about the rhythms you use while playing these examples. Don't use all three of the notated licks at once, simply choose ONE and play it continuously until it feels natural. Also, make sure that the last note of every lick you play ends with an upstroke (this is important for the next step).

Step Two: After using an upstroke on the last note of your lick, rest the pick on the string directly below the string you were playing on (as I demonstrated in the video above). While doing this, do NOT bring your pick up and Ďawayí from the strings. Rest either the palm or thumb of your picking hand on the strings to mute them. Work on this technique for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

Step Three: Next, use any finger that is not holding the pick to mute the higher strings while playing the lick (including available fingers on the fretting hand and picking hand). See how your fingers should look (where they should go) to do this by looking at the images in this article about eliminating sloppy guitar noises. Take several minutes to work on this.

Step Four: With your picking hand, play your blues lick with as much intensity as possible by doing the following:

  • Accent sustained notes using very heavy vibrato technique.
  • While playing double stops, use heavy vibrato on both strings simultaneously.
  • Pick the strings with as much force as possible (donít worry about breaking the strings).

As you play your guitar lick with a lot of intensity you will quickly understand the importance of the muting techniques you learned in the previous steps. If you are unable to play cleanly, go back and practice the second and third steps. As you are going through this process, donít feel frustrated if you are unable to quickly play without creating unintentional string noise. By being patient and practicing you will master this and greatly enhance your lead guitar playing.

Step Five: Create several additional blues guitar licks or use the alternate examples I provided above and take them through the previous steps to make them as clean and intense as possible.

Once youíve finished all five steps mentioned in this article, itís time to move forward and take what you have learned to another level. Learn how to play cool guitar licks for classic rock.

Add even more intensity to your blues guitar licks by applying the ideas in this guitar speed exercises 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 to get free guitar playing tips, guitar playing resources, mini courses and more guitar playing articles.

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