Before you begin reading the information on this page, know that this is part two of a two part series on creating killer blues guitar licks where I helped you learn how to play clean and intense blues licks. If you missed that article, get caught up on the concepts that were discussed by watching this video on how to play expressive blues guitar licks.
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.
Before you get started reading information below, take a moment to watch this video so you can hear ‘exactly’ how it should sound when you are perfectly using the concepts of this article:
After watching the video above, you now have a clear understanding of how to use the following ideas to enhance 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.
These are a few samples of the types of blues guitar licks you could create (I have not included the rhythm here – it’s up to you to be creative with the rhythms you use):
Warning: these licks are not meant to be highly creative on their own. YOU must use the techniques discussed below (and seen in the video you watched) to transform them into something truly awesome and unique.
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: Slide Ornament:
After playing any note within the lick you created, use the finger that was fretting the note to immediately slide up the fretboard to a random fret and quickly return back to the original fret of the note you were playing. Then continue playing through the lick from where you left off. Don’t worry about sliding up to a specific pitch every time you do this, you are only using this technique as a way to ornament the note you chose (creating an interesting sound effect in the process). This technique creates a very unique sound and will make your lick much more expressive in a very creative way. After you have mastered this, make three more variations of the lick you began with that use slides in this manner. There are countless ways to use this idea in your playing, try to see how many cool variations you can think of.
Technique Number Two: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.
Technique Number Three: Delayed Vibrato
Emphasize the notes within your blues lick by using heavy (delayed) vibrato to make them sound more intense. The longest held notes will usually be the last notes of the phrase. The key to making this technique so effective is waiting to apply vibrato until a few moments pass after you’ve played the note you want to apply it to. Then apply the HEAVIEST vibrato you can perform! This vibrato in combination with a slight delay will increase the intensity of your lick by tenfold due to the anticipation that is created in the process. Work on this technique for several minutes until you have comfortably integrated it into your blues lick, then make several variations of your original lick that incorporate delayed vibrato into the notes for by varying the amounts of time you wait before applying it.
Step #3:After trying out all of the techniques above and creating many variations of your original lick, repeat the process again using a totally new lick. This will help you think of endless supplies of new blues licks because there are many different ways to use the techniques to create innovative and unique phrases. Push yourself to think of as many variations as possible while focusing on just a few notes. Notice: I told you to try all three techniques with one at a time in order to make sure that you get the maximum amount of expression from every technique. This can be difficult at first, but it will MASSIVELY enhance your blues guitar creativity.
Check out this quick blues guitar lick demo to hear some variations of the techniques described throughout this article.
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. Understand how you can do this in your playing by watching this lead guitar video.
About The Author:
Tom Hess is a highly successful guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitar player. He teaches guitar players from all over the world in his online guitar lessons. Visit his website tomhess.net to get free guitar playing resources and to read more guitar playing articles.