bluegrass licks

In the current world of bluegrass music we see tons of players who are stellar at their instruments, and of course Marcel looks at these players and their work regularly on YouTube. Modern bluegrass guitar players, specifically, play lead and are pros at improvisation. But lead bluegrass guitar wasn’t always as common as it is …

12 Traditional Bluegrass Licks for Today Read More »

In part 2, we talked about using licks that followed the chords of the song instead of playing the melody. In part 3, we learn how to make adjustments to licks to help them to fit into the song better.

You may find that your new favorite lick doesn’t fit where you want it to go. It may be too short, too long, or doesn’t match the chord changes. Here are some adjustments you can make to get the most out of the licks you already know.

This is a three-part series on how to use licks in bluegrass songs. Part one focuses on fill-in licks, and how they can be used to add energy and style to a melody. In part two, we abandon the melody altogether and learn how licks can be used instead when they follow the chord progression. Finally, in part three, we will study how to make small changes to licks to make them fit into a song better.

I’d like to share an incredible flatpicking style lick that can be used in countless songs and tunes. This is a phrase that opened up many doors for me as a flatpicking guitarist. Should you want to master this idea you will have to transpose these ideas into other keys and octaves. Each one of these variations showcases a different way of inventing the phrase. The ideas vary in length and note choice but are all based on this one idea. Once you work through the following variations I’m certain you will be able to come up with more of your own and find endless situations to use this classic phrase.

Hey folks, thanks for coming along for this cool holiday adventure with Eli Gilbert and I. We got a ton of positive feedback so we might even, god forbid, do it again sometime. Just in case you missed out, the 12 Days Of Licksmas was a series where Eli Gilbert and myself traded bluegrass guitar licks and banjo licks daily for 12 days straight.

Now that the holidays are over you can enjoy all 24 videos from the complete series below!

The sixth interval seems to be a a breakthrough concept for many players, for some it might be hard to remember a time before you knew a couple little sixth phrases. If your new to the idea, its more simple than you think. Starting on C, let’s count six notes in the major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A. That means C and A are a sixth apart, its that simple. You might think recognizing two notes that are a sixth apart might be harder on the guitar but that’s not too tough either. You see sixths on the guitar are characterized by skipping a string. In all of these licks if I jump from one string to another and skip one in-between, that’s probably a sixth.

One of my first YouTube bluegrass guitar lessons I ever made was called Why You’re Practicing Bluegrass Licks Wrong and it was not a good video. Mostly because you can hear the filter on my turtle’s tank running in the background the entire time; don’t worry I forgave him and didn’t turn him into guitar picks. YouTube user ‘Skip Lee’ summarized the experience brilliantly with the comment, “Every time I listen to this I have the sudden urge to pee…“

I know this is a big hurdle for bluegrass guitar players. We learn our first fiddle tune melodies, our first licks, our first runs and our first breaks in first position. So how do we demystify the rest of the neck so we can ascend and descend it freely? The good news is you probably don’t need to memorize every note on the fretboard. In fact, most guitar players are visualizing much smaller frameworks as they travel the neck.

I’m sure we’ve all seen more than one bluegrass instructional book in our day. You probably have a stack including a Hal Leonard something or other, maybe a book with Tony Rice hugging a guitar and probably some books you’d rather forget. Sadly these books probably don’t come off the shelf very often. Maybe they’re not as useful as you once thought they would be or they’re an example of…