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Five Blues Guitar Licks All Guitarists Should Know

Updated on May 3, 2010

I'm a firm believer that a good guitarist should have a large vocabulary of guitar licks up their sleeves. Jazz guitar giant Pat Metheny once said that only 30% of his improvisation is improvised, the rest are licks that he had worked out previously.

In my opinion, the blues is the best place to start practising guitar soloing, so developing an arsenal of blues licks is essential. Therefore, I would like to share with you, five blues guitar licks that I think all guitarists should know.

The Minor Pentatonic Scale

All of the following licks are in the key of A and can be played over an A blues chord progression or a static A7 chord. The scale used is the A minor pentatonic scale, as shown below.

Blues lick 1
Blues lick 1

Blues Guitar Lick 1

The minor pentatonic scale is the most basic scale which can be used to play the blues. The following guitar lick is a must-know for all blues guitarists which incorporates a health dose of bending.

Blues lick 2
Blues lick 2

Blues Guitar Lick 2

The second lick is tricky because only one note is played per string. But don't worry, you will nail it in no time. The good thing about this lick is that it's also one of the less cliched licks that guitarists play.

Blues lick 3
Blues lick 3

Blues Guitar Lick 3

This is one the more familiar sounding licks which is nevertheless useful to use when you're playing the blues. This lick can be heard in Led Zeppelin's song, Black Dog.

Blues lick 4
Blues lick 4

Blues Guitar Lick 4

At certain times in a blues guitar solo, you may want to break out into a blues run, which is essentially a fast-paced lick that runs either up or down the pentatonic scale. The speed at which this is played makes this tricky but once again with good practice this should be easy in no time. Be careful not to abuse blues runs - whilst it sounds impressive when used sparsely, overusing can make the guitar solo boring!

Blues Guitar Lick 5

Bending and releasing the 3rd note by a half-step of the minor pentatonics scale can give you a very sexy blues sound as the following blues lick demonstrates. The same note can also be bent to a whole-step too - the key is to experiment with the scale and develop your own variations of these licks.

For more free blues guitar licks and guitar lessons, visit my frequently-updated blog at


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      anonymous 5 years ago

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      blues lessons 6 years ago

      Blues guitar has so many different sounds. Blues guitar has many many different styles. There's a huge number of ways to pick the blues. Even though I'm fascinated by the old acoustic guys, many of the more modern 'icons', such as Buddy Guy just blow me away. Genius is genius, no matter when the music was made. For me, it seems that it all came from the roots, that's why I keep keep going back to that music. You can detect the sounds of Broonzy and others in all present day rock. Additionally, ragtime guitar can be heard in some jazz. Students learning the guitar would be advised to begin from way back and make their way forward until they find their way.