Guitar Lick Makeover - How To Transform Any Ordinary Guitar Phrase, Lick Or Solo Into A Much Cooler One

How cool would it be if you could take literally ‘any’ set of notes (or any lick) on guitar and make it sound AWESOME every single time? You may find it hard to believe that truly ‘any’ set of notes can be made to sound GREAT (regardless of what the notes are), but as you work through the lesson that follows you will learn how to develop the skills to do exactly that!

The key guitar playing ability that you need to master to reach the goal above is called ‘phrasing’. Many times guitarists are confused about what guitar phrasing is all about. Phrasing has more to do with how something is played rather than what is being played. As applied to guitar licks, phrasing has to do with how the lick is played, not just the notes involved. Obviously we all want to play with consistently great phrasing, but oftentimes you may not be sure of exactly what great phrasing means and how to create your own great phrases. In this lesson we are going to take you through the process of creating a great phrase from a mediocre/poor one. By examining how to take a poor phrase and make it great, you can learn the essential elements of great phrasing that you can then apply directly to any of your own licks.

So, now we will start out with a lick that uses poor phrasing. Here it is:

Improve Guitar Phrasing Example

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The lick is in the key of A minor and uses mainly notes from the first position of the A minor pentatonic scale. The reason why this lick has poor phrasing isn’t because of the notes themselves. The problem is that none of the “speaking elements” of good phrasing are present. You can think of your phrasing as being similar to speech and when we add nuances like hammer ons, slides, ornaments, as well as bends and vibrato, our phrasing becomes much more conversational. The notes here lack any of the elements that make up good phrasing.

Next, let’s look at a slightly improved version based on the same idea. We’ll call this version Fair.

 Improve Guitar Phrasing Example Variation One 

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In this version of the phrase there is some improvement with the addition of some vibrato and a few slides. Listen to how much better the lick flows now. These small changes can add up to big improvements in the overall sound of your phrasing. This version is better, but it still has room for improvement.

Let’s now continue with this idea and look at the Good version of the lick.

 Improve Guitar Phrasing Example Variation Two 

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With this version, notice the manipulation of the bent note. Instead of just bending the note up a whole step, the note is manipulated to create a much more interesting opening statement. Also, notice the addition of a pull off to smooth things out a little as well as added rhythmic diversity to end the lick. Here we have a lot of elements going on—vibrato, bends, pull offs, slides and rhythmic interest.

Finally, let’s take a look at a Great version of this same idea.

Improve Guitar Phrasing Example Variation Three Part One Improve Guitar Phrasing Example Variation Three Part Two

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Notice here that there are more notes than we began with, but the basic idea is very close to what we started with. The biggest difference is in how the notes are played. Right away we have a little palm muting followed by a pinch harmonic. Listen to how much more expressive the lick sounds with the addition of the pick harmonic as compared to without it. The rest of the lick uses some interesting rhythmic ideas such as rubato phrasing and a few extra notes to add more color to the overall lick. Rubato phrasing is where you speed up or slow down unexpectedly at certain points within the lick while keeping the total duration of the phrase the same. This creates an unpredictable sound and keeps things from sounding stiff. The use of hammer ons and pull offs creates a very smooth legato sound, and the phrase ends convincingly with a nice wide vibrato!

Note: don’t focus too much on the extra notes that we added to the phrase in the final version above. In this particular case, the extra notes help to bring out the ‘rubato’ element of phrasing in combination with all the other techniques that make the original notes of the lick sound great.

Now you can begin making improvements in your own phrasing by adding in more of the basic phrasing elements that we discussed here (such as slides, pick harmonics, cool bending ideas, rubato, legato, vibrato, etc.) to your licks.

This method of studying the process of making a poor phrase into a great one is so valuable that we have created an entire course to teach you how it works in great detail called “Master Guitar Soloing Now.”

In the course we will take you through a much more detailed process of taking an average lick and making it sound GREAT using not just one, but FIFTEEN guitar phrases with 4 inspiring variations for each one (for a total of 60 examples). After seeing many more examples of this technique of ‘guitar lick makeover’ in action and learning to use it in your guitar playing you will never again feel like your guitar soloing lacks feeling. Take the next step and learn how to master your guitar soloing now.

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