How To Play Intense Blues Guitar Licks As Clean As Possible Part 2

By Tom Hess

This article is the second part in a two part series on creative blues guitar playing. It is crucial that you understand the concepts in part one before you read any further on this page. For a quick review of these concepts, watch this video on how to play 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.

To get started, watch the video below and observe how to perfectly use the techniques I will be discussing:

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:Improvise a small blues guitar lick and play it a few times until it feels natural. As you are creating your lick, use no more than three or five notes. By doing this, you will minimize the distraction that comes from playing a long string of notes so you can focus purely on getting as much expression as possible out of the few notes you are using (while using the techniques I will talk about momentarily).

Below, I’ve provided you with three quick examples to use for getting started. Notice how I have not included the rhythm along with the tablature. I want YOU to be creative and think of your own unique rhythms.

Example One

Example Two

Example Three

Notice: the licks I have provided for you above are NOT complex (on purpose). I want you to focus heavily on the techniques mentioned below in order to make these ‘plain’ licks sound totally KILLER. Watch the video above again to see how you can do this.

Step #2:Once you can very easily play through your lick several times, use any of the following techniques to enhance it. Do this one at a time, beginning with technique 1, then technique 2 and last technique 3. Re-watch the video above if necessary to see how these techniques should be used.

Technique Number One: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 Two:Intense Vibrato

Identify the notes within your blues guitar lick that are held out longer than the rest (these will usually be the last one or two notes of the phrase). Then apply wide vibrato to these notes – HOWEVER, do not apply it instantly after you play a note. Instead, play the note and let it ring out for a moment or two... then apply a WIDE and powerful vibrato. This will add tons of tension and intensity into your lick by first creating a sense of anticipation and the providing an ‘answer’ to what the listener was waiting for. Additionally, the vibrato naturally makes your lick sound powerful and aggressive. After applying this technique to your lick and getting comfortable with it, create many variations of your original lick by delaying your vibrato for different lengths of time.

Technique Number Three: 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.

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 short blues guitar lick audio demonstration to hear some variations that use the ideas talked about in this article.

Once you’ve gone through the steps of this article, you will quickly gain the ability to play killer blues guitar licks at will. However, there is much more to be learned – check out this video on how to improve guitar phrasing and learn how rhythm can be used to play more creative and unique licks.

Author's Bio: 

About The Author:
Tom Hess is an online electric guitar teacher, recording artist and virtuoso guitarist. He trains guitar players from around the world how to reach their musical goals in his correspondence guitar lessons online. Visit his website tomhess.net to receive many free guitar playing resources, mini courses, guitar practice eBooks, and to read more articles about guitar playing.