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  1. #1

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    Hi all. I'm a jazz guitar newbie so please excuse what seems to me like a basic question. I've never really learned a lot of licks before (in any of the genres I've played) and I want to start doing this (specifically for jazz). I was wondering if you have a way of collating and keeping track of licks? It's possible to get them from so many different sources, online and offline, and I would like to find a way to keep them all together, whether that's through a notebook where I write them down in music notation them or some electronic means (I've wondered if there might be an app or something but I haven't been able to find anything).

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  3. #2

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    Really? I never learned ANY licks. None. Ever.


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  4. #3
    I know that opinions are mixed as to the value of learning licks (and the best ways to learn and apply licks) but my question was not about whether to learn licks but how to collate them.

    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett
    Really? I never learned ANY licks. None. Ever.


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  5. #4

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    Well obviously if I don’t learn them and have found no value in that side of playing jazz I’d not be interested in collating them.


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  6. #5
    Indeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett
    Well obviously if I don’t learn them and have found no value in that side of playing jazz I’d not be interested in collating them.


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  7. #6

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    Many years ago I began to do this and found out quickly that it just turned me into a collector instead of a better player. If you can't keep track of them in your head, you can't use them. If you can't use them, they don't become part of your syntax.

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Many years ago I began to do this and found out quickly that it just turned me into a collector instead of a better player. If you can't keep track of them in your head, you can't use them. If you can't use them, they don't become part of your syntax.
    This is what I’m saying. You said you’re not an experienced jazz player. I’m trying to give you some unorthodox but perhaps valuable advice. It’s not in the licks you’ve memorized. If you have to write them down to index them in such a way you won’t forget, maybe it’s better not to do it at all. Obviously this is what you want and you’re just seeking advice from those who do it, so cool. I just think that process might just be the antithesis of playing jazz.

    However if I DID do that I’d write the licks down in a notation program like Sibelius, make a graphic and paste them all in a Word doc and number them.


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  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoboTom
    Hi all. I'm a jazz guitar newbie so please excuse what seems to me like a basic question. I've never really learned a lot of licks before (in any of the genres I've played) and I want to start doing this (specifically for jazz). I was wondering if you have a way of collating and keeping track of licks? It's possible to get them from so many different sources, online and offline, and I would like to find a way to keep them all together, whether that's through a notebook where I write them down in music notation them or some electronic means (I've wondered if there might be an app or something but I haven't been able to find anything).
    in an ideal world there would be only one source for licks. the actual music. you listen until you find a lick/passage that absolutely floors you and fills you with exitement. then you study that lick until it becomes second nature. this process has the huge benefit that it teaches you about yourself with regards to the music. so it's actually part of getting a personal voice which may seem counter-intuitive.

    dont think of licks as a cheap commodity of which you can collect so many that you need software to archive them. rather think of licks as very expensive collectors items. you can't afford many but will marvel at the few precious ones that you were able to obtain.

  10. #9

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    I used to keep a "Licktionary" - worked out a bunch of lines from my faves (usually horn lines), then work out the best place to finger them, then file them under Dominant lines or Tonic lines, then sub file them under which of the 5 CAGED patterns I refer to (for chords, arps, scales, devices lines etc).

    I had a dozen or so lines for each position for each chord family (dom or Tonic). I'd practice mixing them in along with my other device based stuff and try to "cover the seams" in an attempt to disguise them, change the phrasing etc. After a while these lines taught me a bit about how to "speak jazz", and I gradually let go of the pre fab lines in favour of rolling my own...

    Nothing wrong with being a "Lick Machine", especially if you like guys like Sonny Stitt or Clifford Brown maybe. But as Henry alluded to, the challenge, fun and reward in Jazz for some of us lies in how to find our own voice, and the more spontaneous and unpredictable we can be, the more fun it is!

    Mind you - your listeners may not agree! I think a lot of people might actually prefer to listen to a lick machine...

  11. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    Many years ago I began to do this and found out quickly that it just turned me into a collector instead of a better player. If you can't keep track of them in your head, you can't use them. If you can't use them, they don't become part of your syntax.
    This

    Use em or lose em, basically.

    The real key is to not learn licks, but rather ideas. Ideas are similar, but they're flexible. You can tweak them on the fly. Licks are crutches.

    So yeah, steal licks, but turn them into ideas, and use them until they're ingrained.

  12. #11

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    i get the points made so far in the thread but everybody has a bag of tricks whether its written down or not.

    to the OP, in jazz we call "licks" - "vocabulary"


  13. #12

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    Yea... single notes become groups of notes, then chords with lead lines, then they begin to have musical organization.

    Different styles of music, tempos, feels all help influence what you play... licks or spontaneous improvisation etc...

    I generally like always staring with a Reference, then creating Relationships with that Reference and the developing those Relationships. Where I'm going is... a lick can be a single note, a chord, a rhythmic pattern... Part of developing music and improv is being aware of what References are. I like Licks.... they imply something musical quickly, they establish musical references, from which you can create new relationships and Develop them.

    Anyway... Henry's a great musician... and from what I know a great person in general. But he's way down that musical path of life.... So call licks...organized musical references or musical quotes...that help create wings to the mind and a soul to the universe. (stealing material).

    I use note to chord relationships, chord arpeggios with implied target notes. What these help me with is.... what makes melodic ideas work. Which for me is the Relationship of notes to chords.

    I also use fretboard shapes... I'm OK with accepting that I'm performing on a guitar. The fretboard shapes are basically Chords with standard musical relationships.

    Example.... I'm playing Bb-9... so my licks are.... 5th position Bb Dorian fingerings and all possible voicings with lead notes. Scales Arpeggios.

    I also use basic Diatonic relationships of that Bb-9... Which are Up and Down a Diatonic 3rd. Which are up to Dbma9 or Lydian and 8th positions shapes. And then down to G-7b5 and Locrian and shapes.

    This would also open the typical II-7 V7 Chord Pattern.( Bb-7 Eb7). That G-7b5 also has a harmonic relationship to that Eb7. These are different Relationships.... Different Licks

    So I can keep going... but hopefully your beginning to see... my licks.

    I then use note(s) to all those chords to create different relationships, which all have different Lick Implications.

    Different chords create different melodic note movements. The same melodic line can have different implied movement by changing the Chord reference. Make same Lick have different feel and sound.

    There's a lot of lick organization just there.... then you start using melody development and rhythmic developments applications.... so just a few basic licks becomes unlimited possibilities...

    I can notate out music easily and sight read etc.... but generally don't need to, the basic theoretical concepts somewhat create natural mechanical memorization aids.

  14. #13
    Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences. I agree that licks must be selected judiciously, studied for their relationships and implications, turned into ideas, and actually used (rather than just collected) in order to be ingrained and incorporated into one's own syntax (and I didn't mention this but I'm also interested in documenting my own licks). I certainly don't intend to robotically learn licks and become a kind of licks jukebox (with the exception of making the occasional deliberate musical reference/quotation). For me, following all of that advice doesn't preclude having a way to collate and keep track of licks. I'm a note-taking type of person. That's just how I roll. We all have our own ideas about what playing jazz entails, but I honestly think that the world of jazz guitar is capacious enough to accommodate note-takers like myself (and I respectfully disagree with the idea that seeking a way to collate licks might be the antithesis of playing jazz).

    Anyway (and in case anyone else has the same query in the future), I think I'll take screenshots of licks and paste them into an Evernote document, then annotate them with my own thoughts and ideas. I've also realised that Evernote has a recording function so that could also be useful. Using Evernote seems like a quick and easy way to document these kinds of ideas on the fly, while being able to account for the different kinds of ways that licks can be accessed.
    Last edited by RoboTom; 05-30-2020 at 01:51 PM.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoboTom
    Hi all. I'm a jazz guitar newbie so please excuse what seems to me like a basic question. I've never really learned a lot of licks before (in any of the genres I've played) and I want to start doing this (specifically for jazz). I was wondering if you have a way of collating and keeping track of licks?
    I don't. Doing so leads to solos that sound like lick #12, lick #36, lick #3, lick #217...

    Learn them to see how they lay out on the fretboard, how they sound in different musical situations, and then forget them. A lick that you hear a musician use frequently is really just a bad habit. Learn the melodies to songs and remember those, though.

  16. #15

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    Licks, I'm all for it. Better to work on technique practicing vocabulary (lines, melodic fragments, motifs, whatever you want to call it, just don't call them licks around these parts )... Better to work on technique, or to warm up, using licks than using scales or arpeggios, imo.

    In that context, you don't need much organization. Just one long MuseScore (or prefered notation software of your choice) file on your computer.

    Try to not print things, leave them in a digital format and maybe your room will look like this:
    And, here's someone who I've heard use the "L" word from time to time...
    Last edited by fep; 05-30-2020 at 05:43 PM.

  17. #16

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    When I hear something that is cool enough that I want to steal it, I really want to learn WHY it works. So I approach licks as a way to apply an idea, rather than the end goal. This approach imposes a natural organization on these musical ideas and also frees me from rote memorization. So my suggestion is to learn music theory sufficient to understand what you hear, in real time. Simply memorizing key signatures or scale formulas is not enough. Your understanding of theory has to be inextricably linked to ear training. If you understand what you hear, then you can use those ideas (whether licks or theoretical concepts) in other ways and in other contexts. Then you won't just be stringing together licks; rather, you will be learning how to express your mind's ear. Its the difference between being a parakeet and actually understanding what is said so that your conception and your ability to communicate grows.

    $0.02,

    SJ

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by fep
    \
    UPDATE: Removed my post asking about this guitar; looks like it is one of the Sire LC signature models. Anyone know what sort of deals that Sire might have struck with Gibson and Fender? These axes are clearly based on their iconic designs of years past, and would seem to be direct competitors to the cost-reduced Epi and Squier lines.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    Learn them to see how they lay out on the fretboard, how they sound in different musical situations, and then forget them. A lick that you hear a musician use frequently is really just a bad habit. Learn the melodies to songs and remember those, though.
    This is where it gets tricky. Some of the most famous jazz licks are fragments of tunes: the Honeysuckle Rose lick (a favorite of Bird), the Topsy lick, the Gone But Not Forgotten lick, the Cry Me A River lick. Louis Armstrong used the High Society lick in his famous "West End Blues" solo. The Devil & the Deep Blue Sea lick may still be heard. (And it still sounds good too.)


    The lick Charlie Parker uses to open the first chorus of his solo on "Now's the Time" has been used to countless other pro jazz players over a blues. Mimi Fox likes to use a Beatles lick (Day Tripper) over a 7#9 chord. The much-used Ellington Ending is a lick. (Same for the Basie ending.)

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy blue note
    What he said.
    It's not really right to steal it.
    There's a quote attributed to Stravinsky, Picasso, Faulkner (IDK who actually said it) that is along the lines of "good artists copy, great artists steal."

    What I meant was that simply learning theory and scales doesn't teach you style. For me, that's where licks help a great deal. When I was starting out, I could understand the theoretical approach to using a particular mode or scale over a particular sound, but that didn't make me sound good when I tried to do it. I had to learn HOW to combine the "right" notes, not just WHAT the "right" notes were. Analyzing, learning, internalizing licks taught me how to make a 6th sound vs a 13th sound. How the same set of seven notes can sound like any of seven modes, based on what you emphasize. Imitation is how we learn to speak, to communicate.

    I like to tell students that Mozart and Eddie Van Halen use the same twelve notes; it's HOW they use them that makes the difference :-)

  21. #20

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    Hey robo tom, wow that's quite the name, anyway, don't always take what's posted on this forum that serious. The majority of posters are still searching etc... there is nothing wrong with learning from licks and keeping track of them.

    Like I was trying to say in my post above... you could notate them out... or use program or samples etc...
    Maybe start with licks for,

    1) licks for implying all basic chords... single chords
    2) licks for implying two chords.... all the different chord combinations
    3) 3 chords
    4) 4 chords

    Then start working with Chord Patterns.
    Then same chords and chord patterns with different styles and feels.

    Your still a beginner... but you'll then maybe start with licks that imply different Chord Subs from original chord(s) and Chord patterns. You'll end up with a very large amount of possible musical material to work with or pull from.

    Licks or melodies, or bit's and pieces of melodies... Licks can be transposed to Minor or any Mode, eventually just to be able to pull this process off... you'll become a pretty good player. Your going to need really good guitar technique...

    Ya need help... just ask, I'm a pro that's doing a lot of nothing, and am not in any hurry to get back out there playing gigs etc....

  22. #21

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    We're also talking about writing your own licks, right? Not sure why everyone is assuming that's not the case. All my licks in that MuseScore file I mentioned, are my own licks.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by starjasmine
    There's a quote attributed to Stravinsky, Picasso, Faulkner (IDK who actually said it) that is along the lines of "good artists copy, great artists steal."
    I've heard this often. I think there's a lot to it. But as Sid Jacobs adds, "Don't just loot one store."
    Charlie Parker learned Lester Young solos by heart. Wes Montgomery learned Charlie Christian solos by heart. Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis learned Charlie Christian licks and solos too.

    Here is Barney putting things he learned from Charlie in a solo to a tune he wrote to honor Charlie. I think it's great.


  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkRhodes
    I've heard this often. I think there's a lot to it. But as Sid Jacobs adds, "Don't just loot one store."
    Charlie Parker learned Lester Young solos by heart. Wes Montgomery learned Charlie Christian solos by heart. Barney Kessel and Herb Ellis learned Charlie Christian licks and solos too.

    Here is Barney putting things he learned from Charlie in a solo to a tune he wrote to honor Charlie. I think it's great.

    never heard this , its awesome

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by basinstreet
    never heard this , its awesome
    Glad you like it! The music starts with what I learned as 'the minor turnaround' but is technically known as the Andalusian cadence. (I don't know why.)

    Am G F E

    Everybody knows it from Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack" but it pops up in lots of songs: Bowie's "China Girl," Blue Oyster Cult's "Then Came The Last Days Of May", The Stray Cats' "Stray Cat Strut", Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing", Merle Travis' "Sixteen Tons", Black Sabbath's "War Pigs", Del Shannon's "Runaway." The list goes on and on. It's a nifty, versatile move. I've read it goes back to the Renaissance and is popular in classical music but that's outside my wheel house.